El-Rufai, Wike, other Nominees face Senate Screening Monday

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• President will create new ministries, form full cabinet in two weeks – Gbajabiamila

• N’Assembly awaits other states nominees, PDP faults Wike’s nomination, lampoons Tinubu over list

The Senate will, on Monday, commence the screening of the ministerial nominees submitted to it by President Bola Tinubu on Thursday.

This is just as indications emerged that the President will create new ministries and form his full cabinet in two weeks.

Speaking shortly after the names of 28 nominees sent to the federal lawmakers were read on the floor by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, the Senate spokesperson, Yemi Adaramodu (Ekiti South), said the Upper Chamber had suspended all its activities to commence the screening immediately.

Adaramodu said, “Screening will commence on Monday. We have suspended all the rules to accommodate the screening of the nominees.

“We were supposed to proceed on our vacation today (Thursday) but it has been suspended for this screening. We are starting the screening on Monday. We are not going to allocate time to nominees to talk.

“We will start by 11am on Monday and other days at 10am. We are ready to sit all day to screen them, with no limitation of hours. We won’t even time them. We would listen to them reel out their blueprint to us. The screening would be done in the presence of Nigerians.”

Much-awaited list

Akpabio, at plenary, unveiled the list consisting of 28 nominees.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajamiabila, delivered the list to the Senate President.

Prominent people who made the list are former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike (Rivers), former Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), and former Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi (Ebonyi).

Others are the acting Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Abubakar Kyari (Borno); the party’s women leader Beta Edu (Cross River); Deputy Chief Whip of the Ninth House of Representatives, Nkiruka Onyejiocha ( Abia); a lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, (Kwara); and the President’s Special Adviser on Media, Strategy and Special Duties, Dele Alake, (Ekiti).

Also, contained in the list is a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Adebayo Adelabu (Oyo); former Minister of State, Health, Ali Pate, (Bauchi); and Senator John Eno, (Cross River).

The rest are Abubakar Momoh (Edo); Ambassador Yusuf Maitama, (Bauchi), Ahmad Dangiwa (Katsina), Hanatu Musawa, (Katsina), Chief Uche Nnaji, (Enugu), Doris Aniche (Imo), Mohamed Badaru (Jigawa), Ekperikpe Ekpo (Akwa Ibom), Olubumi Tunde-Ojo, (Ondo), Stella Okotete, (Delta), Uju Ohanaeye (Anambra) and Bello Goronyo, (Sokoto).

 Mohammed Idris (Niger), Olawale Edun (Ogun), Imman Suleiman (Nassarawa), Joseph Utsev, (Benue) and Sani Danladi ( Taraba) also made the 28-man list.

Having read out the names, the Senate referred the list to the Committee of the Whole.

11 states missing

Although the constitution prescribes that the President shall appoint at least a minister from each of the 36 states of the federation, the list sent by the Tinubu contained names of nominees from 25 states, leaving out 11 states.

The states not yet covered are Lagos, Kano, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Gombe, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Plateau, Yobe and Zamfara.

Meanwhile, Bauchi, Cross River and Katsina states got two slots each.

New ministries coming

Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila said Nigerians should expect the naming of new ministries as President unveils another list of 13 ministerial nominees “in the coming days.”

“Mr President intends to separate portfolios or restructure the ministries in such a way that you might be hearing of new ministries that were not standalone ministries before,” the Chief of Staff to the President told State House Correspondents hours after he submitted the ministerial list to the Senate.

Explaining how the names on the list emerged, Gbajabiamila said, “Mr President took his time to sift through those names. He dissected those names with a fine-tooth comb.

“That’s what you have seen. Everyone, I believe, of the persons on that list is worth being on that list.

“But I hope we haven’t missed anything that would have necessitated any name not being on that list.”

He explained that the names were sent to the Senate without specific portfolios attached to give the President enough flexibility to decide who handles what portfolio.

He said, “I like the idea of attaching portfolios because it makes it necessary for the Senate to know exactly what you’re asking and looking for.

