Nigeria: Fashola, Amaechi, Sirika, Malami, Others May Retain Old Portfolios

Nigerian Senate.
26 July 2019

Former Lagos gov's mega ministry may not be the same again

Jedi Agba tipped for Minister of State for Petroleum

Many lobby to get ministries they'll be comfortable with

Senate screens 14 more nominees, eight others for assessment friday

Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Deji Elumoye in Abuja

Nearly all the old ministers who are on the list of the ministerial nominees President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded to the Senate for confirmation may return to their former ministries, THISDAY learnt Thursday.

The screening of the nominees, which began on Wednesday with the first batch, comprising 10 of the 43 potential ministers, continued Thursday with the assessment of another batch of 14.

The screening is expected to end on Monday while eight among the nominees will be considered today.

Sources confided in THISDAY that the plan to return the nominees, after their confirmation by the Senate, to their erstwhile portfolios was intentional so as to ensure continuation in policy direction and execution of projects.

One of the sources said that except there was a last-minute change of plans, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi would return to the Ministry of Transport; Captain Hadi Sirika would retain his Aviation portfolio; Dr. Chris Ngige would continue at the Ministry of Labour and Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) would still go back to his old position as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

In addition, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed would still manage the Ministry of Finance; Mallam Adamu Adamu (Education), Lai Mohammed (Information) and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu would retain his old position at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

However, the source said while Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) would retain his old portfolio, his burden might be reduced as there were plans to unbundle the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, which he superintended over during Buhari's first term in office.

The source said another option being considered regarding Fashola's former mega ministry is to leave it intact while he would be assisted in running the jumbo ministry with the appointments of two junior ministers.

If the consideration for the unbundling of the mega ministry prevails, Fashola might retain the Power portfolio while the two others, would be given to fresh nominees.

According to one of the sources, while former Ogun State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Olamilekan Adegbite, is being considered as Minister of Housing, former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio might be the new Minister of Works.

It was also learnt that some of the nominees and their influential friends and associates were lobbying to be sent to ministries they would be comfortable in working there.

However, for the fresh faces in the cabinet, it was learnt that Mr. Sunday Akin Dare, an executive director with Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been pencilled in to oversee the Ministry of Communications; Mr. Festus Keyamo, would likely go to the Ministry of Youths and Sports; Hon. Emeka Nwajuiba is likely to be Minister of State for Education while Senator Tayo Alasoadura is being considered as either Minister of State for Niger Delta or Budget and Planning.

Also, former Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora, is most likely the next Minister of Health and Jedi Agba could be heading to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as the Minister of State for Petroleum while Buhari remains the substantive minister.

It was also gathered that Gbemisola, sister to former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, would be made a junior minister but no final decision had been taken yet on which ministry she would be posted to.

Senate Screens Alasoadura, Magashi, Dare, 13 Others

The screening of the ministerial nominees continued yesterday as the Senate considered another batch of the would-be ministers, numbering 14.

Out of the 14 screened nominees, only four were subjected to thorough screening as questions were put to them while the remaining 10, including two women, were asked to take a bow and go.

Those grilled were Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd) (Kano); Ambassador Zubairu Dada (Niger) Mohammed Abdullahi (Nasarawa)and Sunday Dare (Oyo).

Those asked to take a bow and go after introducing themselves were former Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo); former Deputy Governor of Yobe State, Abubakar Aliyu; Mustapha Shehuri (Borno); former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva; Ramatu Aliyu (Kogi) and former Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo.

Others included Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa); former Senator Chris Ngige (Anambra); former Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna) and Sa'adiya Farouk (Zamfara).

As at yesterday, the upper legislative chamber had screened 24 out of the 43 nominees leaving it with 19 others who will appear before the Senate today and Monday.

A ranking senator told THISDAY that the remaining nominees would be taken at Senate plenary today and Monday.

He said at the rate the Senate was going, the 19 nominees left would be taken in two batches.

Already, the Senate at yesterday's plenary suspended its rules to allow it take the other nominees today and Monday because it doesn't normally sit on those two days.

