Senate Confirms 18 Ministerial Nominees

Eighteen of the 37 ministerial nominees from the list submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari have been confirmed by the Senate.

The Ministers awaiting swearing-in, assignment include Udoma Udo Udoma, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Audu Ogbe, Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Lt.Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Amina Mohammed, Ibrahim Jubril, Babatunde Fashola, Aisha Alhassan.

Others are Senator Hadi Sirika, Solomon Dalong, Ibe Kachukwu, Kemi Adeosun, Abubakar Malami, Engineer Suleiman Adamu and Dr. Chris Ngige.

At the end of plenary on Wednesday, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki read out the names of the nominees who had fielded questions from the lawmakers. The senators in a vote confirmed all 18 nominees.

The lawmakers carried out the confirmation.

Former Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State was the first to take the stand at the Senate chambers today.

Mr Fashola held his audience spell bound for almost an hour and half answering questions from senators.

He told them that as governor for eight years in office he did not sign a check.

Mr Fashola also responded to questions on loyalty and on the 78 million naira allegedly sank to build a website.

He responded to questions on loyalty

Fashola told them that as governor for eight years in office he did not sign a check and nobody has so far come out to accuse him of enriching himself corruptly.

While speaking on Value Added Tax, Mr. Fashola explained that VAT is a consumption tax and there is a limitation to how vast its application can be.

He said there is no state in the country that is incapable of carrying out meaningful production.

Fashola’s suggestions on state police, review of the Abuja Master plan and apology to the Igbo over the deportation of some Igbo residents of Lagos during his second term marked one of the major highlights of yesterday’s screening of the nominees.

On Security, Mr. Fashola said that security is the toughest job any government can possibly face. He advised that the Police should be decentralized.

“My recommendation is a compelling urgency for decentralization. I have made those recommendations to some of the committees on constitution amendment where I was privileged to make presentations. There have been arguments about why we should not go there but those argument did not go far. They did not address the fundamental responsibilities that government has. I have heard the argument that government will abuse the Police for political purposes.

“The abuse of political power is not as important as loss of lives, and everything we do to advance that cause makes us more respected as government that cares. There is a process for curing abuse of institution but there is no process known to me today for recovering lives already lost. These are challenges that are before us as a people and as a nation.”

“I proposed a system where we have six zonal commands from existing the Police force. It is not every state that can start if it cannot fund it. States who can fund can decide to employ 1,000 men, the Police Service Commission will train and graduate and if at the end of the training, only 800 pass the exam, they would be employed. The state buys their uniforms, there is a national license.”

“My attitude was to see criminals as my competitors and in a competition, my desire was to use my resources to outspend my competitors, out-think the competition and out-maneovre the competition. But our risks are different. As a governor, my job was to ensure that nobody died, my job was to ensure that nobody robs. So, I have no magic for error. Every citizen that was robbed, I have failed that citizen. So, I have to be right every time, the criminal has to be right only once.”

Speaking on Abuja, the nominee said, “ In deciding what to do about Abuja, these are the real issue. First, getting a hold of its resources, knowing its districts and its problems, knowing the people, sharing with them what the thoughts are. The Master Plan itself may perhaps need to be reviewed. Plans are not static documents, they must be reviewed periodically. A level of consultation and knowledge would be necessary in order to accurately say this is where Abuja should be heading. In spite of our complaints, it is still a beautiful city, getting it to be better than it is, is a matter of choice for all of us. Laws have to be enforced and it should be rigorously followed.”

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu’s comments on the oil industry and Adeosun’s remarks on the economy, devaluation of the Naira and Treasury Single Account, TSA, foreign direct investment and how to improve Nigeria’s alternative sources of revenue also impressed.

Also answering questions from Senators when he appeared before them, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu who noted that there will be no removal of subsidy until palliatives were put in place, disclosed that with the non-passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, Nigeria was losing 15 billion dollars yearly, adding that the Federal Government has no plans to reduce the price of fuel.

On the PIB, Kachikwu said…“The key issue is that as long as we continue to want to pass a holistic PIB, it is going to be a very major challenge. But once you begin to break it up into critical aspects, you begin to make a faster run to passing PIB. Fiscal regime, for example, you ask yourself, why would you want to have fiscal regime inside the PIB? Because to change those fiscal regimes, which are very dynamic environment, you have to come back to this Assembly to also make changes.

“You must find a way of pulling out fiscal regimes and leave them to existing tax laws which you can amend. And additionally, look at the PSCs and Joint Venture Agreements to enable you determine fiscal regimes. The advantage in that is that you have the flexibility of changing with the times.

“At the time when oil prices was so low that nobody was willing to invest in your country, you may give some incentives. At the time when they are so high that people are making outrageous profits, you may increase your taxes. But so long as you leave it in a holistic blue-barrelled, high voluminous PIB, you are stuck in terms of how you are going to get the required votes each time to make amendment. I think the way to go is, first of all, take what is there, look at it in the context of where we are today.”

Responding to questions, Mrs Adeosun said that to block leakages, we need to ‘chase out cash. Every where that people transact in cash, there are leakages.”

She said the country needs to adopt other forms of cash transfer that phases out physical cash, adding that there is need to invest primarily in infrastructure. She also said that banks are not in business to sit on government money, it’s bad economics.”

“We need to establish public-private-partnerships to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure. If we get our infrastructure right, there are opportunities,” adding that Nigeria has to increase its revenues and improve on things like audits.

On the TSA and the concerns many bankers raised recently that huge withdrawal of government funds would stifle their operations, she said banks are not supposed to sit on government money. She said they are businesses and should lend to the real sector. Only then can jobs be created. She acknowledged there would be discomfort at first, but eventually the benefits would be felt.

Their robust comments paved the way for the approval and  confirmation

After yesterday’s screening exercise which started at 11.48am and ended at 5.10pm, Senate President Bukola Saraki called for a voice vote to approve and confirm the nominees.

Those Awaiting Screening

Rotimi Amaechi, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, Bukar Ibrahim, Cladius Omoleye Daramola, Prof Anthony Onwuka, Geoffrey Onyema, Dan Ali, Barr James Ocholi, Zainab Ahmed, Okechukwu Enelamah, Muhammadu Bello, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Aisha Abubakar, Heineken Lokpobiri, Adamu Adamu, Isaac Adewole, Abubakar Bawa and Pastor Usani Uguru.

Drama over Lai Mohammed’s confirmation

There was, however, a mild drama when Saraki called for yes or nay chant over the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as nay chants from Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP appeared to have overtaken that of the ayes during the Committee of the Whole because of their large number in the chambers, but Senate President Saraki had his way and confirmed Mohammed.

Ibeto’s nomination withdrawn

Before the commencement of yesterday’s screening exercise, Senate President Saraki announced that President Buhari in a letter to him had withdrawn the name of the immediate past Deputy Governor of Niger State, Ahmed Musa Ibeto. Ibeto’s name was one of the 21 ministerial nominees first sent to the Senate on September 30, 2015. No reasons were given for the withdrawal of Ibeto’s name. Senate President Saraki had on Tuesday read the final list from the President containing 16 names and on the list was Abubakar Bwari Bawa from Niger State, obviously the replacement for Ibeto.

Why senators will screen Amaechi today

Meanwhile, contrary to the Order Paper which had former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi as one of those to be screened yesterday, the Senate shelved his appearance.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu said that it was not possible to screen Amaechi because the report on the petition against Amaechi was not ready. Senate President Saraki, however, urged members of the Committee to ensure that the report was ready today.

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