By Emmanuel Ogala and Ini Ekot
Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President, yesterday got a huge boost from the Senate which approved all but one of his 39 ministerial nominees, after three days of screening.
Shortly after the list was approved, the Senate told the acting president that in order for his administration to succeed, he must be willing to sack any minister who performs poorly.
Senate President, David Mark, who gave the advice said, “We use this opportunity to urge the acting president that any minister who does not perform must be removed so that he or she will not be a clog in the wheel of progress of this nation.”
In a swift reaction to the passage of the list of ministers, the acting president, through his Special Adviser, Ima Niboro, praised the National Assembly for the speedy completion of the screening process.
He said, “We must commend the senate for the speed with which they have worked.
It showed their level of commitment to moving the nation forward. It is a continuation of all the good works they have been doing to save the nation and get the nation moving again. We commend them and I must tell you that the acting president is grateful to the Senate”.
Sack the indolent
He said the Senate has again applied the doctrine of necessity to hasten the screening process which would normally have taken at least two weeks. The Senate postponed its Easter holiday by one week and, unconventionally, held plenary on a Monday to hasten the screening of the ministerial nominees.
“It is our wish that once these ministers are posted to their respective portfolios and that when they resume, they will do what they have promised us here.” Mr. Mark said at the end of the three day screening and confirmation exercise.
Mr. Jonathan had last week forwarded a list of 33 names for confirmation as ministers for a new cabinet after he sacked the previous cabinet a fortnight ago. Later, six other names were added to the list.
Those confirmed include 14 former ministers from the immediate past cabinet, and one from President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s first cabinet.
The nominations were made based on the principle of federal character. However, Umar Aliyu who was nominated to fill the Taraba State quota was not screened by the Senate and observers say his nomination may have been opposed by his state governor. Also, no one was screened and confirmed from Ebonyi State.
According to the spokesman of the Senate, Ayogu Eze, the people of Taraba and Ebonyi states, “are still interacting with each other and I believe that when we come back from the Easter break, they will present nominees because the principle of federal character demands that every zone be represented in the council.”
The confirmed ministers were all hastily screened. They were asked general questions rather than specific ones, to determine their capability for the positions they were nominated for.
The nominees were as usual sent to the Senate in a blanket grouping, without matching their names to portfolios and the Acting President is expected to assign them portfolios after administering the oath of office on them.
According to Mr. Eze, if the nominees had come with portfolios, the Senate would have grilled them better. He said the position of the Constitution now did not provide that the ministers must be sent to the Senate with portfolios neither “did it provide for that not to happen.” He said that subsequently, the Senate will strongly insist that nominees be given tentative portfolios before their names are sent.
“It is germane that the ministers being screened are screened with portfolios. The reason we didn’t insist this time is because of the short time.” Some of the nominees were asked simple, inane questions.
Mr. Eze however said the Senate was thorough in the interviews. “You don’t need to ask one million questions to be thorough,” he said.
The process was also without the drama witnessed on the initial day of the screening when a senator of the People’s Democratic Party, Kanti Bello, was aggressive to the former minister of information, Dora Akunyili.
However, outside the screening chamber, hangers-on of some of the nominees, especially the politicians, amused passersby and National Assembly staff by displaying all manner of solidarity for their patrons as they exited the screening chamber of the senate.
Supporters of Diezani Alison-Madueke chanted and danced in the lobby and some of them tried to get handshakes or photo shots with the nominees.
Wild jubilations erupted amongst many groups at various spots in Abuja on Wednesday as they watched the Senate chorus ‘yes’, on TV, to indicate their confirmation of the nominees that will form the next executive council of the federation.
The new ministers
The re-appointed ministers include: Fidelia Akuabata Njeze, Peter Godsday Orubebe, Nuhu Somo Wya, Adetokunbo Kayode, Henry Odein Ajumogobia, Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Shamsudeen Usman, and Dora Akunyili.
Others are: Isa Bio Ibrahim, John Ogar Odey, Aderemi Waheed Babalola, Humphrey Enemakwu Abbah, and Aliyu Idi Hong.
The newly appointed ministers are: Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu, Iyom Josephine Anenih, Labaran Maku, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Suleiman Bello, Murtala Yar’Adua, Sanusi M.Dagash, Bala Mohammed, Nduese Essien, Josephine Tapgun,
Mohammed Bello Adoke, and Ernest Olubolade Others are: Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, Mohammed Kaoje Abubakar, Adamu Waziri, Awodele Najeem Adewale Alao, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, Yusuf Suleiman, Ruquiya Rufai, Musa Sada, Sheik Abdallah, Emmanuel Iheanacho, Samuel Ode, and Jibril Martins Kuye.
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