Written by Nuruddeen M. Abdallah & Turaki Hassan:

* The Process Will be Rigorous -Ayogu Eze

Indications emerged yesterday that some ex-ministers believed to be loyal to President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and some state governors are mounting pressure on Senators over the screening of ministerial nominees scheduled to begin tomorrow. 

A source in the National Assembly told Sunday Trust last night that the former ministers were mounting pressure on the lawmakers not to clear some ministerial nominees sent to them by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for clearance last week.
The ex-ministers, it was learnt, were particularly irked by the acting president moves to re-appoint about eight ministers he recently sacked when he dissolved the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The former ministers, who were billed to bounce to the cabinet because of their loyalty to the acting president so far included the former ministers of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili; Mines and Steel Development, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke, Power (state), Arc Nuhu Somo Wya and Petroleum Resources (state), Odein Ajumogobia.

Others are former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Adetokunbo Kayode; former Minister of Agriculture (state), Mrs Fedelia Akubata Njeze; former Minister of Youth Development, National Planning, Dr Shamsuddeen Usman; Chief Akanbi Olasunkanmi and former Minister of State for Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe.

This was confirmed by Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya (ANPP, Kano South). The Senate’s Deputy Minority Whip told Sunday Trust yesterday that “yes, the pressure is there. You know how Nigeria reacts when somebody is nominated and others are not happy with that because they either don’t like him or he is not their candidate. The lobbying is going on and it may be from governors or anybody.

“I believe some of the nominees may not scale through. It depends on the mood of the Senate but we are not going to change any criteria for it. But I am sure some of them will be faced with tough questions, especially those who served before and might have offended some people.

“It would have been good if we knew their portfolio. I remember the last time we screened them, Dora Akunyili, a Pharmacist was posted to information ministry. We will have appreciated it if the acting president had given us their portfolio, but we hope that later we will amend the Constitution to make it compulsory,” Gaya said.

Also, the deputy Senate whip, Senator Mohammed Mana (PDP, Adamawa North) said in an interview that “we are not under pressure from anybody not to confirm the nominees. We will do our job transparently and honestly. We will confirm only those who passed our screening exercise. We will do it conscientiously and with the best of our ability to ensure that we get the best for Nigerians and what will be good for the country to move forward,” Mana said.

One of the names in the ministerial nominees list prominently embroiled in the controversy and elicited opposition from the Yar’adua group is Akunyili. Akunyili was said to have irked many political interests, particularly in the North, courtesy of her controversial Yar’adua cabal outburst.

Sunday Trust gathered that the Yar’adua group are mounting pressure on the lawmakers to seriously scrutinise the former ministers as to why they were returned despite their low performance in the just dissolved cabinet.

“The pro-Yar’adua group are currently mounting serious campaign in the Senate asking them to question the rationale used in re-appointing the former ministers who were apparently adjudged to have performed below expectation, in comparison to most of their colleagues sent away by the acting president,” a Senate source said.

On the other hand, the governors are said to have vowed to frustrate the clearance of some nominees because most of them picked by the acting president were either not their candidates nor were they picked with their consent.

Jonathan’s group, it was learnt last night, is equally not asleep as it has already commissioned a senator from Bayelsa State, who is mobilising his colleagues to ensure the smooth clearance of the acting president’s ministerial nominees.

When Sunday Trust contacted the Senate Committee Chairman on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze over the issue yesterday, he said that “I am not aware of any pressure from anybody. But it does not mean that it is not happening. But I don’t know. Nominees will face tough questions and the process will be rigorous even though we are not bringing new criteria for the scrutiny.”

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