From Alifa Daniel:

* Senate cautions against non-performance

THIRTY-EIGHT ministerial nominees yesterday scaled the Senate hurdles to become members of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF).

Those who were screened yesterday proffered solutions to the myriad of economic, political and social problems facing the country.

And except for a point of order raised by Senator Satty Gogwin in his attempt to stop a nominee from his Plateau State, Josephine Tapgun, the 38 nominees presented to the Upper House for screening by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan were confirmed as ministers.

Jonathan yesterday expressed appreciation to the Senate for the prompt confirmation of the 38 ministerial nominees sent to it last week, saying it showed the level of the lawmakers’ commitment to the sustenance of the unity of Nigeria.

His spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, told journalists after Jonathan met with Liberian President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and a Libyan delegation that “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 her moving again. We commend them and I must tell you that the Acting President is grateful to the Senate.”

On when the new ministers-designate would be sworn in, Mr. Niboro said: “We will let you know.”

Those confirmed as ministers yesterday are Fidelia Akuabata Njeze (Enugu), Adetokunbo Kayode (Ondo), Dora Akunyili (Anambra), Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi (Osun), Isa Bio Ibrahim (Kwara), Elder Godsday Orubebe (Delta), Arc. Nuhu Somo Wya (Kaduna), Henry Odein Ajumogobia (Rivers), Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke (Bayelsa), Shamsudeen Usman (Kano).

Others are John Ogar Odey (Cross River), Aderemi Waheed Babalola (Oyo), Mr. Humphrey Enemakwu Abbah (Kogi), Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu (Abia), Iyom Josephine Anenih (Anambra), Labaran Maku (Nasarawa), Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi (Edo), Alh. Suleiman Bello (Zamfara), and Alh. Murtala Yar’Adua (Katsina).

There are also Sanusi M. Daggash (Borno), Senator Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Nduese Essien (Akwa Ibom), Josephine Tapgun (Plateau), Mohammed Bello Adoke (Kogi), Navy Capt. Ernest Olubolade (Ekiti), Mr. Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga (Lagos), Prof. Mohammed K. Abubakar (Kebbi), Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri (Yobe), Awodele Najeem Adewale Alao (Ogun), Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed (Gombe), Yusuf Suleiman (Sokoto), Prof. Ruqaiya Rufai (Jigawa), Arc. Musa Sada (Katsina), Prof. Sheikh Abdallah (Niger), Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho (Imo), Senator Jibrin Martins Kuye (Ogun), Aliyu Idi Hong (Adamawa), Samuel Odeh (Benue).

A nominee from Taraba State, Alhaji Umar Aliyu, was not screened by the Senate.

Gogwin had raised the issue of federal character and wanted Tapgun stopped on account of inequitable distribution of offices, but the Senate President David Mark, ruled him out of order because the chamber was too far gone in its confirmation exercise to be drawn back.

A similar attempt by Senator Felix Bajomo when the Senate was in the process of confirming Ogun State nominee, Adewole Najeem Alao, was rebuffed by Mark because Bajomo raised his point of order after Alao had been confirmed.

A few senators that said “No” could not stop Prof. Dora Akunyili and Dr. Shamsudeen Usman from being confirmed as ministers. Akunyili’s screening last Monday almost stalled proceedings forcing Mark to caution his colleagues against being rowdy.

No explanation was given for the skipping of the screening of Aliyu, but Senate spokesman, Ayogu Eze, hinted that deliberations were still on among stakeholders for nominees from Ebonyi and Taraba states.

He said the Senators were proceeding on a week’s recess by which time “all the forces and stakeholders would have agreed and then we can screen them.”

On how Usman re-emerged on the list of nominees after strong suspicions that he may have been dropped, Eze, who commended the press for doing a good job in their coverage of the exercise, said media houses that published the dropping of Usman made a “genuine error” because “the signals were not clear as at yesterday on his nomination, I don’t think we should blame the media on the reportage.”

A source said a lot of political machinations went into his being screened. “He was stepped down, but was not dropped yesterday (on Tuesday).” Usman indeed was the first to be screened and he made a passing remark on the publications on him yesterday.

“I am sure you have seen the newspapers today (yesterday), how I have featured prominently. Sometimes people do this for their own sake,” Usman said, in apparent reference to efforts to stop him.

Eze reiterated Mark’s comments that the Upper House fast-tracked the vetting as a continuation of its “doctrine of necessity.”

Mark said: “We have spent several hours to be able to screen and confirm the ministers. It is our wish and hope that once these ministers are allocated their portfolios and they assume offices, they will earnestly do what they promised here. I think we will ensure that through our oversight functions they do precisely what they told us here.

“I will like to use this opportunity to ask Mr. Acting President, Commander-in Chief that any minister who does not live up to expectation should not be spared. He should immediately be removed from office so that he/she doesn’t become a cog in the wheel of progress. We have done this in the interest of this country. We have done this because we want to move the nation forward as quickly as possible.

