The plea by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that Senators should be ready to screen ministerial nominees with urgency and without pettiness or political vendetta may not hold sway in the upper legislative chamber next week when the lawmakers begin the screening exercise.
Investigations by Saturday Sun revealed the lawmakers are poised to change the pattern of screening from the usual question and answer session with nominees to serious grilling of the would be ministers. Some of the Senators, who spoke with Saturday Sun, expressed their preparedness to carry out the exercise in a way that may be dramatic and equally interesting.
Saraki had at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday urged his colleagues to drop their political differences to do a dispassionate screening of nominees anytime the list was submitted. The list was, however, submitted to the Senate on Wednesday evening.
Speaking on the ministerial list, Saraki had said: “As we await the list of ministerial nominees this week, I believe the presence of ministers will create the space for greater policy engagement with the executive arm of government and enable us to begin to respond in a more systematic manner to the various economic and social challenges before us, especially through our various committees that will also be constituted soon.
“On this note, I want to urge you all my colleagues to ensure that what is uppermost in our minds as we begin the constitutional task of screening of ministerial nominees is the overall interest of our country, informed by the enormity and the urgency of the challenges before us. Once the list is submitted, let us ensure that we treat it with dispatch and thoroughness. We must not be held down by unnecessary politicking. The enormity of our national challenges at this time does not give room for pettiness or politics of vendetta.
Spokesman of the Senate, Melaye Dino, APC Kogi, in an interview with Saturday Sun, however, revealed the mindset of most Senators when he said that “the screening is not going to be business as usual.” According to him: “We are going to do the screening expeditiously but meticulously and painstakingly. Our screening won’t be based on nominees’ educational qualifications only but we will equally dwell on their morals, character and antecedents. We must dig out their past to be sure that we are not approving anyone with a questionable or shady background for Mr President to work with.” He added that the era of telling ministerial nominees to take a bow and leave without being questioned is over.
Senator Clifford Ordia, PDP Edo, in his reaction, revealed that the Senate was yet to take an official position on the modus operandi members will adopt when it reconvenes next Tuesday to consider the list of the ministerial nominees.
He cautioned that it was too early to criticize or pick holes, adding that the lawmakers will, however, not leave anything to chance. He said only the best and qualified will sail through.
“We have not agreed at a closed session on what we are going to do. But one thing I know is that it would not be business as usual. Before somebody can be appointed to head a ministry, we must be able to know if he or she is qualified. I do not want to start criticising right now. But one thing is for sure and that is the fact that we will ensure the best comes out at the end of the day,” Senator Ordia noted.
On his part, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP Abia State, did not give any specifics on what to expect when the screening begins. He maintained that the Senate ad-hoc committee chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Dino had already given a glimpse on what to expect.
He said: “We have the list already and by Tuesday we will begin the discussion on it. The chairman of the Senate ad-hoc committee on Media has already spoken on how we will go about it. So, I believe that will be the position of the Senate. He spoke on behalf of the Senate president and that is it for now. So, Tuesday, we will know.”
Senator David Umaru, APC Niger State, in his submission, said due process will be followed. He also promised that lawmakers will exercise high diligence and care during the consideration of the names of ministerial nominees.
“Officially, I am not aware of the list of ministerial nominees sent to the Senate. But if you recall, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki stated during his address when Senators reconvened that we are going to be very diligent this time. We will screen the nominees and ensure that we follow due process. We have been waiting for this list. So, by Tuesday, we will know. But I can assure you that things will be different this time,” he explained.
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