“As good as that sounds, it straitjackets the President to pigeonhole one person in an office or the other. What happens if he changes his mind? Do you then bring the person back for screening again? This is because the President is at liberty to change his mind.

“But for now, it’s been thought wise that we stick to the tradition of sending the names and then while the screening processes are going on, it allows Mr President and his team to look at the portfolios and the characters and see how they fit.”

Gbajabiamila explained that President Tinubu is sure that all the nominees can “fit in anywhere” except for specialised offices such as the Attorney-General.

On the remaining nominees, he said the “12 or maybe 13 will be forwarded to the Senate in the coming days.”

He revealed that the cabinet should be fully formed and functioning within the next two weeks.

“Work should start in earnest for them in the next week or two because I don’t see the Senate wasting too much time in the confirmation, not because they’re not going to do a thorough job, they will do a thorough job.

“But they will balance it with the knowledge that in this time that we are in, time is of the essence.”

PDP knocks Wike

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Timothy Osadolor, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the ministerial list as an average collection of people who do not have what it takes to make a difference in the life of the nation.

Speaking specifically on the inclusion of Wike on the list, Osadolor, Osadolor, a member of the PDP National Executive Committee, said members of the party were not surprised.

He added that Wike merely confirmed the claim in many quarters that he offered himself as a tool in the hands of a rival party to work against the PDP in the 2023 elections.

He said, “To those who are not members of the PDP, they may be surprised but we (members of the party) are not. We wish him well and hope he does not end up eating those he has elected to join as he did to the party that brought him into the national limelight.”

On the capacity of the nominees to deliver on expectations, Osadolor said the bulk of the men chosen by the President “are at best average,” adding that no one should expect them to give what they don’t have.

“Who on the list can you refer to as a goal-getter apart from maybe two or three? They are at best, average collection of former this and former that. We honestly don’t know what they have to offer Nigerians,” he added.

His position however contrasted with that of the New Nigeria People’s Party whose spokesman in the 2023 presidential election, Johnson Ladipo, urged Nigerians to give the ministerial nominees the benefit of the doubt.

He said, “Some of them are well known and we believe Mr President has confidence in them. We hope they get to work soon and based on their experiences, I think Nigerians can be hopeful of good days ahead.

“Yes, Nigerians may have issues with some of the names who probably didn’t do well in their previous positions but they garnered experiences which may now guide them to do better.

“There is no reason to begin to express fear when they have not been cleared yet and even though we don’t envisage any problem with their clearance, Nigerians should not begin to condemn them as they are yet to get started.”

LP indifferent

The spokesman of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said the party had no interest in whoever the President prefers to appoint to his cabinet.

Tanko said until the party reclaims its mandate at the election petition tribunal, it won’t show interest in any alleged illegality perpetrated by the ruling government.

He said, “We are challenging this government’s existence in the court. In that case, we cannot be giving credence to whatever activities that this particular government is doing. But on a cursory look, they are not doing anything different from this same old stuff prevalent among old politicians.

“We are not perturbed about it at all. What we are interested in is getting our mandate back. So whether the list comes out or not, it doesn’t interest us at all. We are still awaiting the outcome of the tribunal. It is after the decision of the tribunal that we will make our position known as regards whatever the government is doing.”

APC speaks

The Director of Publicity of the All Progressives Congress, Bala Ibrahim, believed that it is too early for the ruling party to start dissecting the list.

Ibrahim, however, expressed satisfaction, saying the party is glad that two notable members of the APC National Working Committee made the list.

“I think it is too early for the ruling party to say anything. The ministerial list is incomplete. Let’s wait until the final list is released. We don’t know who is coming and in the first one, we have two members of the NWC committee there.

“We can’t say anything until the final list is out. But we are so far happy with what we have seen,” he said.

 The National Secretary of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Dipo Olayoku, said, “As a party, NNPP cannot make its position known now because we have not seen the full list and the party has not met to discuss. So it will be difficult for anybody to talk on behalf of NNPP concerning the list.

The PDP in Rivers State thanked Tinubu for nominating Wike.

The state Publicity Secretary, Sydney Gbara, said this in an interview with the media.

