It all started on June 9 when President Muhammadu Buhari sent a list of 47 ambassadorial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who read the letter containing the list at the plenary, said that Buhari requested the upper legislative chamber to approve the list at the shortest time possible.
“I have the honour to forward the attached list of 47 career Foreign Service officers as ambassador designates for consideration and confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Copies of their curriculum vitae are attached. It is my hope that this will receive the usual prompt attention of the distinguished members of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Buhari stated in the letter.
The nominees include: Obinna Chukwuemeka, Salisu Umoru, Iyang Udoh, Okeke Vivian, Liman Munir, Edem Jane, Mohammed Hassan, Martin Cobham, Janet Molegbo, Itegbuoye Sunday, Olatunde Adesesan, Lilian Onu, Manaja Isa, Ngozi Ukeje, Bello Husseini, Enoch Ducci, Garba Baba, Usman Aliyu, Umar Salisu, Momoh Omeiza, Kadiri Audu, Balogun Hakeem, and Nosa Ahmed.
Others are Ibrahim Isa, Bankole Adeoye and Ibidapo Obe, Ogundaro Sakirat, Eric Belgam, Ateru Haliru, Ramota Bulima, Musa Mamman, Kabiru Bala, Adamu Shuaibu, D. A. Agiv, T.K. Gonglong, Ibrahim Hamza, K.C. Nwachukwu, Q.R. Wolu, E.K. Oguntuwase, A.I. Paragauda, L.A. Gasharga, Olufemi Abikoye, Abubakar Ibrahim, Rabiu Kawu, Janet Bisong and Adekunbi Habeebat.
The screening of career ambassadorial nominees by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs started on Tuesday, July 26 and ended on Thursday, 28 following the directive of the Senate President, urging all committees to expedite actions on their assignment while addressing the senators shortly before they embark on long annual recess penultimate Thursday. The exercise, held at the National Assembly in Abuja with Senator Monsurat Summonu (APC Oyo Central) as the committee chairman, lasted for three days.
The exercise, which many had thought would be so much easy for the nominees, being Foreign Service officers, turned out to be a very difficult one for some of them. This was evident during the first and second days when some of them could not sing or recite National Anthem and National Pledge correctly. It started with a female ambassadorial nominee, Mrs. Vivian Okeke who faltered while singing the National Anthem as she could not recite the last stanza, that is, “to serve with heart and might , one Nation bound in freedom” before ending with peace and unity. She was later helped by a member of the committee, Senator James Manager (PDP Delta South) to finish the national anthem.
Although the nominee did well on other questions as she told the committee that the three major changes that should be made to ensure rapid growth and development of the country should include fighting corruption, insurgency and diversification of the economy. She also said that returns should be received when the country puts in effort.
Mrs. Okeke from Anambra State however said the country should look into the area of financing and salary payments. “There is also an issue with financing. “Some of these embassies do not get their salaries for four months. They are supposed to be in line with the protection of this country”, she said.
Also, in her submission on difficulties being faced by the embassies, she mentioned underfunding as the major problem crippling the Nation’s embassies which according to her, has turned to big embarrassment to staffers of the embassies who are more or less squeezing water out of stone to run the embassies.
Pressed further on her knowledge of foreign economic blue print, the nominee explained succinctly how China got their economic prosperity right because their President as at the time of their recession decided to shut its doors against import from other nations and was busy rebuilding China through domestic policy approach.
Mrs. Okeke also stressed that if Nigeria could configure its foreign policies with the interest of benefiting from resources abroad, it would help the situation immensely.
Also, the nominee from Niger State, Ibrahim Isa failed in the last stanza of the National Pledge when told to recite it by saying “to defend her unity and integrity. So help me God” instead of “to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory. So help me God”.
Similarly on the second day, Mr. Liman Munir from Bauchi State could not recite the National Anthem correctly. He looked embarrassed and disappointed of himself for this failure while at that point, members of the committee stopped asking question on National Anthem and National Pledge from other nominees till the screening ended.
The most shocking of such failures from the nominees came from Mrs. Jane Ndem from Benue State who in her response to question posed to her by the Chairman of the Committee, on mentioning of 12 out of the 36 states in the federation and their capitals, mentioned Lagos and added Lagos as its capital.
Apparently dazed by her submission, Senator James Manager again interjected by asking capital of Lagos, to which the nominee responded affirmatively by saying “yes, capital of Lagos State is Lagos because I even started my working career there” which made the entire 8-man committee to burst into laughter.
In their defence, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on National Assembly Matter (Senate), Senator Ita Enang refuted the blunders committed by some of the screened nominees in a statement issued during the first day of the exercise, saying the reported blunders were misrepresentation of fact.
