"The era of ‘take a bow and go’ is over. Says Senate spokesman Melaye

The Senate has set conditions for screening of ministerial nominees, insisting that would-be ministers must show proof of declaration of their assets. The upper legislative chamber said that nominees, especially those who have held political offices, must show certificates of assets declaration issued by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
Also, at least two senators from state of each ministerial nominee must approve the nomination before the commencement of screening. All ministerial nominees must submit a minimum of 115 copies of their curriculum vitae on or before Monday, October 12. These were the outcome of the Senate executive session yesterday.
Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Dino Melaye, while briefing journalists at the end of the plenary yesterday, said that the Senate would insist on seeing the proof of assets declaration before a person who had held a public office could be cleared to be a minister. Of the 21 ministerial nominees sent for screening and confirmation by President Muhammadu Buhari, no fewer than 14 have held political offices. There were five former governors – Chris Ngige (Anambra), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Ogbonaya Onu (Abia) – and one erstwhile deputy governor – Ahmed Isa Ibeto (Niger) in the list. Also, three former senators – Aisha Al-Hassan, Hadi Sirika and Udoma Udo-Udoma – and two former state commissioners – Kemi Adeosun (Ogun) and Adebayo Shittu (Oyo) made the ministerial list.
Other political office holders on the list are Audu Ogbeh, a former Minister of Agriculture; Solomon Dalong, former council chairman and Lai Mohammed, onetime Chief of Staff to Lagos State governor. Melaye revealed that the Senate had, at the executive session, marshalled out modalities for the screening exercise. He noted that the Upper Chamber would be strictly guided by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the extant rules and conventions of the Senate. Melaye said: “Our meeting this morning was primarily to develop a procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees on Tuesday.
We considered the approach for the screening. So, we developed two modalities for the screening of the ministerial nominees. “The first criteria is using constitutional provisions as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a fundamental procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees. And we will be considering Section 147 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; there shall be such offices of the ministers of the federation as may be appointed by the President.
“This section shall be strictly adhered to by the Senate, meaning that there will be ministers from each state of the federation in compliance with the constitution. “We shall also consider Section 65 which stipulates that only a person who is qualified to be a member of the House of Representatives can be qualified to be screened as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “The Senate will not consider the screening of anybody who has held any public office, except the person has declared his assets.”
Commenting on the application of the Senate Standing Rules, Melaye said: “Again, also Section 120 of the Standing Rules of the Senate will be another major instrument in the consideration and screening of ministerial nominees.”
Section 120 of the Standing Rules of the Senate reads as follows: “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, actual 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 (CCB).
So, this is another condition that we are going to be exercising during the screening exercise.” Melaye said that the Senate would uphold its convention on insisting that two senators from the state of any nominee must accept the nomination before such a nominee can be screened. “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,” he said.
He further explained that the Senate would still give peculiar attention to former members of the National Assembly who might appear for screening, but added that the Upper Chamber had modified the pattern from the old order.
According to him, only the President of the Senate would be allowed to pose questions to nominees who were former members of either of the two Chambers of the National Assembly. He said: “I addressed you earlier and told you that 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. “They are not also just coming to take a bow and go; but we have modified that the condition for you to become a minister is minimum requirement for whoever wants to be a member of the House of Representatives; and 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.
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. But we maintain that the screening exercise will be rigorous, will be expeditious, and it will be thorough.” He stressed that the Senate would be thorough, expeditious and non-partisan in the exercise, noting that political coloration would not be brought to bear on the screening process.
“And I repeat that the Senate is not going to politicise the screening exercise. There will be no considerations for region, for ethnic, for religion, for tribe, for friendship; the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be our ultimate interest, and we are going to do all these things in public interest. “So, we have received a number of petitions, and those petitions are going to be looked into, and the variety of those petitions will also guide our proceedings during the screening exercise.” Meanwhile, some of the nominees were seen within the National Assembly yesterday. New Telegraph learnt that the nominees came to submit their curriculum vitae.
It was also speculated that they, at the same time, capitalised on the opportunity to familiarise themselves with, as well as lobby the Senators to be lenient with them during the screening exercise. Some of the nominees sighted by our correspondent include former governor of old Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; former governor of Anambra State and member of the immediate past Seventh Senate, Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma, Chief Audu Ogbe, Senator Hadi Sirika, Lt.-Gen. Abdurahman Dambazau, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Engr. Sulaiman Adamu.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, explained that the nominees came to crosscheck their curriculum vitaes to ensure that they would not be embarrassed during the exercise, noting that more would come today for the verification. Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has thrown its weight behind the National Assembly to ensure that all ministerial nominees declare their assets publicly before confirmation. In a statement jointly signed by its President, Boboi Kaigama and General Secretary, Musa Lawal, the TUC said that the declaration would be in the public interest. The labour union said that the public declaration of assets was necessary following “worrisome” allegations of fraud against some ex-ministers and officials.


“There is need to verify the financial and material status of each nominee before they are allowed to assume such high offices,” TUC said. It said that time had come to allow only people with proven integrity to head government ministries. The TUC, therefore, urged the Senate to screen the nominees based on their integrity and past records irrespective of their status.


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