A motion to that effect was moved by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi and seconded by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

Before adjourning plenary till today, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said eight more ministerial nominees would be screened today.

They include former Minister of Justice, Malami (Kebbi), Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud (Kaduna), Osagie Ehanire (Edo) and former Senator Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara).

Others are former Minister of State, Mrs. Pauline Tallen (Plateau); Muhammadu Dingyadi (Sokoto) and Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa).

The Senate, during the eight-hour long screening that commenced yesterday at 10.55am and ended at 6.50p.m., had expressed concern that the 12-year-old controversial Petroleum Industry Governance Bill was yet to be passed into law.

It lamented failure of several attempts made separately by the National Assembly and the Presidency on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), upgraded to Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) in the Eighth Senate, to pass them into law.

The lamentation came to the fore during the appearance of Senator Tayo Alasoadura who was the first to appear before the Senate at 10.55a.m. for confirmation screening.

Alasoadura, being a former senator, in brief remarks before enjoying the privilege of taking a bow and go, said what he would want the National Assembly to do was to repackage the PIGB passed by the Eighth National Assembly but not assented to by Buhari.

The nominee, who was accompanied to the screening by his home state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, said there was a need to revisit the bill and repackage it for passage into law.

But before being asked to take a bow and go, Lawan said though the appeal made by Alasoadura was a welcome one, new approach would have to be adopted in getting the bill passed and assented to by the president.

Tracing the history of the bill from 2007 to date, Lawan stated that the bill was separately being pushed forward for consideration and passage either by the executive or legislature without the required collaboration between them .

"In 2011 during the Seventh Senate, the bill also came from the executive but required legislative considerations were not concluded on it. In 2015 during the Eighth Senate, the bill emanated from the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly , considered and passed but not assented to by the executive.

"Strategic lesson to be learnt from the foregoing is that in reconsidering the bill, the executive would have to be carried along since all the previous solo efforts made either by the executive or legislature failed," he added.

Also yesterday, a ministerial nominee and former Military Governor of Sokoto State, Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), lambasted heads of military formations in the country for the seeming lack of cohesion in their operational strategies.

Magashi, while responding to questions on how he will coordinate the operations of the military if made the Minister of Defence, alluded to the fact that co-operation among the service chiefs is low and the poor relationship among them was invariably hampering their operations.

The nominee who is also a former ECOMOG field commander, also said "the military as an institution is supposed to be strictly coordinated through a monolithic command structure where whoever is at the top is supposed to be its face unlike now that you see the Army coming out separately to claim this or that and the Air Force doing likewise.

"Where the echelon is weak, the downward will also be weak. The echelon, if I'm appointed as the Minister of Defence, will be made to be strong and effectively in charge."

On his part, Dare, the nominee from Oyo State, tasked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the need to grant media organisations flexible foreign exchange window to enable them to remain in business.

Dare, a journalist who answered questions from senators during the screening, said the current high exchange rate was threatening the survival of media organisations.

The foreign exchange window, he said, would enable print and electronic media houses to beat the prohibitive costs of imported newsprints and broadcast equipment.

He rejected the idea of government giving subsidy to private media organisations, saying such a gesture could erode the independence of the media.

Dare lamented the increase in the use of pre-registered SIM cards being used mainly by kidnappers and other criminals for their operations.

According to him, "the same offence that was committed by MTN in 2015 that led to the imposition of fines by the federal government is still being committed by other telecom firms operating in the country."

The nominee said it was difficult to track users of pre-registered telephone numbers when the lines are switched off.

According to the nominee, contribution to the GDP by telecom sector rose from 9.1 to 10.1 percent in the last three years.

On the rising cases of cyber crime in the country, Dare said the country was still in the process of building the required infrastructure to tackle the menace.

According to him, the Cyber Crime Act is domiciled in the office of the National Security Adviser and that the NCC has been collaborating with security agencies in tracking offenders.

Commenting on dropped calls, Dare said the NCC had continued to engage the service providers, stressing that there has been improvement in the quality of service.

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