Nigeria: Senate screens Buhari’s ministers – LIVE UPDATES

President Muahmmadu Buhari met with National Assembly leadership ahead of the screening.

The Nigerian senate will Tuesday (today) in Abuja begin the screening of the first batch of ministerial nominees forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The nominees include Nigerians drawn from across the states and different professions.

The batch include the spokesperson of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Lai Mohammed; former governors Chibuike Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola; Abubakar Malami; former defence chief, Abdurahman Dambazzau; former governorship candidate in Taraba state, Aisha Alhassan; Adebayo Shittu; former senator, Udo Udoma and Ibrahim Jibril.

Others are Suleiman Adamu; former senator, Chris Nigige; Kemi Adeosun; Ahmed Ibeto and Hadi Sirika.

Also expected to appear before the upper legislative chamber are former PDP chairman, Audu Ogbeh; former Abia governor, Ogbonnaya Onu; NNPC group managing director, Ibeh kachikwu; Amina Mohammed; Solomon Dalong; Suleiman Adamu; and former Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi.

PREMIUM TIMES’ national assembly correspondent, Adebayo Hassan, is in the senate chambers and will bring you live updates of the session, expected to kickoff at 10:00 a.m. Nigerian time

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9.38. Former Ekiti Governors and APC Chieftains, Niyi Adebayo and Segun Oni, arrived National Assembly to boost Kayode Fayemi’s morale before the Senate during the screening.

Ministerial nominee, Amina Mohammed, arriving the Senate
Ministerial nominee, Amina Mohammed, arriving the Senate

9.43. Kaduna ministerial nominee, Amina Mohammed, arrives

9.51. APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, arrives the National Assembly

10:04 Ahead of the screening session, slated to commence at 11am, the Senate gallery is now filled to the brim, especially by associates and family members of the nominees. Many people are locked out.

10.20. The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and other principal officers of the Senate, arrive.

10:37 Only 10 nominees will be screened today by the Senate. They are: Udoma Udoma, Kayode Fayemi, Audu Ogbeh, Ogbonaya Onu, Osaghie Ehanire, Abdulrahman Dambazzau.

Others are Lai Mohammed, Amina Mohammed, Suleiman Adams, Ibrahim Jibril.

Others are to be screened on Wednesday and Thursday.

11:05: The Kano State ministerial nominee, Abdulrahman Dambazzau and APC spokesperson, Lai Mohammed arrive.

11:45: The Senate went into a closed-door session during which it perhaps considered the reports of its Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee on petitions against Rotimi Amaechi and Amina Mohammed.

A group, Integrity Group, had submitted a petition against Mr. Amaechi, alleging cases of fraud.

On the other hand, a group, Southern Kaduna Coalition, submitted another petition against Ms. Mohammed, challenging her nomination from Kaduna State, saying she is not an indigene of the state.

11:55: Following the submission of the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, on the petition against Amina Mohammed, the Senate has ruled that she be a nominee from Gombe State.

South Kaduna Coalition had forwarded the petition challenging her nomination from Kaduna State.

11.48 APC leaders, led by John Oyegun, and Presidential Advisers on NASS, Ita Enang and Kawu Samaila allowed into the Senate Chamber following Senate vote.

11.53. Udo Udoma now being screened.

12: 05: “I can assure Nigerians, if I am confirmed by this Senate, I’ll perform in that onerous task,” Udoma addressing the Senate.

He claims to have sufficient experience in both private and Public sector to perform. He said he would not be going into government to learn.

12:08: Senators asked Mr. Udoma, former chief whip of the upper chamber, to bow and go. He exited.

12: 10: Former Ekiti Governor, Kayode Fayemi, moves in for screening. He is currently talking about his antecedents.

12:12: Mr. Fayemi talked about his work in journalism, academics, governorship of Ekiti state, and contribution to the victory of the APC in the last elections.

