By Emmanuel Aziken & Chinyere Amalu:

* As Senate begins screening today

ABUJA—FORMER ministers who were members of the immediate past cabinet of President Umaru Yar‘Adua face the greatest hurdles in scaling the ministerial screening commencing today.

Meanwhile, the Senate has rejected agitations from within and outside the body for the list to be returned until the portfolios to which the nominees would be apportioned are attached.

The crux of the senators’ anger against the returning nominees is the perception that many of them performed below expectation while they served in the immediate past cabinet.

Senator Manzo Anthony, Vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media told Vanguard yesterday: “Each of the returning nominees will be considered on his or her own merit but I will not be surprised if some of the returning ministers are asked to justify their time in office in the former cabinet.”

While Senator Sanusi Daggash, according to some senators, may have sufficiently softened the angst of aggrieved senators, new developments at the weekend pointed at higher hurdles for Prof. Dora Akunyili, the immediate past Minister of Information and Communication.

Mrs. Akunyili and Mrs. Josephine Anenih another nominee from Anambra State were, yesterday, being described as victims of circumstance on the fact that they are both from the same senatorial district. Mrs. Akunyili and Anenih are both from Anambra Central senatorial district where Governor Peter Obi, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Anayo Nnebe, the Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Egboga all hail from.

Appointments from Anambra Central
Besides, the State’s Commissioner at INEC, Mr. Philip Umeadi, the Commissioner at the National Population Commission, Chief C. Umeh, the Chairman of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Osita Chidoka and the State’s Commissioner at the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Chief Sam Agumadu are all said to be from Anambra Central which is claimed to have received more than a fair share of appointments compared to the two other senatorial districts.

*Akunyili

Like Daggash, Mr. Bello Adoke, SAN, the nominee from Kogi State who was being seriously challenged by senators from the State and members of the influential Nigeria Interest Group, NIG, it was learnt has also received the okay from his antagonists in the Senate. The soft ground on him followed the convergence of opinion between Governor Ibrahim Idris and the senators who were alleged to have earlier disclaimed him. Senator Otaru Ohize, PDP, Kogi Central, it was learnt was now championing his cause among senators.

Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora, the leader of the Lagos State caucus in the National Assembly was, however, indifferent on the agitations against the nominee from Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Aganga who it was claimed is from Edo State. Senator Mamora told Vanguard yesterday that he was waiting to study the papers to be presented by Mr. Aganga, presently a Managing Director with Goldman Sachs to take a position.

Senator Mamora’s position nonetheless, some northern senators were, yesterday, pushing the case of Mr. Aganga claiming that it was a good step in unifying the country and eliminating ethnic bias.

“What is happening in Lagos is good for us in the country. If somebody from Osun State could serve in the Lagos State executive council and the same person who has lived all his life in Lagos could go to contest for the governorship of Osun State, then it raises hope that one day an Hausa man can get something in Lagos State,” one northern Senator told Vanguard.

Senate spokesman Senator Ayogu Eze, was optimistic on the course of the screening which is to be aired live by three television networks.

Asked to reflect on the initial hostility of senators against Senator Daggash, yesterday, Senator Eze said: “It will be premature to give Senate perspective on him ahead of the screening. All I can say is that we are all human beings and we make mistakes once in a while and if in the opinion of senators what was held against him was an error that he committed genuinely and he has shown remorse for it, and if that is the opinion of senators, of course, we are human beings and we can put it behind us.”

Senator Eze also disclosed the Senate’s rejection of calls for the return of the list on the basis of the failure of the Acting President to disclose the portfolios to be attached to the nominees.

He said: “We have received calls that we should reject the lists until the portfolios are attached, but we cannot unless the constitution is amended because the constitution provides for one portfolio to be attached and that is the office of Attorney General.”

NMA expresses dissatisfaction
The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has expressed its dissatisfaction with the list of 32 nominees, saying, it does not contain any name of a medical practitioner.

NMA said though it has confidence in the administration of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and with the role he played in the resolution of Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, last year, Jonathan “will neither marginalize the members of medical profession nor ignore their patriotic contribution to nation-building.”

An NMA statement made available to Vanguard, weekend, and jointly signed by its National President, Dr. Prosper Igboeli and Secretary-General, Dr. Kenneth Okoro, said:  “we need a health minister who will fast-track the current improvement in our health indices with improved immunization coverage and other health challenges.”

The statement added: “The Nigerian Medical Association has carefully studied the list of ministerial nominees sent to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and wishes to express her confidence and belief that the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan GCON will neither marginalize the members of the medical profession nor ignore their patriotic contributions to nation-building.

“It is curious that in the list of 32 nominees, there is no medical practitioner. We, however, recall the unique and remarkable role the Acting President played, as Vice President, in the resolution of the turbulence in the health sector last year, 2009, engendered by the restiveness of doctors over the circularization of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS.

“We once again reiterate that the most appropriate health professional to lead the Federal Ministry of Health is a patriotic medical practitioner with integrity, sound administrative acumen, rich clinical experience and untainted record of service. It is only such a medical practitioner that is imbued with all the knowledge required to head the health team.

“In this critical period, we need a health minister; who will fast-track the current improvement in our health indices with improved immunization coverage, commendable reduction in the transmission of Wild Polio Virus cases and mobilization of resources to combat Malaria and Maternal Mortality among other areas.

“Our members are, therefore, enjoined to remain calm as we believe that the Acting President has due regard for medical doctors and will certainly carry them along.”

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