The Senate leadership will adopt the formal procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees behind closed doors on Tuesday (today). It may also involve anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission in the screening of those nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari to become ministers under the present administration.
A principal officer, who craved anonymity, disclosed this during an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Monday.
He said the Senate at the close-door meeting would discuss whether to give special considerations for former senators and other members of the National Assembly nominated as ministerial candidates by Buhari.The principal officer, explained that the meeting became necessary in view of the fact that the leadership of the Eighth Senate had vowed to do a thorough job to ensure that persons with questionable characters were not confirmed as ministers.
He said, “As far as we are concerned, everybody should be equal but at the same time, we have a convention that gives special considerations to former and serving senators or members of the House of Representatives, yet we say there won’t be the usual take a bow approach.
“We also have another convention that says two senators from a state must approve confirmation of the nominee from their state, what happens if the senators are in the opposition party with the nominee?”
Speaking with some journalists in his office, the Peoples Democratic Party member representing Abia North Senatorial District, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, said President Buhari must appear before the Senate if he wants to be Petroleum minister.
Ohuabunwa said, “The constitution is clear and we will follow the constitution and the laid down rule. I don’t think the President’s name will be on the list and I also don’t think that the President will say he is a minister.
“If you are a minister one of the conditions is that you must be subjected to screening and approval of the Senate. He, as the chief minister, can be there to supervise any ministry but he cannot be a minister. Whoever is advising him to be a minister is not advising him rightly.”
But the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, disagreed with Ohuabunwa on the appearance of the President in the Senate for screening before he could function as a minister.
Na’Allah, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, explained that the President and his vice, had been given constitutional powers to carry out all the functions in the executive arms of government without necessarily asking for the permission of the legislature.
He said, “The President does not have to appear before the Senate before he could perform as a minister or oversee any ministry. He has the executive powers to carry out necessary functions alongside the vice president. “
Ohuabunwa, however, added that the Senate might reject the presentation of the ministerial list in batches because “it is unconstitutional.”
He said, “I expect that the list will be complete for us to move on because the constitution never said in batches and the constitution has said one minister from every state, so if you are screening and the other states are not been represented how can you explain that because nothing says that the President must submit list in batches.
“The list will be unveiled tomorrow if the Senate President (Bukola Saraki) keep to his word that the envelope will remain sealed until tomorrow. We know that all we have been reading could be speculations until it is opened. It will be read on the floor of the House and we will know.
“Even the 21 names that people are speculating will be ascertained tomorrow on the floor.”
The senator assured Nigerians that the Senate would be guided by the constitution and the rules of the Senate in screening the nominees.
He added that it would be against the Senate and indeed against the President and Nigerians for the upper chamber to see a very strong allegation of petition on corruption and throw it away.
He said, “Definitely we will not ignore allegation of corruption against any nominee. If we see a strong petition, definitely we will look into it and follow it to a logical conclusion.
“If it requires writing to the anti-graft agencies such as the ICPC or EFCC to give us a report on such a person, we will do that because that is what screening is all about. Screening is not a tea party.
“Integrity is very important. If you have in one way or the other soiled your hands, it will be unfortunate because the Senate will not just say carry go.”
On whether the Senate would waive the painstaking process in order to curry favour from the Presidency, Ohuabunwa said the Senate would not be cowed because of any consideration.
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