Abuja — The Senate is set to give an accelerated consideration to the screening of ministerial nominees, whose names it received yesterday from President Muhammadu Buhari.
It has, therefore, shifted its planned recess, which was supposed to have begun on Friday by one week.
The postponement of the recess confirmed THISDAY exclusive story, published on the front page of its July 11, 2019 edition, in which the newspaper reported that the Senate could delay its vacation by one week to accommodate the consideration of the ministerial list, if it arrives before the July 26 date it was billed to go on recess.
The Senate also suspended its Standing Rules to enable it to expedite the screening of the 43 ministerial nominees who include former Works, Housing and Power Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); former Minority Leader in the Eight National Assembly, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; former Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige; former Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu; former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); former Osun State Governor, Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola; former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva; former Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Senator Adeleke Olurunnimbe Mamora and former Ekiti State Governor, Chief Niyi Adebayo.
The suspension of the Standing Rules, will, among others, allow the Senate, which does not sit on Mondays and Fridays to do so in this instance.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has dismissed the list, describing it as uninspiring and a waste of time.
Of the 43 ministerial nominees, 11 are members of the cabinet during the president's first term in office while 32 others are fresh appointees.
A breakdown of the list shows that seven of the nominees are former governors and seven others former senators who either lost their re-election bids or did not run again.
A further breakdown of the ministerial list by geopolitical zones, showed that the seven states in the North-west, where the president hails from and which gave him the largest bloc votes in the February presidential election, has nine nominees, the North-east, which has six states, has seven nominees, also, the six states in the North-central have a total of seven nominees.
In addition, there are a total of seven nominees each on the ministerial list from the six states in the South-west and South-south while the five states in the South-east produced a total of six nominees.
Briefing reporters on the ministerial list, yesterday in Abuja, the Chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, stated that the annual vacation of the senators, initially billed to commence by Friday had now been postponed by one week "in the interest of the nation for the Senate to screen without any further delay the ministerial nominees sent to it by President Buhari."
"We have postponed the recess till next week, end of next week. We are suspending a lot of our rules. Plenary normally does not hold on Fridays, plenary will hold on Friday this week and Monday next week in order to hasten the process, we want to do a thorough job and we want Nigerians to know that we are doing a thorough job. It is going to be a lot of sacrifice on our path.
"We are going to work in unusual hours, normally we sit from 10 to 2p.m., that will not apply during this confirmation hearing. We are going to sit till very late, virtually every day. On Friday, we will sit till we are tired. We will go on a brief recess and proceed until 10pm.We have given ourselves enough time; we will work in unusual hours," he added.
According to him, the Senate wants Nigerians to witness the screening process.
"I want to seek your indulgence that some of the nominees may have stage fright, not that they are not brilliant. Please, try to understand a few of these issues," he added.
The Senate, according to him, is a complete departure from the past "because we won't rush the screening, if we were to rush the process as it will not be thorough."
He affirmed the independence of the legislative arm, saying the Senate reserves the right to reject any nominee that falls below expectation during the screening.
He said: "The Senate is an independent body; the constitution gives us the role to either confirm or reject any of the ministerial nominees."
Earlier, the president had forwarded the names of 11 former ministers who served during his first tenure as well as 32 other nominees to the Senate for confirmation as ministers.
Buhari, in a letter addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and read at plenary yesterday, sought the approval of the Senate for the confirmation of the 43 ministerial nominees in line with Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The 11 former ministers who served in the dissolved cabinet of the president from December 2015 to May 2019 and have been renominated include Dr. Chris Ngige (Labour), Adamu Adamu (Education), Ogbonnaya Onu (Science and Technology), Geoffrey Onyema (Foreign Affairs), Hadi Sarika (Aviation) and Lai Mohammed (Information).
Others are Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works and Housing), Rotimi Amaechi (Transport), Abubakar Malami (Justice), Mohammed Bello (FCT) and Osagie Ehanire (Health).
Apart from picking a nominee from each of the 36 states of the federation in line with constitutional provision, Buhari gave seven states namely Anambra, Bauchi, Edo, Kaduna, Kwara, Lagos and Kano one additional slot each to bring the total number to 43.
After reading the presidential letter, Lawan had at plenary hinted that the screening of the ministerial nominees would commence today.
He stated that the Senate would want to fast track the screening of the nominees while relegating to the background all other legislative duties effective from today.
Ministerial List Uninspiring, Waste of Time, Says PDP
However, while reacting to the unveiling of the president's incoming cabinet members, the PDP yesterday described the nominees as colourless, stagnant, uninspiring.
It said the list did not convey any sense of hope or purposeful governance under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, that to the chagrin and utter disappointment of Nigerians, the list was full with those it labelled "incompetent" individuals who failed in their erstwhile ministerial assignments and left their ministries in a shambles.
"Indeed, such a ministerial list can only come from a leadership that does not have mandate of the people. It is a complete waste of time and cannot fulfill the expectation of Nigerians.
"The list has further shown President Buhari and APC's insensitivity and disdain for Nigerians and it does not in any way reflect their hope and eagerness for a better Nigeria.
"Furthermore, in recycling failed yesterday's men for today's assignment, President Buhari and the APC have left no one in doubt that they have no vision to move our nation out of the economic and security predicaments into which they have plunged us in the last four years.
"A committed and responsive leadership would have widely consulted with Nigerians before compiling a ministerial list, given the current situation in the country.
"If, indeed, President Buhari and the APC mean well for Nigerians and are interested in revamping our critical sectors, they would not have ended up with a list of those who will help conceal the huge corruption in the Buhari administration in the last four years, as well as those who will assist in channeling funds to individuals and groups used by the APC to rig the 2019 presidential election.
"Strangely, the list has no space for the youths demography, those to whom the future is said to belong.
"The PDP holds that with this development, it is clear that the only way our nation can come out of our present economic and security quandary lies in the retrieval of Atiku Abubakar's stolen presidential mandate at the tribunal," the opposition party said.