By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi:

• Security Clearance May Delay Screening

MINISTERIAL nominees, old and new, were on Monday sent assets declaration forms by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), preparatory to their names being forwarded to the Senate today or tomorrow for screening.

It was learnt that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan met with the nominees on Monday night.

However, incomplete security reports may cause some names to disappear from the shortlist being compiled by Jonathan to fill the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), which he dissolved on March 17.

Nominations for returnee and greenhorn Ministers were said to have come in late at the weekend.

The names of new nominees were forwarded to the security agencies, including the State Security Services (SSS) and the police for clearance.

Traditionally, the curriculum vitae (CV) of any nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation contains security clearance from the SSS and the police.

Anyone who does not have the two prerequisites risks rejection by lawmakers.

A source said security clearance for new Ministerial nominees may take a while in coming because the Security Committee was raised just last Sunday.

“The SSS and police have just started work. Any clearance issued for any Minister would go to Aso Rock which would attach such to the CVs to be submitted to the Senate for screening and confirmation,” he explained.

“Returnee Ministers may not have such a hurdle to scale because their security clearance is more like an update; except where allegations of abuse of office or petitions of fraud are proven against them.

“In that case, such Ministers may either be recommended to be dropped in a memo to (Jonathan) or, in a worst case scenario, be invited to defend and clear such allegations.”

Any nominee who fails to convince the security agencies may not be given the opportunity to come before the Senate for confirmation, even if he/she is a favourite of Jonathan, the source added.

The Senate leadership has cut short its Easter recess by one week to screen the nominees, an exercise expected to begin this week.

“Rather than go for two weeks, we have decided to cut the recess by a week.

“The screening of Ministerial nominees would be tasking, and having given our word to (Jonathan) to expedite action on the composition of a new cabinet, we have decided to sacrifice our recess,” a Senate principal officer disclosed at the weekend.

The dissolution of the EXCOF on March 17, which was hailed by politicians and pressure groups, came three weeks after a minor cabinet reshuffle in which three Ministers swapped portfolios.

Former Information and Communications Minster, Dora Akunyili, explained on March 18 that it was tension that led to the sack of the entire federal cabinet, and noted that Jonathan took the decision in the best interest of the nation.

And more firing is on the cards, likely to sweep off the Service Chiefs and other big wig political appointees whose positions have been rumoured for months to be on the line.

In the frame are the Service Chiefs whose loyalty to Jonathan has been in doubt since the airport drama that attended the return of President Umaru Yar’Adua from Saudi Arabia on February 24, and the deployment of troops without Jonathan’s knowledge.

Others facing the hangman include Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director, Mohammed Barkindo; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Farida Waziri; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Maurice Iwu; and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed.

A source told Daily Independent that Jonathan and his men are concerned that the Service Chiefs are loyal only to Yar’Adua who appointed them.

The failure of the military to forestall the bloodletting in Plateau State is fresh in the minds of many, and may have stoked the suspicion that the Service Chiefs are not dependable, highlighted by the allegation of bias leveled against troops in the carnage.

Merely reposting the Service Chiefs  would not suffice, according to our source, who explained that they could be forced into retirement since they would not accept to serve under their subordinates.

Barkindo could lose his post for his inability to stabilise the chaotic fuel supply in the country, especially at a time when the South South elite have demanded that his job be given to someone from the region.

Iwu’s tenure as Nigeria’s chief electoral officer elapses soon, and he is eligible for reappointment; nevertheless, opposition parties and civil society groups have stridently rejected his continuing in office, a call with backing from as far as Washington.

Jonathan could fire him in order to please that vocal segment which insists that Iwu has not given a good account of himself in his sensitive post.

As for Waziri, her removal has long been speculated since Jonathan became Acting President, based on diverse reasons; the most prominent being that the war against greed and graft lost its steam way back when she replaced the man who gave the EFCC an international reputation – Nuhu Ribadu.

Waziri has defended her style, saying it  conforms with the rule of law, but this has been dismissed by individuals and groups, as well as by the international community.

Jonathan may bring in a new EFCC boss to unsettle some Governors and clip their newly developed wings.

Governors are widely believed to be corrupt, and should be afraid of a rampaging EFCC Czar in the mould of Ribadu.

It is believed that Jonathan sees in Waziri’s sack as a window of opportunity to secure the endearment and support of the international community.

The most intriguing case in the proposed purge is that of Ahmed who, up to now, is considered to be in Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet.

A source close to Jonathan said he does not trust Ahmed.

Reminiscing on her own tenure on Thursday, Akunyili disclosed that the attempt by Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an American aircraft last December distracted from the Rebranding Nigeria campaign she spearheaded.

She spoke while handing over to her Permanent Secretary, Nicolas Damachi, in line with Jonathan’s directive to all Ministers on Wednesday.

Akunyili pledged to continue her rebranding campaign even out of office, being an initiative to help country folks to rediscover themselves for the good of the land.

“Given the political tension in Nigeria, the dissolution of the cabinet is probably in the best interest of the nation,” she added.

“Events in our country and globally from the end of December 2009 tended to slow down the tempo of the Rebranding Nigeria campaign, we are still far from winning the war.

“In the course of this rebranding battle we did encounter some obstacles like the district 9, the Sony advert saga, but I am glad to note that the victory in those two battles belongs to the average law abiding Nigerian who refused to be a negative report card.

“The Bible says, ‘there is time for everything,’ and as the time comes for departure, I am leaving with an unshaken faith in the destiny of our great country, Nigeria.

“It is this faith that informed our Rebranding Nigeria project and I am glad that we used that initiative to help the ordinary Nigerian begin the journey of re-discovery both for self and motherland.

“Beyond this, I would greatly miss my colleagues on the EXCOF (Executive Council of the Federation), staff of the Ministry of Information and Communications, as well as the vibrant Nigerian press.”

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