“In accordance with our doctrine of necessity, we have also hastened up the screening of these ministers. Ideally, this would have taken much longer. In spite of the fact that it has taken a short time, I think we have done a thorough job and we hope when these ministers are deployed they will live to the expectations of Nigerians,” Mark said.

On how to tackle Nigeria’s problems, Lagos minister-designate, Aganga said: “I have been asked this same question by a number of people. Sustainable economic growth – there is so many strategies all over the world in terms of how you achieve a sustainable economic growth. There are three main ingredients which affect and contribute significantly- one is capital, the second is labour, the third is what we call factor of productivity. And that contributes 60 to 66 per cent of the economic growth. When we talk about the capital, we are talking about the source and the allocation – this could be international and domestic.

“Thank God, we are going to the international market this year to raise a $500 million bond to fund the budget deficit. So, the idea from the international scene is to make sure that we regain their confidence and there are a number of initiatives, which we’ll hopefully put together if this house decides to confirm me.

“The second is allocation, and that we have dealt with in the budget, I note that there has been an increase of about 15 per cent thereabout in the budget and we are running a budget deficit of about five to six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that itself is not necessarily a bad thing to do; what is more significant is that that money is allocated to projects that will deliver strong social and economic returns and which means that the emphasis is going to be on implementation, making sure that the qualities and the efficiencies of spending is looked at strictly…”

Commenting earlier on the reforms in the banking sector, Usman said it was on course.

His words: “I will say in its entirety is very much on course. What is being addressed is the issue of risk. That is a very critical factor in banks and the focus on assessing risk, you notice internationally every country is reviewing its banking regulations to ensure that the kind of recklessness and the kind of financial problems that were created for the whole world are avoided. It is happening in the United States, it is happening in Europe. In fact, in a way we are probably ahead of the curve. So overall, I think there may be certain issues that need some adjustment, but overall I will say it is very much on course.

Explaining what may have led to his removal as finance minister in 2008, Usman said a terribly wrong impression was created that the National Assembly was his enemy or that he was the enemy of the National Assembly.

“Far from that. Mr. President, distinguished members, I am a student of public finance; I taught public finance in three Nigerian universities and overseas. One; I was Director of Budget in Kano under Governor Abubakar Rimi, before I became minister of finance. So I will be the last person that anybody would expect to not understand that the budget is both an economic document as well as a political document. To say that I do not recognise the primacy of the National Assembly to decide appropriation, I mean if anybody accuses me of that, this will be completely out of order.

“In my work then as minister of finance, I had taken on so many mafia; I had taken on the customs mafia, I had taken on the tax concession mafia, who are draining this country out of its revenues. Everybody knows the committee I set up under Senator Udoma saved this country billions of naira. I took on the oil importation mafia, I took on the ports system mafia because I was trying to achieve 48 hours clearance, when we looked at we were clearing goods in this country in 15 days, and we wanted to bring it down to 48 hours. Before I left finance, we had brought it down to six days from 15 days. Now those mafias are very entrenched as you know, so it was in the interest of many of them to create a rift between the National Assembly and myself.”

Ministers-designate

* Fidelia Akuabata Njeze (Enugu)

* Adetokunbo Kayode (Ondo)

* Dora Akunyili (Anambra)

* Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi (Osun)

* Isa Bio Ibrahim (Kwara)

* .Elder Godsday Orubebe (Delta)

* Arc. Nuhu Somo Wya (Kaduna)

* .Henry Odein Ajumogobia (Rivers)

* Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke (Bayelsa)

* Shamsudeen Usman (Kano)

* John Ogar Odey (Cross River)

* Aderemi Waheed Babalola (Oyo)

* Mr. Humphrey Enemakwu Abbah (Kogi)

* Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu (Abia)

* Iyom Josephine Anenih (Anambra)

* Labaran Maku (Nasarawa)

* Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi (Edo)

* Alhaji Suleiman Bello (Zamfara)

* Alhaji Murtala Yar�adua (Katsina)

* Sanusi M. Daggash (Borno)

* Senator Bala Mohammed (Bauchi)

* Nduese Essien (Akwa Ibom)

* Josephine Tapgun (Plateau)

* Mohammed Bello Adoke (Kogi)

* Navy Capt. Ernest Olubolade (Ekiti)

* Mr. Olesegun Olutoyin Aganga (Lagos)

* Prof. Mohammed K. Abubakar (Kebbi)

* Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri (Yobe)

* Awodele Najeem Adewale Alao (Ogun)

* Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed (Gombe)

* Yusuf Suleiman (Sokoto)

* Prof. Ruqaiya Rufai (Jigawa)

* Arc. Musa Sada (Katsina)

* Prof. Sheikh Abdallah (Niger)

* Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho (Imo)

* Senator Jibrin Martins Kuye (Ogun)

* Aliyu Idi Hong (Adamawa)

* Samuel Odeh (Benue)

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