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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ministerial Screening: No Resolution on Nominees’ Endorsement by State Senators, Says Chief Whip

  • Exercise to be streamed on senate website
Some senators yesterday disagreed with the chairman of Senate Committee on Information and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, over his comment regarding the endorsement of ministerial nominees by senators from their home states. They said there was no resolution by the Senate that every nominee must be supported by at least two of the three senators from his or her state before being confirmed by the upper chamber.

Melaye had on Thursday stated that the senate decided at its executive session, as part of the screening criteria, that any nominee not supported by at least two senators from his state, in accordance with Senate convention, would be dropped. This followed Senate President Bukola Saraki’s announcement Tuesday of the list of ministerial nominees sent to him on September 30 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
But the senators told THISDAY that they had only resolved that every nominee should strive to see senators from their state ahead of the screening exercise billed to commence on Tuesday. They said there was no convention in the senate that could not be changed.
Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central), said there was no time during the executive session that a decision was taken that nominees must get the support of two senators from their respective states.
Adeyeye said by telephone, “I was at the executive session. Senate didn't take that decision. What l can tell you authoritatively is that Senate didn't take that decision that two or three senators must support a nominee before he can be confirmed.
"What we only resolved was that it would be nice that nominees coming for screening should reach out to all senators, including those from their states, to sell themselves and put themselves forward to be confirmed. It was not decided that if two senators do not support a nominee he will not be confirmed.
"All l can say is that you should speak to other senators to confirm what l am telling you. Go and speak to Senators Emmanuel Bwacha and Kabiru Marafa. They are honest people. Several senators have called me and said that such a decision was not taken. In fact, I also called the Senate President to express my alarm at what I considered a misrepresentation of the deliberation and decision of the Senate.
“By the way, a constituent informed me earlier this evening that Senator Melaye has subsequently modified the summary of our deliberation.”
Commenting in a similar vein, Senator Umaru Kurfi (Katsina Central) advised his colleagues to rise above petty objections arising from local politics when considering the suitability of the nominees for national assignment.
Kurfi said, “Yes, by convention, it is in the Senate rules. But we need to review them. All politics is local. Because some people are defeated in their local politics, they can bring it to the Senate. The fact that it is a convention does not mean we cannot ignore it. Nothing is permanent. Even the constitution, we amend it. So, the rule can change. Any rule of the Senate can change. Some people even amended Senate rules. If you are saying it is a convention, it can be changed.
"As far as we are concerned, we can tell our colleagues that whatever can cause problem, we should do away with it.
“Nobody said two senators must support you to be cleared. It is just like if you want to carry out an impeachment, you must have two-thirds. Whenever people want to bring local problem to the Senate, we will say no. That was not what we agreed. It is only what is written in the Bible or Quran that cannot be changed. Where we have problem is local politics and we try to say to our colleagues, drop it. This is not local politics. This is Senate.”
However, Senator Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) in his own remark said Melaye was right that the Senate resolved to uphold its convention. But he added that it did not necessarily mean that nominees would be automatically dropped, but rather that it was very important that nominees should meet their senators ahead of the screening.
According to Omogunwa, "It was a decision of the Senate. It was just a suggestion on a final note that anybody can ask a question. Melaye is not wrong that at least nominees should see their senators, not that it has been said anybody will be dropped. But they should see their senators for concurrence. The resolve is that they should see their senators and anybody can ask any question. It is germane that they see their senators.”
The screening condition announced by Melaye had raised concern in many quarters owing to the apparently antagonistic postures of some senators to the ministerial nominees from their states, especially those belonging to rival political parties.
The senate’s spokesman had while briefing journalists on Thursday claimed that the senators had agreed at their executive session on the same day that it was compulsory for every nominee to secure the support of senators from his or her state before the nomination can succeed.
Melaye had stated, “We also, in line with our convention, agreed that for you to be cleared as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the minimum of two senators from your state must, at least, show support for your nomination. It's a convention by the Senate and we have decided to uphold that convention in the sanctity of the integrity of the Senate."
Meanwhile, the senate president in a statement yesterday said the screening of the nominees would be streamed live on the National Assembly's website, and
According to him, the floor would be open for all Nigerians to participate in the questioning session by sending in their questions through their senators via #ministerialscreening before 5pm on Monday.
The statement said, “The screening will create an avenue for Nigerians from all walks of life to partake in governance as the gap between representatives and constituents will be bridged with senators asking questions sourced from Nigerians on social media. Additionally, the submitted resumes of candidates will be made available in the public space for Nigerians to examine.
"Bloggers and news organisations that are interested in Live Blogging or Live Tweeting, or those interested in plugging into the live streaming of the ministerial screening are asked to contact the media office of the Senate President for entry passes to the National Assembly and the Senate gallery. All requests must be submitted by 5pm on Monday."submitted by 5pm on Monday."
[Omololu Ogunmade  in Abuja.  ThisDay]

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