From Alifa Daniel:

* SSS Finalises Own Screening

SENATORS will not proceed on their scheduled Easter recess because they have given their word that they would attend to the first batch of ministerial nominees to be sent in by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

The scheduled recess of Senators will also be stood down for a week to enable the lawmakers see if they can get the 2010 Budget passed in the National Assembly.

Similarly, the Senators will be taking a look at the report of the Ike Ekweremadu-led Senate Committee on Constitution Review (SCCR), which was laid last Thursday.

These come as the State Security Service (SSS) is putting final touches to the screening of the names of ministerial nominees sent to it for background checks. Expectedly, it was difficult to get anyone in the service to speak on the issue.

With the sudden announcement of the sacking of the federal cabinet, there were indications in the Senate that the Acting President would send the list of ministerial nominees this week, going by the comments of principal officers of the Upper House.

But it was not clear if a message that arrived last Friday was the list of the ministerial nominees.

Confronted by reporters, the Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, denied it was the list of nominees.

Three principal officers said the list had not arrived at the Senate but that they were sure it would arrive this week.

“He (Acting President) got in touch with the Senate to say he will be sending a list soon, and actually wanted to know how soon we will finish work on it. He appears to want it done fast. He was assured that we will expedite action on it,” one of the Senators said.

Asked if the list had arrived, he said: “I believe that by next (this) week, we will have it, but as at this (Thursday) morning, it had not arrived.”

Another Senators said: “We are sure to get the first batch next week, and we have given the necessary assurances.”

Yet, another lawmaker was categorical that the list would arrive at the Senate “by all means by Tuesday (this week), whatever happens.”

However, it was not clear how far the Upper House would go with the screening if the list of nominees arrived as the Senate officers projected, because they are scheduled to go on the Easter break next week.

It was being hinted last week that the break may be moved forward by a week, to allow lawmakers conclude work on a first list to be sent in. One of the Senate principal officers actually confirmed yesterday that the lawmakers would lose a week of their recess.

Shock had greeted the sack of the Ministers last Wednesday with many wearing long faces and declining to answer reporters’ questions.

Though Presidency sources were silent on speculations that some of the former Ministers would be returned, there were indications that a former Governor, who is a Senator, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, was being considered for a cabinet portfolio.

Another Senator in the National Interest Group (NIG) of Senators is being considered, even though it was difficult to put a name to the lawmaker. Many, however, believe the nominee would be from Bauchi State.

There were also hints that members of the House of Representatives had also lobbied to have one or two of them included in the list of ministerial nominees.

If this is true and some House members are picked like Senators, then they will enjoy a ‘safe passage’ as lawmakers, by express treatment, merely “bow and go” at the Senate screening and confirmation.

It was also getting increasingly clear that some governors might not be too keen to replace their Ministers. John Odey from Cross River State, it was gathered, may be one of such returnee Ministers.

The first set of Ministers was sworn in by President Umaru Yar’Adua on Thursday, July 26, 2007. On November 21, 2007, Chief Godsday Orubebe was sworn-in alone. The last set of the ministers was sworn in, in December 2008.

Last month (February 10, 2010), Acting President Jonathan replaced the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa with Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN).

Aondoakaa was moved to the Special Duties Ministry.

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