The statement reads: “Our Attention has been drawn to report by a section of the media that some Ambassadorial Nominees were unable to recite the National Anthem and Pledge while appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for screening today.
“May I state that the nominees were able to respond to questions asked the‎m, and also recited the National Anthem and Pledge when called upon. As such, the report by the media is incorrect.
“Subjecting them to criticisms at this point over a situation which never happened in the first place is most unfair and uncalled for.
“Let me use this opportunity to appreciate the effort of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Monsurat Sumonu, and members of the committee, for the intellectual and thorough manner in which the exercise is being carried out”.
However, many of the nominees performed excellently during their screening by the committee as they did not only exhibit their dexterity on foreign affairs service, but answered questions put to them correctly and in brilliant ways.
Among these nominees are Bakor Aliyu Usman from Katsina State, Eric Bell-gam from Rivers State, Inusa Ahmed from Nassarawa State, Bankole Adegboyega Adeoye from Ogun State and Attahiru Haliru from Sokoto State.
Others include D. A Agev from Benue state, T. Gongulong from Borno State, Hamzat Ibrahim from Katsina State, Oguntunwase Emmanuel Kayode from Ekiti State, Ibidapo Oluwasegun from Osun State, Abu Abubakar from Gombe State and Adamu Shaibu from the Federal Capital Territory.
The rest include Iyang Udoh-Inyang, Akwa-Ibom State; Obinna Chukwuemeka Agbugba, Abia State; Martins Nyong Cobham, Cross River State; Ngozi Ukaeje, Imo State; Rahmatu Dunama, Taraba State; Nonye Esther Udo, Anambra State; Munir Liman, Bauchi State; Odeka Janet Bisong, Cross River state; Umaru Zainab-Salisu, Kebbi State; and Momoh Saidu Omeiza, Kogi State, Kabiru Bala, Zamfara State; Queen Nworlu, Edo State; Abibat Sonaike Ogun State; Michael Femi Abikoye, Kwara state; Musa Saban Maman, Yobe State; Bello Kazaure, Jigawa State; Adesesan Olatunde, Ekiti State
At the end of the screening, the committee chairman thanked her colleagues and the press for their hard work despite the recess. “We give glory to God that 47 people have been screened the exercise we startedon Tuesday. On behalf of the Senate being led by our Senate president, Bukola Saraki and all the principal officers and the Senate committee on foreign affairs, I will like to express my gratitude to my colleagues for sacrificing their time.
“They laid petitions last week and discussed the petition and agreed to screen the 47 nominees. This is a big sacrifice. We decided to cancel everything and put national interest first”, Senator Sunmonu said.
Other committee members, who participated in the screening, include Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), Senator Philip Aduda (PDP FCT), Senator Abdullahi Sabi (APC Niger South), Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi (APC Kwara North), and Senator James Manager (PDP Delta South), among others.
Senate President, while receiving the nominees after their screening, urged them to represent Nigeria positively in the countries they were posted to, noting that they have made history by going through the screening exercise.
Saraki said, “The ministerial nominees, as you go forward are taking position in the history of the country. Going forward, they will be representing our country on the global stage.
“We appeal to you to please make us proud, though there are challenges, I urge you to look at things differently in your service to the nation. ‎As you know, it is in the interest of our country to have ambassadors all over, as the absence will slow down bilateral relations‎. I wish you all the best”.
He also charged the executive to as quickly as possible forward names of non-career nominees to the senate on resumption in September, for similar thorough screening exercise, saying “the earlier we have substantive ambassadors at our various foreign posts, the better at this critical time of repositioning the country for better”.
Interestingly, the Presidency has commended the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, over what he described as “thorough and intellectual approach” used in carrying out the screening exercise for the 47‎ career ambassadorial nominees.
Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ita Enang, gave the commendation‎ when he led the ambassadorial nominees to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki immediately after the screening exercise which was concluded yesterday.
In his address, Senator Enang, who described the screening exercise as the most thorough he had witnessed during his time in the National Assembly, also commended the Senator Monsurat Sunmonu-led committee for its show of dedication and commitment.
‎He said: “Let me use this opportunity to commend the Senate committee for the way and manner in which the screening exercise was carried out. I must say it is the most thorough and intellectual I’ve seen in my time here.”
Out of the 47 ambassadorial nominees, Borno State has the highest number with three, Kwara, Edo, Ekiti and Anambra states having two each while remaining states except Bayelsa, Ondo, Plateau and Ebonyi States have one each.
The confirmation or otherwise of the nominees have to wait till September when the senate resumes from its ongoing recess while it will also be expecting the list of other nominees, who will be all non-career ambassadors from the Executive.

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