- As Senate unveils 15 new names
Senate yesterday cleared ministerial nominees earlier forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari, just as it unveiled the identities of 16 additional nominees sent to it on Monday by the President.
Names of the 16 additional nominees read by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki yesterday were Hon Khadija Bukka Abba Ibrahim, Claudius Omoleye Daramola, Professor Anthony Anwuka, Geoffrey Onyeama, Brig- General MM Dan Ali (rtd), Barrister James E. Ocholi and Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed.
Others are Okechukwu Enelamah, Muhammadu Bello, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Ms Aisha Abubakar, Heineken Lokpobiri, Adamu Adamu, Professor Isaac Adewole, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru and Abubakar Bwari Bawa.
But Senator Philip Aduda (PDP FCT), kicked against the list for not having a single nominee from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT on it.
Aduda, who rose through a point of order to register his complaint over the exclusion of nominee from FCT in the entire lists, cited section 299 of the constitution to buttress his point.
According to him, since section 299 of the 1999 constitution states that National Assembly is the state Assembly for FCT, FCT should be treated as a state by also appointing a minister from there.
He then urged the Senate to prevail on the President to nominate a minister from FCT, a prayer the senate President on behalf of the Senate, noted but not adopted.
The 10 nominees earlier screened, including a former member of the National Assembly, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who was asked to take a’ bow and go’, provided what appears to be the agenda of the APC government, especially on the critical issues of the economy and national security, among others.
I’ll tackle challenges of public sector -Udo Udoma
A former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma promised to do his best to help in tackling the challenges in the nation’s public sector.
Udo Udoma, a lawyer who served in 2nd and 3rd Senate was the first to face rigorous screening by the Senate.
He said, “With the dwindling oil prices, public finances are under pressure. We cannot rely on public sector investment alone if we want to turn the economy around.
“Therefore, we have to encourage private sector investment. One of the ways to encourage them is to give them assurance of consistency because private sector investors want consistency in economic policies.
“We have to increase our investment rate to 30 percent. We have to review our tax policies, and I will help, if confirmed, to review our tax policies so that it will become a viable revenue source for Nigeria”, he stressed.
Udoma also stated that, for Nigeria to be turned around, the economy must be stimulated. “We cannot continue to depend on crude oil, rather we must diversify,” he stressed. To this effect, he solicited for a new regime of direct investment policy in which constancy of policy is paramount, maintaining that for Nigeria to achieve 10% growth, there must be a 30% investment increase. He also said that tax policy should also be reviewed for Nigeria to achieve this.
Education system needs review –Fayemi
Similarly, former Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi while addressing the senators, called for the review of national educational system so as to make it attractive for the citizens.
“There is the problem of poor quality teachers in the nation’s education system. Our domestic agenda does not drive our foreign policy”, he said.
Fayemi added, “Alternation of power is the best way to deepen, not perpetuation of power poverty; China has lifted her citizens above the poverty level.
Chief Kayode Fayemi denied the allegation that he embezzled money when he was governor of the state but stated that the new government Multipurpose Hall he built is the cheapest in the country. Adding that the new government house remains a legacy and tourist centre in the country, assuring that eradication of poverty in the country is achievable.
Senator Kayode described himself as a teacher and a researcher, saying that Nigeria needed to diversify her economy to overcome poverty.
“The major problem in Nigeria is the gap between the mindlessly rich and the hopelessly poor. There is too much concentration of power at the centre; therefore, there is need for devolution of power to be done in Nigeria.
“Corruption must be tackled head-on. The amount of leakages in our revenues is unacceptable, and must be promptly addressed. We have to reduce our recurrent expenditures and increase our capital expenditures in this country, otherwise we won’t be able to develop meaningfully.”
On security challenges, the former governor said, “if we are tough on terror, we also have to be tough on the sources of terror.
“Our Criminal justice system has to be revisited. People don’t get punished for committing crimes in Nigeria. Our prisons have been saturated by those who are denied Justice”, he lamented.
Fayemi, however, suggested that the Police, Immigration and Civil Defence should be in the Ministry of Interior; while the Prison should be taken to Ministry of Justice for effective judicial system.
Lack of internal democracy, bane of Nigeria’s political system -Audu Ogbeh
Also, one of the nominees, Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, described the major problem facing the nation’s political system as the lack of internal democracy in the political parties.
