By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi:

• Jonathan Begs Senators To Clear Nominees

Senators at the weekend shrugged off high wire lobby from pressure groups who stridently asked the Chamber to suspend the screening of the 33 Ministerial nominees whose names Acting President Goodluck Jonathan sent in on March 24.

Petitions against at least 10 of them have piled on the desk of Senate President David Mark, nevertheless.

On the list are nine returnees and 24 greenhorns to be interviewed and confirmed for jobs on the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), in line with Section 147 (1) of the Constitution.

A source in the Senate leadership confided on Sunday that the Upper House is under pressure to postpone the confirmation because portfolios are not attached to the curriculum vitae (CVs) Jonathan submitted.

Two of the pressure groups are based in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and have affiliations with international agencies.

“Some of the pressure comes from high ranking members of the civil and human rights society who say it is a violation of the Constitution for (Jonathan) to forward names without corresponding portfolios,” the source disclosed.

Copies of the petitions seeking a halt to the screening were forwarded to Mark, other members of the leadership, as well as rank and file Senators.

But, it was learnt, the Senate leadership has put the demand in the back burner to proceed with the exercise today as scheduled.

And, for the first time, the screening would be aired live on three national broadcasting stations from 11 a.m., a privilege hitherto enjoyed solely by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

Some lawmakers said the Senate called the bluff of the agitators because it is not the norm for the President to attach portfolios to the names of Ministerial nominees before sending them up for confirmation.

A Senator noted that “the same Constitution being cited allows the President to name only the candidate for the Attorney General of the Federation who also doubles as Justice Minister.

“All other portfolios are held and distributed at the discretion of the President. Attaching names to portfolios has not been the norm since 1999, and nobody and no section of the country can hold others to ransom over the non-assignment of portfolios.

“The Senate would screen and evaluate each nominee on his/her merit. If he/she passes the screening, confirmation is sure.”

Another Senator reiterated that it is not wise for Jonathan to attach a portfolio to the CV of a nominee.

Because, as he argued it, if Jonathan attaches a portfolio to a nominee and the Senate confirms him or her for a specific portfolio, “and if, along the line, the Minister is re-deployed to another ministry, what happens?

He said the implication is that such a Minister would have to return to the Senate for a new screening since it means that he has new responsibilities not envisaged.

“For now, attaching the portfolio to a nominee is not necessary.”

Another source who has read some of the petitions insisted that the Senate would, for now, screen all the nominees and allow them to respond to the petitions at the appropriate time.

“Certainly, the petitions would be addressed before final confirmation of any nominee,” he pledged.

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