The Senate, yesterday, conducted another round of ministerial screening as six nominees answered questions raised on the floor of the Red Chamber. This brings to 31 ministerial nominees who have so far been screened, while 18 have been confirmed.
For rejecting previous association with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP under which he served as a member of the Board of Trustees, Nigerian Copyright Commission, a ministerial nominee from Cross River State, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru yesterday ran into trouble during his screening by the senate.
The unpleasant remarks of “God forbid” when asked whether he served under PDP and alleged tax clearance certificate forgery actually put the pastor into trouble.
Uguru, who was the last to be screened after other nominees like Prof. Isaac Adewole (Osun), Hon. Bawa Bwari (Niger), Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna) and Mansur Mohamned Dan Ali (Zamfara) , had had smooth screening sessions before the senate, ran into problem with a ‘God forbid’ response to a PDP senator’s remarks on his introductory submission.
The nominee had, while making his opening remarks before the senate, said in the build up to the 2015 general elections, that he along with Senators Nazif Sulaiman, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and others, traversed the length and breadth of the country, a submission jokingly interjected by one of the PDP senators who said “ on PDP platform, to which the nominee reacted to, angrily by saying “God forbid”.
Angered by his statement, the PDP senators immediately put machineries in motion to stop his screening through series of point of orders, upon which different issues and allegations were raised against him.
First to throw spanner into the works of the nominee, was the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, who through Order 14(A) drew the attention of the senate to the “God forbid” response the nominee gave to a remark jokingly made by a PDP senator to his introductory submission, by demanding for an apology from him.
Akpabio, in his argument said: “ Mr Senate President, myself and other PDP senators unpleasantly heard the nominee before us saying “God forbid to a joking remarks made by one of us that the journeys he said he made across the country with some senators here was on PDP platform .
“This is very nauseating to us because aside other benefits he got under PDP from his state, Cross River within the last 16 years, he was a member of the Board of Nigeria Copyright Commission between 2002 and 2004 and yet standing here before us, saying God forbid to PDP”.
However, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki quickly came to his rescue by paving the way for him to quickly apologize, which he promptly did but not to the satisfaction of the PDP senators who still raised other issues bordering on alleged non declaration of assets, tax clearance certificate forgery and questionable pastoral title.
While Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), through Order 120, took up the nominee over alleged non declaration of assets, Mao Ohuhabunwa ( PDP Abia North ) through Order 14( A) took him up over alleged tax clearance certificate forgery and questionable pastoral title but were both ruled out of order by the Senate President, which paved way for him to be questioned by the APC senators and later allowed to take a bow and go.
We need cancer centres across Nigeria –Adewole
The ministerial nominee from Osun State and vice chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole, yesterday stressed the need for establishment of cancer centres across the country.
Responding to a question on the increasing rate of cancer asked by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, he agreed on the increasing rate in recent past, but regretted that there were no single cancer centres in Nigeria, save for few which are owned by private individuals.
“There is need for establishment of cancer centres and development of regulatory frame work that would harmonise and enhance operations of cancer treatment and handling in a professional manner”, he posited.
Adewole, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, submitted that Nigeria spends a staggering amount of N3 billion annually despite the fact what takes Nigerians on medical tourism abroad were those than can be handled locally even as Nigerian doctors were those manning these hospitals abroad.
“To confront these challenges, it is needful to have proper regulatory frame work of public and private hospitals so that they can offer global best practices in Medicare”, he said.
“Cancer is a disease of the old age. Nigeria must prepare for potential epidemic in Nigeria. We should create platforms to educate women to say no to sex.
“The health care system is seriously under-funded. We have to recognize public health education in cancer in the country. We have to educate the citizenry on the preventive measures and curative measures too.40-50% of abortions carried out is because of deformed pregnancies.
“The life of the Nigerian girl is very important; they need proper education on unregulated pregnancies. We have capable hands in the health system to tackle the challenges in the sector; we need to empower them through adequate training and retraining.
“We should also update our medical facilities to enable the medical workers function effectively. Upgraded medical facilities will also stop Nigerians rushing outside the country to seek medical help.
“Private clinics are acceptable but we must ensure that we regulate standards in their practice. There is no single cancer centre in Nigeria. We have to establish and equip functional cancer centres in the country.
“To stop or reduce brain drain, we have or upgrade the working environment, so that we can move away from the era of brain drain to era of brain repatriation. The idea of privatization of the primary health care is a strange concept. I don’t support it; instead what we should do is to improve on the primary health care system.
