The Senate last Thursday confirmed 18 out of the 36 ministerial nominees forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari. Among the ministers designate cleared were Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan (Taraba), former governors of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Anambra State, Chris Nigige; Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Abia State (but representing Ebonyi), Chief Ogbonaya Onu.
Others are Chief Audu Ogbeh (Benue); Udoma Udo Udoma (Akwa Ibom); Dr. Osagie Ehanire (Edo); Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (Kano); Hajiya Amina Ibrahim Mohammed (Gombe); Engineer Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa) and Ibrahim Usman Jibrin (Nasarawa).
Also confirmed as ministers designate, are the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu (Delta); Abubakar Malami (Zamfara); Kemi Adeosun (Ogun); Barrister Solomon Dalong (Plateau); Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina) and Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Kwara); whose confirmation stirred slight controversy with overwhelming shout of nay by PDP senators against his confirmation.
Out of the first batch of nominees sent to the senate Ahmed Musa Ibeto, a nominee from Niger state was withdrawn by President Buhari while screening of the nominee from Oyo state, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, and Rotimi Amaechi were stood down.
Expectedly, the screening of the nominees did not go down without the usual intrigues and politics associated with the nomination and clearance of ministerial nominees.
However, while some nominees went through the process almost seamlessly, the same cannot be said of others who are facing stiff opposition against their nomination.
Undoubtely, the nomination of the former Rivers State governor has generated the biggest controversy and there appears to be no end in sight on how to resolve the logjam.
The government of Rivers State, the three Senators from the state and other interest groups from the state stoutly oppose Amaechi’s nomination. Less than 12 hours after Amaechi’s name was unveiled as a ministerial nominee to represent Rivers State in the Federal Executive Committee, an anti-corruption non-governmental organisation, Integrity Group, petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate to protest his nomination.
The group urged Amaechi to first clear his name over allegations of fraud concerning the sale of state power plants and conversion of proceeds of $302million, unlawful payment of over N4 billion to Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and unlawful enrichment of firm, Messrs Collect Nigeria Ltd with public funds amounting to over N1.5 billion.
The Integrity group further alleged that Amaechi is currently being investigated by anti-corruption agencies for unlawful enrichment and conversion of over N70 billion state resources.
When the Senate began the screening process the petition against Amaechi was tabled before the Senate and the Senate President had to refer the matter to the Ethics and Privileges and Public Petition Committee.
When the committee reported back to the Senate it said they could not investigate the petition against Amaechi as the former governor tendered documents to show the case is already in Court and the Senate has a standing rule not to deliberate on any issue before the court.
Consequently, Amaechi got a temporary reprieve as he was listed to be screened last Thursday. But the life buoy appears to have evaporated as antagonists of the former governor took the same route he secured to stop Senate probe of the petition against him by also running to a High Court to stop the screening of the former governor.
Now that the screening of Amaechi is already before a High Court Nigerians are watching to see what happens on Tuesday when the Senate resumes as it is already being speculated that the Senate will postpone Amaechi’s screening sine die until all the pending cases in court are dispensed in line with the Senate Standing rules.
Barrister Adebayo Shittu
This ministerial nominee from Oyo State has not been finding it easy since his name appeared on the ministerial list. Unlike Rotimi Amaechi who has alleged case of mismanagement of public resources hanging on his neck, the protest against Shittu’s nomination is at best petty, puerile, political and without substance.
The protest against his nomination came from Oyo State chapter of APC where Oke-Ogun APC Youth Assembly complained that the ministerial nominee “is not electable and should not be appointed minister.”
However, it is believed in several quarters that the so-called Oke-Ogun APC youths are only acting put a script written by someone who may not even be residing in Oyo state. The anti-Shittu group never questioned the competence, patriotism, commitment, loyalty, experience and capacity of the nominee to deliver on any responsibility President Buhari may assign him. The feeble opposition against his nomination has almost fizzled out when it became apparent that those against his nomination are political jobbers and mischief-makers. Shittu is expected to surmount the odds and issued a clean bill of health when he appears before the Senate this week.
Millions of Nigerians would have been disappointed if the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, was not picked by President Buhari as a member of his cabinet. Indeed, the question is not “if” but “in what capacity” will Fashola serve in the Buhari administration. Fashola’s sterling performance and record in Lagos state was noticed by Buhari like other Nigerians and after his inauguration Buhari’s body language was clear that he wants Fashola on board.
But this did not go down well with some people who felt it is their birth right to determine who emerges as minister from Lagos state. When it became apparent that Fashola will be relocating to Abuja, some mindless opponents tried to rubbish his image by posting on social media some contracts about the upgrading of his website and drilling of borehole which were said to have been over inflated and running into less than N250 million in a country where governors are known to siphon billions.
Nigerians read the handwriting on the wall and knew what the game plan was. Fashola eventually made the list to the chagrin of his detractors. When he appeared before the senate he mesmerized the lawmakers with his responses to their questions and they were even reluctant to let him go. He also threw light on the issue of website and borehole contract. Satisfied with his response the lawmaker told him to take a bow and go.
Hajiya Amina Mohammed
In spite of the fact that former Presidential Adviser on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, Hajiya Amina Mohammed, was one of the outstanding nominees of President Buhari, there were frantic efforts to stop her screening and clearance by the Senate. After her name was unveiled as one of the nominees, some indigenes of Kaduna State sent in a petition against her nomination claiming that though she is married to an indigene of the state she is from Gombe State.
Danjuma Lar representing Kaduna South senatorial district presented a petition to the Senate against her nomination, saying her nomination was a violation of Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution. This necessitated the Senate President sending the petition to the Ethics, Privileges committee. When she appeared before the committee she said, “I am assuming that I will be representing Gombe State because I am not from Kaduna State. My father is from Gombe State and I was born in Gombe State. I was only educated in Kaduna State.”
It was later confirmed that she is actually nominated to represent Gombe state in the federal cabinet. However, some women activists did not take kindly to the seeming discrimination against Amina Mohammed by those that are supposed to be fathers of her children.
Former Senate Committee Chairman on Environment and Ecology, Senator Grace Bent, described the issue of non-indigeneship of Kaduna raised by opponents and critics of Mrs. Mohammed as unholy, impious and debasing for women in Nigeria whose contributions to national growth and development “have been unequalled.”
In her words, “Nigerians should stop this absurdity of humiliating and debasing their women with the slightest opportunity. It is an aberration as well as barbaric for anyone to begin to discriminate and fight a woman on the basis of marital affiliation. I feel our senators should not entertain that.”
She said the constitution of Nigeria accords every right to any Nigerian woman to serve the country in any capacity, notwithstanding her marital affiliation or state of origin, quoting section 42 (2) to buttress her argument.
The clearance of the APC national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is still a subject of debate in some circles. Several Nigerians that watched the live telecast of the screening of the in-coming ministers are of the view that when the Senate President put the question if Muhammed should be cleared the “nay” voice was louder but Senator Saraki still gave it to the “yea”. Some indigenes of Kwara State were not too comfortable with the nomination of Mohammed who is believed to be the candidate of former Lagos State governor, Alhaji Bola Tinubu.
Many Nigerians that thought they could get details of Mohammed’s background during the screening went home disappointed as his restricted himself to his role as spokesman of opposition party for almost a decade when he was told to give a brief about himself. The only confession he made is that is good to be in the ruling party. Lai Mohammed was later according the privileged reserved for former parliamentarians when he was asked to bow and go without the expected fireworks session.