Nigeria: Ministerial Screening - Controversy Trails Senate 'Bow and Go' Privilege

Nigerian Senate.

Controversy again trailed the Senate generous use of its "bow and go" privilege accorded ministerial nominees presented to the Upper Legislative House by President Muhammadu Buhari for screening and confirmation as members of his incoming cabinet.

Nigerians who watched the two-day screening of 24 of the 43 ministerial nominees accused the Senate of denying them the opportunity to assess the capacity and competence of the "appointees" for cabinet positions.

Some senators, whose attempts to grill the ministerial nominees were frustrated by the Senate leadership, lamented that the gesture was being extended to persons who were not qualified to be granted such status.

They expressed shock that some would-be ministers were openly begging the Senate to allow them take a bow and go instead of unveiling their plans when confirmed as ministers.

The controversy heightened yesterday when the Senate accorded 10 of the 14 nominees that appeared before it screening the take a bow and go special treatment, which in the Senate is reserved for serving and former lawmakers at the state and national levels.

During the first day of the screening exercise on Wednesday, the Senate accorded six of the 10 ministerial nominees the take a bow and go status. Only one of the four remaining ministers-in-waiting, Ikechukwu Ogar, was properly tested as he answered 20 questions from the senators.

When the Senate resumed the screening yesterday, more nominees were allowed to go without any interrogation because of gender, being from the same state with the Senate president and for previously holding public offices.

There were, however, protests on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday when the lawmakers were prevented from asking former Transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, questions because he was a former speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and governor of the state. Some senators complained bitterly that he was not qualified to enjoy the privilege. The same went for Senator Godswill Akpabio as efforts by the Akwa Ibom State Senate Caucus to question him were stalled by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan.

When the trend continued yesterday, the Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, kicked against the practice, warning that "it is a confirmation hearing and not endorsement of the nominees."

Among those exempted from screening yesterday were Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno ), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Chris Ngige (Anambra), who were either former federal and state legislators.

Temper, however, rose when Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), RamatuTijani Aliyu (Kogi), Otumba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Sadiya Umar Farouk (Zamfara), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), and Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa) also enjoyed the privilege of being asked to take a bow.

Senator Lawan, who gave an insight into the background of Aliyu, informed his colleagues that the nominee was a former deputy governor in Yobe State (his home state) and had a track record while in public service.

He called for comments and later asked whether the nominees could be asked to take a bow. Lawan put it to voice votes and the yes had it and the nominee took a bow.

During the screening of Ambassador Zubairu Dada (Niger), senators from the state while emphasising on the towering achievements of the nominee, persuaded their colleagues to ask him to take a bow.

At this juncture, Abaribe having observed the take a bow syndrome in the chamber, raised a constitutional point of order (Order 147)(2), noting that the exercise had turned out to be an endorsement screening.

He said: "Mr. President of the Senate, this is a confirmation hearing and not an endorsement hearing."

Abaribe's observation didn't change the trend rather the caucuses of the Senate from different states of the federation continued to request their colleagues to allow their nominees to take a bow.

The take a bow syndrome assumed a new dimension when Bello, the ministerial nominee from Adamawa State, pleaded with the senators allow him to take a bow and leave because he was a member of the Senate by association.

Even though was not in the category accorded the privilege, Bello, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), begged to be granted the status.

He said: "Distinguished senators, I have had a very good working relationship with the National Assembly and I have come with a number of National Assembly members and if people say I have been successful in my public sector career, I must sincerely say it was because of the support of the National Assembly.

"I think I will be right if I say that by association, I am a member of the National Assembly. And I do hope that distinguished senators, the Senate president, and other members of the National Assembly have agreed that by association I am a member, I would appreciate if I can enjoy it."

Senator Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi Central), Aisha Dahiru, his Adamawa Central counterpart, Binos Yaroe from Adamawa South, and Elisha Abbo (Adamawa North) also spoke in support of Bello who was subsequently granted his wish.

Senate Lawan, who cleared the air on why the lawmakers asked all the women to take a bow and go, said that the Red Chamber accorded so much consideration to gender.

He said that all the women-nominees are competent to serve in Buhari's cabinet.

Among those to be screen today are the immediate past minister of Justice and attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina), Goddy Jeddy-Agba (Cross River), Mrs, Pauline Tallen (Plateau), Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi (Sokoto), Lai Mohammed (Kwara), and Engr. Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa).

Armed Forces Need Restructuring - Magashi

The only retired senior military officer among the 43 ministerial, Gen Bashir Salihi Magashi from Kano State, said that the armed forces need restructuring.

Magashi, a former infantry officer, ECOMOG field commander and former military governor of old Sokoto State, further said that the service chiefs were not working together but make efforts to impress people who do not understand their job.

Responding to a question from the Senate chief whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, on the friction amongst the service chiefs, Magashi said the rivalry started when the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was created.

He said: "The Nigeria military operates under the defence pact. The cooperation among the service chiefs is not very cordial. That kind of relationship has been in existence since the creation of the office of the CDS."

Magashi, who said that such might not be happening now, added that each of the service chiefs was trying to impress the country.

"If the Navy is involved, the three service chiefs will be on collision course. We will operate in administrative unit, and oversee the welfare of the troops," Magashi said of his plans if posted to the Ministry of Defence.

He said that there is a command structure that is seen as a weakness but added that the military does want to hear that they are underperforming.

The nominee said that the current structure is not a true reflection of what should be obtainable in the services and advocated for the restructuring of the armed forces.

"Today, the service chiefs are trying to express their capabilities to people who don't even know their operations. We will restructure the system in the interest of the troops and secure the country," Magashi said.

For Senator Tayo Alasaodura who was asked to take a bow and go, Lawan said that when the nominee was in the Senate, he was very committed and chaired the Senate Committee on Upstream.

Social Media Setting Nigeria On Fire - Dada

The ministerial nominee from Niger State, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, said that the reckless use of social media was setting the country on fire.

Dada who answered questions from senators said that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) must be funded to enlighten Nigerians on the use of the social media for national interest.

The nominee from Nasarawa State, Mohammed Abdullahi, said that the youths want jobs.

He said that if jobs were created for the youths, crime would be reduced to the nearest minimum.

Data Is The New Oil, Says Dare

The nominee from Oyo State, Sunday Dare, said that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has grown the Nigerian telecommunication investment market to $17billion.

According to him, the commission in the last three years increased the contribution of the sector to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 9.1 per cent to 10.1 per cent.

Dare appreciated the fact that of the 192 million Nigerian population, an impressive 172 million subscribers had been registered.

A commissioner in at NCC, Dare said that though efforts were being made to further deepen telephony and set new target, adding that under NCC, Nigeria had attained 33 per cent (65 million) broadband penetration of its broadband development plan

"To accelerate penetration, the NCC is investing in building backbone capacity to have point of access in all the 744 local government areas across the country to lay 295-kilometre fibre optic," he said.

On how to leverage on the telecommunication sector to detect and arrest criminals, especially kidnappers, he said that it was purely a security issue, adding that the NCC is collaborating with the Office of the National Security Adviser )NSA), the Department of State Services (DSS), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and other security outfits to use available database to monitor and track yjr activities of kidnappers.

He was responding to questions from the Senate President and his deputy, Ahmad Lawan and Ovie Omo-Agege on how to use ICT to track activities if kidnappers in the country.

He said that NCC in conjunction with the National Information Management Commission (NIMC) had worked on about 50 million SIM cards and captured about 85 per cent of all SIM cards in use in the country.

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: Leadership

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.