Ministerial screening: Female nominees get soft landing

It was a day of ‘take a bow’ at the Senate yesterday, as lawmakers continued with the screening of ministerial nominees.

Female nominees also got soft landing during the excercise.  President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, had on Tuesday noted that female nominees will not be grilled during confirmation hearing, saying it’s a way of supporting women in the country.

Fourteen of the nominees were screened yesterday, thereby bringing the total number to 24. Among those who took their turns during the screening were: Sen. Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), Mustapha Shehuri (Borno), Retired Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (Kano) , Mrs Zuibaru Dada (Niger) and Timipre Slyva (Bayelsa).

Others are – Mrs Ramatu Aliyu (Kogi), Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Mohammed Abdullahi (Nassarawa), Sunday Dare (Oyo), Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa), Sen. Chris Ngige (Anambra) and Sadiya Umar-Farouk (Zamfara).

Lawan, at the end of Thursday’s screening session, announced that eight more nominees would be screened today (Friday).

He gave the list of those expected to be screened as: Goody Jeddy-Agba (Cross River), Dr Osagie Ehanire (Edo), Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Hadi Sirika (Kaduna), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), Mrs Paulen Talen (Plateau) and Muhammdu Dingyadi (Sokoto).

At yesterday’s session, contrary to its own Standing Rules, the Senate gave a free pass to many nominees without subjecting them to thorough screening.

On Tuesday, Lawan unilaterally extended the same privileges to former members of state Houses of Assembly when a former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi appeared for screening.

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At the resumed hearing yesterday, five nominees were screened without being grilled by lawmakers. The privileges enjoyed by former federal lawmakers, were extended to former governors and their deputies.

Former deputy governor of Yobe State, Abubakar Aliyu, was asked to take a bow when he appeared before the Senate for his confirmation hearing.

James Manager who moved the motion with support from other senators, said since the nominee hails from the same state with Lawan, he should not be grilled. He took a bow thereafter and left.

Ramatu Tijani Aliyu, the nominee from Kogi State, was not grilled either. Like those before her, she was asked to take a bow and leave the chamber.

Out of the 14 nominees screened, only two were grilled. The other 12 were asked to take a bow and go.

However, the nomenclature of the screening exercise changed when the nominee from Kano State, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) took the centre stage.

The former Army General, who was a prominent figure during the military regime of Sani Abacha, was also stopped by Lawan from responding to further questions.

Lawan claimed that security issues were too sensitive to be discussed openly. He said: “Next time, when we interview security people, we will do it behind closed doors. I suggest that he takes a bow.”

At the beginning of his screening, former Abia State governor and Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, had asked him how he will address the infighting among Service Chiefs.

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In his response, Magashi admitted that there was a crack in the Military, especially the infighting. He said the relationship among Service Chiefs was not cordial.

He, however, said he would restructure the process if he is posted to the Ministry of Defence. He also condemned a practice where he claimed Service Chiefs try to outdo each other.

He said: “The Nigerian Military is operating under the Defence Pact. It’s common knowledge that the relationship among Service Chiefs is not cordial. I need to look at the books and then know how I will respond.

“We have come to a situation where the service chiefs are trying to outdo each other. In Nigeria today, there is what is called Command Structure. It is now seen as a weakness. The wars in the military, civilians encourage it.

“The current structure of the military is not the true reflection of what the military is. I think we can do better. Today, Service Chiefs are struggling to express their capacities to the people who don’t understand the operations of troops.

“We will look at the laws and see how we can review it. We will do our best to restructure for the sake of the troops and for our country.

“I will ensure that rules are obeyed. Everything that will motivate the troops will be put in place to ensure that the military performs well,” Magashi said.

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Condemning the practice of ‘take a bow and go’, Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, cited some sections of the Senate Standing Rules. He said it is a confirmation hearing and not an endorsement party.

Abaribe, while speaking, said some ministers ignore their calls as soon as they take office. He said even principal officers of the Senate were ignored by some ministers in Buhari’s government.

He said ministers of state should be given clear directions on what their functions will be. He said this will guide against any cold war between a senior minister and a junior minister.

His position was countered by Danjuma Goje. He said contrary to Abaribe’s claims, functions of every minister are well defined as soon as they assume office.

“There have always been clear cut roles for ministers of state. I was a former minister of state. I know that the government of President Buhari has a clear cut functions for ministers. Abaribe should not tell us what to do,” he said.

Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, also supported Goje’s position. He said the disagreement between ministers are not borne out of clash of official duties, but based on personal issues.

“As a civil servant, we were responsible for defining the roles and schedules of ministers. Ministers who had issues, they were based on personal things. It is not because their roles are not well defined,” he explained.”

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