20 July 2018

Nigeria: Senate in Rowdy Session Over Buhari's Appointments

Photo: Premium Times
The Nigerian Senate.

Abuja — The Senate yesterday mandated its Committee on Federal Character to look into allegations of lopsidedness in appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The committee has till next Tuesday to submit its report.

The move followed a rowdy session in the upper legislative chamber after Senate President Bukola Saraki read a letter by Buhari seeking the confirmation of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Tunde Lemo, as chairman of the board of the Federal Road Management Agency (FERMA).

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu drew the attention of the lawmakers to the provisions of Section 14 (3) of the country's constitution, saying: "The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies."

He said he has no issues with any part of Nigeria but with the way "government is directing its appointments. Over the last two to three weeks, we have had cause to either discuss this (matter of) FERMA that has been announced today or the NDIC or AMCON or FCSC.

"The heads of all these parastatals have come from one particular part of Nigeria. And this is completely unfair. We can't sit in this Senate and allow that to go on. I believe that we need to point it out to the federal executive, to ensure that every part of Nigeria is represented in the running of Nigeria. This is completely unacceptable to me. I am talking of the leadership of these agencies. The leadership of these agencies, all of them have come from one part of Nigeria."

Buhari had also requested the confirmation of Dr. Bello Ingawa from Katsina State as Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and 12 other nominees as commissioners. They are: Moses Ngbale, Adamawa; Waziri Ngurno, Borno; Bello Mahmoud, Jigawa; Ahmed Sarna, Kebbi; Iyabode Odulate-Yusuf, Ogun; Shehu Danyaya, Niger; Fatai Adebayo, Oyo; Ejoh Chukwuemeka, Anambra; Joe Poroma, Rivers; Ibrahim Mohammed, Kaduna; Aminu Sheidu, Kogi; and Simon Etim, Akwa Ibom.

Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu), said: "President Buhari has been biased in the appointment of heads of boards for parastatals and agencies of government. Obinna Ogba (PDP, Ebonyi) also noted that "there is no fairness," and called on the Senate to reject the list.

But Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan remarked that the government always does a thorough job when it sends lists of nominees. Reactions to the statement, however, led to a noisy session as senators voiced divided opinions.

Saraki pleaded with the lawmakers to allow for screening, pending the outcome of similar allegations already being investigated by the committee.

"We are saying the same thing. This is just for screening, and you know we have no time. Let us refer the list for screening, as we will be going on holiday next week," he said.

The Senate also passed the Agency for National Ethics and Values Bill 2018.

This followed the presentation of the report of the Committee on Information and National Orientation at plenary.

Presenting the report, chairman of the committee, Suleiman Adokwe, said the bill sought to provide a legal framework for practices in government and private places to observe certain ethical standards.

On fears that Buhari may not assent to the bill, Adokwe said he was optimistic the president would do justice to it.

"We believe he should assent to it because there is a committee in the presidency that deals with matters of ethics and values. It used to be headed by Sarah Jibril. She tried to ensure that a legal framework was provided, but it didn't work. The National Orientation Agency is set up to persuade people to behave in a certain manner and to do what is right. With this bill, however, if you are persuaded and you still persist, somebody should be able to make you comply with standards and values of the country," he said.

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