“The nomination of former Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike by President Bola Tinubu is a welcome development to the party, though not a surprise to us because His Excellency has distinguished himself as a leader,” he said.

 But the Publicity Secretary of the APC in the state, Mr Darlington Nwauju, said the party would come up with an official reaction at the appropriate time.

A former presidential aspirant of the APC, Dr Felix Nicolas, decried the absence of young persons on the list.

He said, “You know I have always been an advocate for youths. From what we have seen so far, the youth are missing from the first batch. They are just not there.

“But for the women, I have been very impressed. I practically know every woman on that list. They are capable and worked hard. I am talking about the likes of Dr Betta, Uju and others. At least, we have six women so far. But the same can, however, not be said of the youth.”

NMA

Speaking on the ministerial list, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Uche Ojinmah, stated, “We wish them well and we pray that the time we have used to wait for the list will not be in vain.”

 On Pate making the list, he said, “I wish him well and I hope he understands the dynamics of the Nigerian health sector, if not it can undo the profession if you are not grounded in internal politics.”

Organised private sector

The Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, described the list as a blend of technocrats and career politicians whose appointments were based on political affiliations rather than qualification.

He, however, advised that the more sensitive ministries such as Trade, Finance and Health be entrusted to technocrats with a firm grasp of the workings of the respective sectors.

He said, “The President has been under a lot of pressure to balance technocrats and politicians, especially these career politicians who are former governors who have no other business but to continue in politics. He has managed to get the balance.

“The challenge will be if these past governors are posted to very sensitive ministries. Because those are just politicians, they just want to stay in politics. The President cannot do without playing the regular politics of satisfying some stakeholders across the various states.”

On his part, the Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Olusola Obadimu, urged the President to set time-framed targets for the appointees to ensure that they perform optimally in line with the expectations of Nigerians.

He said, “The most important thing is for whoever has been chosen to perform in whichever role he has been given. The government can set up machinery for performance measurement. After assigning them portfolios, they should give them targets related to their portfolios. If you don’t put time into the targets, it doesn’t make sense. So, you have to give them tasks.

“If you don’t task them, before you know it, four years are gone without any achievements. They have to be given time-specified goals and tasks. There should also be machinery for performance review and monitoring.

“There should be a unit within the Presidency to monitor quarterly. After their FEC meetings, each minister should be able to make presentations and show how he has handled the goals set for him so that the council can jointly review and advise.”

Also speaking, a facilitator with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Dr Ikenna Nwaosu, stated, “He submitted the list within the constitutional period, so there is no adverse comment on that. The question of competence is relative because anybody that thinks the President is going to appoint technocrats is wasting his time.

“There are many political IOUs he has to pay and sort out. So there has to be a mix of politicians and technocrats. But unfortunately, the proposed positions are not tied to any name. So you cannot appropriately evaluate. However, it is the National Assembly that has the final decision on their competence.”

In his contribution, public affairs analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, noted that with the right working condition, the ministerial nominees can deliver and make a huge statement.

Ojo flayed those calling on Tinubu to pick technocrats ahead of politicians, noting that the meaning of technocrat may have been lost on many commentators.

Thorough screening

The Senate spokesman noted that this time, the screening will be thorough.

He said, “We are going to know the background of the nominees and we are not going to disappoint Nigerians.

“All the dry bones, physically and socially must rise. Until it comes forward in their resume, it is not going to be a shallow screening. You must have the character, you must have the face, and you must have the behaviour to be among the cabin crew that is going to fly Nigeria.

“This time around, Nigeria is going to be better. Whoever gets to the floor of the Senate will be screened.”

Similarly, Senator Victor Umeh ( LP, Anambra Central) said the Senate was focused on approving ministers who would do the job and move the nation forward.

Commenting on the first batch, the lawmaker representing Imo West, Osita Izunaso, noted that the constitution didn’t state precisely if the entire ministerial list should be sent at once.

The Senator representing Edo South, Neda Imasuen, said, “For now, we have our fingers crossed till they bring the remaining list.

“The nomination of the ministers is the prerogative of the President. I am sure he has met with them and he knows what he saw in them to have nominated them.”

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