Ogbeh listed other problems to include, tendency for the party in power to surrender its authority to the President or the state governors.
On agriculture, he said the major problem of the sector in Nigeria is bad seedlings, pointing out that, “we have the worst seeds to plant.
Agricultural extension workers should be engaged in the local government areas to teach farmers on the best seeds to plant to improve on our agricultural production. Nigeria is facing great danger if our agricultural production continues to go down.
“We have to work hard to stabilize agriculture in Nigeria. The greatest problem facing development of agriculture in the country today is the high and indeed outrageous interest rates being charged by the commercial banks in Nigeria”, he added.
Nigerians need unity to succeed -Ogbonnaya Onu
A chieftain of APC, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, noted that Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion and political party affiliations should unite and jointly tackle the problems facing the country.
Onu noted that the country is currently passing through serious socio-economic challenges due to lack of unity and cooperation among Nigerians.
“Nigeria produces crude oil but we are importing fuel; doing a lot of farming but importing food stuffs. We need to pay greater attention in the area of power generation. We need to diversify our sources of power generation.
“Let’s utilize coal as one of our sources. And Nigerian coal is one of the best in the world because of its low sulphur content.
“We are essentially a consumer nation, and this is not good for our socio-economic existence. We have to improve and become a producer nation”, he stressed.
The former governor of old Abia state, stated that, to fight power supply in the country, the nation needs to diversify power generation so that vandalization of pipelines will not affect power supply. He added that the only way the country can combat unemployment is by increasing the production level of the economy.
Inadequate health facilities caused high mortality rate –Ehanire
Another ministerial nominee, Dr Osagie Ehanire, attributed high mortality rate in the country to inadequate health facilities and professionals and non-affordability of healthcare services.
Ehanire, therefore, urged the federal government to take steps to address the problems, saying the nation needs to urgently tackle the problems so as to save lives of women and children.
To solve the problem, he said, ‘’We must find a way of addressing the problem by developing our models and not copying models that have worked in other nations. The proposed Community Health Insurance is a good project that must be promoted”.
He expressed concern about the problem of medical tourism and suggested that funds allocated to health sector should be more efficiently used.
Ehanire said that medical tourism could be stimulated by attitude of health personnel who must learn to treat their patients with the dignity they deserved.
“Attitude to patients is a very critical factor because those who have the money feel that they are not given the dignity.
“There seems to be a mindset that the patient is inferior but in reality, the patient is superior to the health care giver,’’ he said.
He said that it was completely unethical for doctors to divert patients from government hospitals where they draw their salaries to their private hospitals.
Nigeria don’t have defence policy –Danbazzau
Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau said Nigeria does not have defence policy, which he lamented was bad for the country.
“I was invited by the office of the Minister of defence on the plan to review defence policy. But the defence policy is a document that needs to be reviewed from time to time because we are looking for the best way to use the Military and in doing that, we look at the challenges and opportunities; and it is on that basis that we come out with our order of battle. I can assure you that the document is there and it is under review”, he said.
On procurement, he explained, “When I took over, the maximum I could spend as an Army Chief was N20million and this was later reviewed to N50million. Anything higher than this must come from the Ministry of Defence.
“On the issue of North East, I agree that it has been ravaged by poverty and insecurity. Soldiers are losing their lives.
“Although there are allowances and incentives approved for them, there is need for an upward review and one of the ways is to take advantage of the United Nations reimbursement system.
“We have often relied on budget but if we can assess the United Nations Fund, the budget would be utilized on the welfare of staff and equipment.
“There is also need for capacity building and inculcation of discipline in the officers and men.
“The treatment of Nigerians in Liberia, South Africa and Zimbabwe should be taken up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While assisting, we should be able to gain something from them. We should not be acting as Father Christmas”, he stressed.
Answering question on the farmers and herdsmen clash, Danbazzau said, “The activities of cattle herdsmen affect food production as well as the production of cattle.
“It is a matter of two parties fighting on a quick sand, at the end of the day, two of them might be submerged.
“First, we have to tackle ecological problem. We have the threat of desertification in the North and erosion in the South. At the end of the day, everybody is moving towards the centre. So, it is necessary to recapture our land being eaten up by erosion”, he advised.