By Yusuf Alli:

Security agencies yesterday cleared all the 33 ministerial nominees for the Senate’s screening, which begins today.

The nominees last night went through fingerprinting at the Force Headquarters.Murtala Yar’Adua

Among them is Murtala Yar’Adua, nephew of the President and son of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former Chief of Staff (1976-1979), whose choice was seen as a strategy to break the rank of the President’s family.

As of last Friday, it was not clear whether Yar’Adua would accept his nomination.

He had told this newspaper when news of his nomination was broken: “I’m trying to find out what is happening. I’m not sure of anything now. As I said, I have no comments.”

He has appeared for screening, following wide consultations with his father’s associates and friends. Most of them advised him to accept the job, a source said last night. He was said to have consulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma and Gen. Aliyu Gusau. “He believes they won’t mislead him,” the source said.

After so much advice, Yar’Adua left the decision to his immediate family who told him to accept his nomination, it was said.

Some stakeholders, especially in the oil sector, have issues over portfolios to be given to some nominees.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) yesterday concluded the screening of all the nominees.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “So far, we have cleared the list of 33 nominees sent to us by the Acting President.

“We got petitions against some of them and we did thorough investigations. None of them was found wanting; there was no basis to disqualify any. The essence of the thorough screening is to ease their confirmation by the Senate.

“We have sent our reports on the candidates to the Acting President and the Senate to serve as a guide.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “The President’s nephew, Murtala Yar’Adua, came for the screening and we have cleared him accordingly.

“We have also screened some former ministers, such as Remi Babalola (Finance); John Odey (Environment); and Isa Bio Ibrahim (Transport) who are in the last group of nine to be released.”

Findings revealed that Yar’Adua accepted the job after his immediate family gave him the go-ahead.

A highly-placed source said: “There was intense pressure from his extended family not to accept the offer. His friends and associates were also well divided.

“But Murtala Yar’Adua decided to meet with his immediate family and told them that whatever they decided, he would abide by it.

“Eventually, his immediate family told him on Thursday to accept the offer since it is an opportunity to serve his country.

“That was why he came for the screening at the NSA’s office. He has deferred to his family.”

As at press time, it was gathered that the nominees were undergoing fingerprinting at the Force Headquarters.

“It is part of the documentation for cabinet members in case they perpetrate fraud in office.

“Having taken their fingerprints, if we have cause to investigate fraud-related allegations against them in future, we will be able to determine the extent of their culpability. And where we need to declare them wanted, we know a few forensic details about them already.”

But a major challenge the Acting President may face is on portfolios for the nominees.

Investigation revealed that the Acting President may wish to entrust some key portfolios to some trusted nominees, but the North is bent on retaining some key ministries.

Some of the ministries held by the North in the previous cabinet are: Finance, Petroleum Resources, National Planning, Agriculture and Water Resources, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Transport, Police Affairs, Works, Justice and Labour.

A source said: “The assignment of portfolios is a major task the Acting President will face because of the North-South dichotomy.

“Some Northern leaders are pushing for the retention of the ministries occupied by the region in the last cabinet to pacify them to show that the Acting President is broad-minded and large hearted.

“But with the invasion of Abuja by godfathers and bigwigs, it is going to be a big hurdle for Jonathan to cross.”

It was learnt that a major battle front is the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which was hitherto managed by Dr. Rilwanu Lukman (substantive Minister) and Mr. Odein Ajumogobia(Minister of State).

A source said: “Some members of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet have recommended Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum Resources. But the North, especially President Umaru Yar’Adua’s loyalists, have kicked against that.

“Some stakeholders in the oil industry are also rooting for either Chris Ogiemwonyi or Ajumogobia as minister of Petroleum Resources.

“They are saying that they don’t want a minister who may have to undergo learning process in the industry. But Jonathan debunked the blackmail by claiming that Mrs Allison-Madueke spent many years in Shell Petroleum Development Corporation.”

Other portfolio speculations are Godsday Orubebe (Niger Delta Affairs); Prof. Dora Akunyili (Health); Olusegun Aganga (Finance); Adamu Maina Waziri (Agriculture and Water Resources); Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (Justice); Dr. Shamsudeen Usman (Finance); Murtala Yar’Adua (FCT) ;Remi Babalola (FCT or Works); Sanusi Daggash (National Planning); and John Odey (Environment).

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