Buhari’s Ministers To Face Thorough Screening


* Seeks $200m Loan For Lagos

Oscar Chukwugekwu, Abuja

Any ministerial nominee of President Muhammadu Buhari should brace himself or herself for tough times during their screening and confirmation at the Senate.

This is because there would not be the usual “take-a-bow” and go from the senators for any nominee, even if such were a former senator of the Federal Republic.

In his welcome address to his colleagues on the resumption of the 8th Senate from a six-week recess on Tuesday, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, revealed that the list, once it is submitted, would be treated “with thoroughness”.

It is the practice in the Senate to tell a ministerial nominee, who was once in the Upper Chamber, to “take a bow and go” without subjecting such nominee to questions.

If Saraki’s pronouncement is taken very serious, it then means that such tradition would no longer be observed when the list is submitted to the Red Chamber, even if any of the nominees is a former senator.

The Senate President, however, added that there would not be room for pettiness or politics of vendetta.

“As we await the list of ministerial nominees this week, I believe (that) the presence of ministers will create the space for greater policy engagement with the executive arm of government, and enable us to begin to respond in a more systematic manner to the various economic and social challenges before us, especially through our various committees that will also be constituted soon.

“On this note, I want to urge you all, my colleagues, to ensure that what is uppermost in our minds, as we begin the constitutional task of screening of ministerial nominees is the overall interest of our country, informed by the enormity and the urgency of the challenges before us. Once the list is submitted, let us ensure that we treat it with dispatch and thoroughness. We must not be held down by unnecessary politicking. The enormity of our national challenges at this time does not give room for pettiness or politics of vendetta,” Saraki said.

Saraki’s declaration was reiterated by the Interim Chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, who briefed the Senate correspondents, shortly after the Plenary session.

Melaye, who hinted that it would no longer be business as usual, added that the days of “take a bow and go” are over.

“It will no longer be business as usual during the screening of the ministerial nominees. The era of take a bow and go are over. It will be a serious affair,” Melaye said.

Saraki, who observed that the state of Nigeria’s economy is the biggest challenge presently faced by the country, tasked his colleagues to think hard and work hard with the executive to achieve greater clarity in policy direction and interventions.

“The dwindling oil revenue has brought enormous shock to our economy, and greatly limited the capacity of government at various levels to meet even basic commitments. Our country has gone through periods of recession in the past.

“What we face today is, however, unprecedented in ramification and potential gravity. We must think hard and work hard with the executive to achieve greater clarity in policy direction and interventions. We shall, therefore, commence immediately, a review of the 2015 Budget, and begin now to lay down the fundamental principles that would determine the 2016 Budget, and the philosophy of our economy in times like this.

“Like I mentioned earlier, legislative agenda must take precedent over all other things in this Senate. I have no doubt that we are all capable of putting in the long hours, but those long hours must be invested primarily in debating and making the laws that would move our country forward,” he said.

He revealed the Senate’s plan to proffer policy solutions and minimise hardship amongst the Nigerian people.

“The externalised distractions we have had recently have been unhelpful, but I am more than ever focused and resolute to the course of our people to provide them leadership that will ease their pain, and realise their dreams. It is in view of this that we set for ourselves the Legislative Agenda Committee to help us identify priorities that will have substantial impact on the lives of our people.

“In the coming days, we shall be considering the report of the Committee, adopt it, and immediately begin the implementation of the priorities identified. There will be need to fast track issues – not with haste; but with deliberate steps and diligence that would deliver results that can stand the test of time,” he added.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday requested for special approval for a Development Policy Operation II (DPO II) loan of $200 million to Lagos State from the World Bank.

Buhari’s request was contained in a letter entitled ‘Request for Special Approval of Lagos State DPO II Under the Federal Government External Borrowing Plan (2015-2017)’, which was addressed to the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on September 10.

Buhari, who explained that the amount in question is the third tranche, added that the first was approved by the National Assembly in the 2010-2012 government external (rolling) borrowing plan, while the second was approved in 2012-2014 plan.

In a related development, the Senate would on Wednesday commence the consideration and confirmation of the appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari, which were transmitted to the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

One of such confirmation is the appointment of Engr. Umaru Garba Danbatta as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for a first term of five years..

Others are the appointment of Dr. William Babatunde Fowler as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Board for the first term of four years, and the appointments of Ahmed Lawan Kuru as the Managing Director and three other executive directors of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) for the first term of five years.



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