Political Analysis: Revisiting Senate ministerial nominees’ screening on “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach and matter arising

Revisiting the “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach to the Senate screening of the 43 ministerial nominees on July 24 is sufficed for the purpose of more understanding  of the roles of the Senate and political intrigues among the lawmakers.

It will as well give insights to the position of the law and clear the air on the critics’ arguments on whether or not the Senate has abused the privilege provided by Section 147 (2) of the 1999 Constitution on the screening of the nominees.

Political analysts note that explaining some issues on “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach to the screening as it is applied will give a mindset on how the future screening can be managed within the precinct of the law.

The contention has been that Nigerians did not expect the number of nominees that were exempted from screening in a “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach to their screening going by the provision of the law.

Analysts observe further that “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach started in 2003 and it was introduced as a courtesy and privilege for any nominees who had been elected to the Senate or House of Representatives in the past.

According to them, although the 1999 Constitution that gives senate the power to confirm appointments in that regard does not make a provision for the “Take a Bow and Go’’ policy.

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Further to this, they note that the policy has been extended to all persons with previous legislative experience even at state levels.

Irrespective of the Senate interpretation of the constitutional provisions in that regard, analysts insist that the policy can prevent nominees from answering some important questions bordering on national concerns, competence and accountability.

They note that Nigerians have witnessed a lot of screening of ministerial and other executive nominees who were asked to recite the National Anthem, or explain their master plan or agenda for their offices.

However, a source within the National Assembly who pleads anonymity, observes that there were some political intrigues on the application of “Take a Bow and Go’’ policy during the screening.

He links the “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach in the screening to some interests of the Senate leadership in the nominees that the leadership knows if they are subjected to serious screening, they may not sail through.

According to him, supporting the screening in that method will pay back for the lawmakers in the appointment of the committees, especially those that crave for “juicy committees’’.

He observes further that this explains why the appointment of committee chairmen and their deputies had to be delayed until shortly after the screening.

The nominees that enjoy “Take a Bow and Go’’ privilege are Chris Ngige, Hadi Sirika, Muhammad Bello, Gbemisola Saraki, Pauline Tallen, Sharon Ikeazor, Lai Mohammed, Rotimi Amaechi, Timipre Sylva, Zainab Ahmed, Godswill Akpabio, Sa’adiya Umar Farouk and Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo.

Similarly, Ramatu Aliyu, George Akume, Olorunnimbe Mamora, Tayo Alasoadura, Maryam Katagum, Abubakar Aliyu, Mustapha Shehuri, Zubairu Dada, Emeka Nwajiuba and Maigari Dingyadi, enjoy the method.

But some lawmakers have expressed concerns on the method, including Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe, who raised a constitutional point of order that the screening had turned out to be a mere endorsement of some nominees.

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He stated that in global parliamentary practices, confirmation hearings are conducted for nominees to access their competence and qualification for their appointments as ministers, explaining that confirmation hearings ought to be different from endorsement.

In the same vein, Sen. Dino Melaye said, “I will tell you categorically that Nigerians are not happy, especially with the way the proceedings of the screening have been conducted and I can tell you that it is more of adoption than a screening.

“I am not a presiding officer of the National Assembly, I cannot speak for either of them but as long as some of us remain there, our voices will be heard and we will always insist on doing the right thing.’’

In a controversy, Malam Muhammed Bello, a nominee and a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, also requested to be granted the same privilege extended to former lawmakers who skipped the screening, insisting that he had been a public office holder and had been close to the National Assembly members.

But Mr Femi Akinwumu, a public affairs analyst, also insists that it is wrong for the Senate to allow ministerial nominees facing corruption charges to take a bow and leave without asking any question.

He expressed concern about the screening of some nominees, citing the case of Mr Rotimi Ameachi, former Minister of Transportation, who had never a member of the Senate bu was asked to “take a bow and go’’.

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In response to this, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, noted that Ameachi was screened in that manner because he was a former member of Rivers State House of Assembly and a speaker for eight years.

Some civil society organisations have similarly expressed dissatisfaction with the Senate for the method, suspecting that the Senate could become a rubber stamp and stooge of the executive.

In a statement by Executive Director Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Frank Tietie, the organisation said that checks and balances which would have improved the performance of government would suffer when legislative scrutiny appeared to be lax.

He called on the Senate to show a sense of seriousness and change of approach towards the future screening.

Similarly, Director of Centre for Democracy and Development Austin Aigbe, said that senate “is charged with the duty to engage the nominees on topical issues that will liberate the country from challenges.

`What we see now is that you are former senator, former house member so you bow and go; the funny one is that your brother used to be a member of the National Assembly and you come from the area where the senate president is from and because of that, you take a bow. What does that add to the Nigerian state?’’ he asked.

Irrespective of arguments for or against, analysts describe the “Take a Bow and Go’’ approach to screening as a farce and charade, observing that the trend won’t help the country.

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