The Senate on Thursday released the criteria for screening President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees. The screening is scheduled to commence on October 13.
On top of the demands from the nominees is: come with a proof that you have declared your assets.
Briefing journalists at the end of plenary, Chairman, Senate ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Dino Melaye, said the upper chamber at its closed session agreed on hurdles to be scaled by the nominees before their eventual clearance.
Melaye explained that the senators insisted that each nominee must submit proofs of their asset declaration; must have their nomination approved by two senators from their states; and must have a clean bill of health from its public petitions committee, among other conditions.
Submission of asset declaration form was not included in the modalities for screening ministerial nominees in 2011.
President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, is currently on trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false asset declaration when he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
Melaye said, “We considered a number of issues that had to do with the approach and the procedure for the screening of the ministerial nominees. So, we developed two modalities for the screening of the ministerial nominees.
“The first criterion is using constitutional provisions as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a fundamental procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees.
“Section 120 of the Standing Rules of the Senate states that the Senate shall not consider the nomination of any person, who has held any public office as contained in Part 2 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution prior to his nomination unless there is a written evidence that he has declared his assets and liabilities as required by Section 11(1) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Such declaration shall be required for scrutiny by the senators. What this Section is saying is that every ministerial nominee must produce proof of compliance as required by the Constitution and the Rules of the Senate.
“You must declare your assets, and you must have a certificate of proof that you have declared your assets, and that you are given a certificate of proof by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
“We also, in line with our convention, agreed that for you to be cleared as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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. The era of take-a-bow-and-go is over. We are still going to maintain that, except with slight modification as regards former senators and former members of the National Assembly.
“For those who have been members of the House of Representatives and senators before, for them to become members of the House of Representatives and senators, they must have met those conditions before now.
“So, they would not be exposed to the same rigorous scrutiny that those who were not members of the National Assembly will face.”
He added, “The Senate is also going to give priority to former members of the National Assembly in terms of the time for the screening. What I’m saying is that we may call up those, who are former members of the National Assembly before we begin to consider those, who are not members.
“We also, as a matter of modification for the take-a-bow-and-go, where it concerns only former members of the National Assembly, they may be questioned only by the chairman of that sitting, who is the President of the Senate.’’
No fewer than 25 petitions have been submitted by various individuals and groups seeking to stop the clearance of some of the 21 ministerial nominees.
Checks at the office of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions showed that 25 petitions had been submitted to it as of the close of work on Thursday.
Apart from the petition against former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi , which was submitted by the three senators from Rivers State to the senate president on Wednesday, another senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Danjuma La’ah, submitted his on Thursday against the nomination of Mrs. Amina Mohammed from Kaduna State.
La’ah wrote on behalf of the Southern Kaduna Coalition, an amalgamation of all the pressure and public interest groups of Southern Kaduna extraction. Mohammed’s accusers said she was not from Kaduna.
The petition, signed by the group’s coordinator, James Kanyi, read in part, “We have credible evidence to believe that she is an indigene of Gombe State and not Kaduna State as constitutionally required.”
Eleven of the ministerial nominees were however at the National Assembly on Thursday to submit their Curriculum Vitae ahead of next Tuesday’s screening.
The deadline for the submission of the CVs, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, is Friday (today).
Saraki on Thursday asked the committee of the Senate currently investigating the petitions against the nominees to submit its report before the screening starts next week.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress has disagreed with the Senate new rule that a ministerial nominee must get the support of at least two senators from his state to scale through screening.
The spokesman for the APC in Rivers, Mr. Chris Finebone, told our correspondent in a telephone interview on Thursday that something was wrong with such a rule on the screening of ministerial nominees.
Finebone explained that a ministerial nominee did not need the support of any senator to be confirmed a minister.
The three representing Rivers State in the Senate – Olaka Nwogu, George Sekibo and Osinakachukwu Ideozu – are all members of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Amaechi, the nominee from the state is of the APC.
Calling on the Senate to forget about such criterion, Finebone recalled that Musiliu Obanikoro, who was from an APC state, but a member of the PDP, was able to scale through and became a minister.
He said, “I am sure that there is something wrong there; there is something not correct there. I know we have had cases where, for an example, Obanikoro never got the support of any senator and he scaled through. So, there is something I suspect that is not right there.
“Beyond Obanikoro, we have also had other examples where ministerial nominees never got the support of senators from their states and they scaled through. How about states where the senators are all from the opposition party? Does it mean that the Federal Government would surrender to the opposition?
“I don’t think it has been happening in the past. There were places where the senators were from the opposition, yet the Federal Government got its ministers not from the opposition party.
“The Senate should forget about such a rule because in the past it never came to play. I want to be sure that it is a new thing they have invented. But it does not work that way; it will not work that way. I don’t want to also believe that the rules are changing with some persons in mind.”
Also, a former aide to the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Tony Okocha, recalled that two senators in the past had opposed the nomination of Mr. Henry Ogiri for a position in the Niger Delta Development Commission but that Ogiri eventually scaled through despite such opposition.
“It does not follow. Are we not Nigerians? Obanikoro, who was from a state in the opposition party in the past, was made a minister in recent past despite coming from the state from the opposition party,” Okocha said.