“There should be a collaboration amongst all the medical workers: doctors, pharmacists and nurses should rather work together instead of competing and fighting. They should also put patients first and not their personal interest. They must show compassion to the patients”, Adewole stressed.
He added, “We must make conscious decision to tackle the multifarious problems in the health sector, particularly women and infant mortality in the country.
“About 40,000 women die during pregnancy or child birth every year. University administrators have huge burden of sitting down to evolve solutions for poor funding of education and dilapidated infrastructure in the system. We must put funds in education.
Adewole also disclosed that Nigeria educational system was poorly funded in the past and has affected the standard of education negatively while describing such as very unfortunate in all ramifications since education was next to nothing when you talk of development.
“Distinguished Senators, there is no doubt that in the past, education in Nigeria was poorly funded and that has affected the standard of education”, he noted.
He described the World Bank rating of Nigeria’s education system that it has only three African countries behind as not a true reflection of the system.
“Though the World Bank rating of Nigeria’s education that it has only three countries in Africa behind it and that was Sudan and two others is a an unfair rating as it lacked the needed parameters”, he said.
Abuja master plan needs correction – Bwari
A former member, House of Representatives and ministerial nominee from Niger State, Hon. Bawa Bwari yesterday affirmed that for the government to control the increasing population of Abuja, there is need to correct the existing master plan of the nation’s capital.
Bwari, who was appeared for screening before the senate, said this has become necessary to improve on the city’s security, planning and development.
According to him, “the Abuja population is getting out of control, because of many people’s believe that it is a city full of honey where you can always find something to do to earn a living”.
He, however, expressed optimism that President Muhammadu Buhari was capable of correcting all wrongs of the past “because he is a man of integrity and honour who is committed to the change he promised Nigerians”.
“The mandate that Nigerians have given Mr. President is not just a change of government, but a change for good governance, development, prosperity, and other good things needed in this country”, he said.
The ministerial nominee added, “With deep sense of responsibility, if my nomination is approved and find myself in any ministry, I will not only serve, but serve very well”.
Audit report vital for NEITI improvement -Ahmed
Executive Secretary, Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and ministerial nominee from Kaduna State, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed has urged the senate to look into the report of NEITI with a view to implementing the recommendations in it for the improvement of the Initiative.
She said, “I’d like to state to this Distinguished Chamber that the NEITI audit report is unique in that regard. It’s not an audit in the true sense of the word. It’s a process that seeks to find what is wrong and makes specific recommendations for improvement.
“But I also want to quickly add that NEITI as an organisation has is the slow implementation of the recommendations of its audit report. And I hope that the 8th National Assembly will put paid to that.
“Most rapidly developing countries have adopted the option of having Free Trade Zone and Nigeria should not be an exemption. There are some of the Free Trade Zones in our country that are not operating the way that they are intended.
“But given the opportunity, that is one of the fastest means of bringing about development because these zones bring about concentrated development; apart from the businesses that are operating there, allied services that develop around the zone that bring about development in the Free Trade Zone.
On the sustenance of the MDGs in the country, she said, “What we need to do is to stay and implement what we are committed in terms of realising the MDGs”.
“We have made progress with some of the goals but in some areas, especially in education and health, we are very backward. We need to go back to the drawing table, we need to assess what we have done, we need to identify the gaps and quickly make plans on how to bring up our attainment of the MDGs.
On what should be done differently, Ahmed suggested that when an audit is conducted, like the NEITI audit or the PwC audit of NNPC, the recommendations of this audit should be implemented.
“As a matter of fact, the various committee works that this Senate has done and also the House of Representatives, that those recommendations should be implemented. We should not do reports and the reports sit on shelves, unattended to and unimplemented. We have done so many reviews, the analysis in on the table, it’s already available. We don’t have to do any extra work.
“All we need to do is take these recommendations and start implementing them. And I’m happy to say that some these implementations are already ongoing. We should see the drop in global oil prices as an opportunity because it’s giving us opportunity to look inwards to look at the agricultural sector that we have ignored to look at the mining sector that we have completely for forgotten about, to look at our responsibility in collecting taxes and expanding the tax base and expanding the tax base.
“So, it is a painful process we are going through but it is a golden opportunity for us to move away from the resource purse which has plagued us for the past 40 years.
“In 2006, the government of the day had declared the budget system would be zero-based. That is the best way to do budgeting. What we have been doing in the past is not actually budgeting, which introduced wastages and inefficiency.
“The zero budgeting process is a very complex process but we need to start it with some selected organisations. And roll it out next year to every other organisation”, Ahmed stressed.