12: 15: Senators Sola Adeyeye, Shehu Sani and Andy Uba asked the nominee questions about his stewardship in Ekiti State, especially the allegation that he left a heavy debt burden for Ekiti state, and that he spent billions building a magnificent Government House.

He was also asked about his operation of an illegal radio, Radio Kudirat, during the Abacha days, and why he escaped Nigeria through unconventional borders.

12:20: Mr. Fayemi answered, saying he served well and that the Government House he built is for the people of Ekiti. He said he built the complex because the state never had a befitting Government House. He said at N2.5 billion, it’s perhaps the cheapest Government House in Nigeria today.
“I’m not given to irresponsible behaviour,” he said.

12:37: Answering a question, Mr. Fayemi said when he took over in Ekiti, the internally generating revenue was N109Million a month. He said he was able to raise that to between N500million to N600million per month. He said following the economic crisis that hit the country in the dying days of his administration, the IGR fell to about N350 to N400million a month.

Mr. Fayemi said majority of Nigeria’s graduates have no work place skills.

Reporter Adebayo Hassan filed this additional reports on Fayemi:

Kayode Fayemi is faced with questions that bordered on his tenure as Governor. Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, asked to clear the allegation that he spent “untoward amount” on the renovation of the Government House at the expense of public welfare and also that of leaving a heavy debt burden for his state.

His response:

On debt, he said he met obligations in excess of 30bn naira when he became governor in 2010. He said he had to complete his predecessor’s project before he moved on to commence his original promises and programmes.

With low allocation from the federation account, he had to look for ways of raising funds, particularly from the capital market and multilateral development agencies. He said he raised 25bn from the capital market and “the results are there to see”.

“I borrowed but not in rank of the figure being bandied around.” No country exists without borrowing, he said. He said his most profound legacy was the social security safety programme which gave N5,000 to indigent people monthly.

On the renovation of the Government house, He justified the action, saying Ekiti for 19 years did not have a befitting Government House.

He denied buying 50million naira bed for Ekiti Government House and challenged anybody to bring evidence to the contrary.

Responding to Shehu Sani, he said he had never gone out of Nigeria through non conventional borders.

12: 55: Mr. Fayemi was asked to bow and go

12: 56: The next nominee – Audu Ogbeh – comes in and is introducing himself. He described himself as “a farmer who has interacted with some of you in the past”.

He said most of Nigerian universities have become intellectual ghettos.

Reacting to criticisms of his nomination, Mr. Ogbeh said he was before the senate not because he wanted anything new, but because President Buhari asked him to serve in his cabinet. “I wouldn’t be here if I don’t believe I can do it.”

“For a party to surrender authorities to the President or governors, at state levels, is harmful”

“Since I left office in the Second Republic as minister, I have been in school, not in any classroom but in the school of life, travelling around the world and exploring agriculture, why we are failing where others are succeeding”.

It must be said that Mr. Ogbeh, with facts, statistics and elucidation, clearly dazzled the senate.

1: 14: Godswill Akpabio moves a motion that Chief Audu Ogbeh, being a donation by the PDP, should take a bow. Mr. Ogbeh bowed and moved out.

1:16: Next nominee, former Abia Governor, Ogbonnaya Onu, enters the chamber, and bowed before senators.

Mr. Onu says, “there are too many abnormalities in our country”.

Senator Gaya says Mr. Onu was his colleague as governor in 1992, and that he had accomplished so much that he should be allowed to bow and go.

But Senator Goje said the nominee should answer a question about the widespread unemployment in the country before bowing and going.

Responding Mr. Onu said Nigeria needs to be a producing and manufacturing concern if it wants to solve the problems of unemployment. he said Nigeria is a consumer nation, and that that should not be so.

“We need to produce more in the areas of agriculture, solid minerals and services…,” he said.

Reporter Jaafar Jaafar sent in below additional report on Mr. Onu

The fourth nominee, Ogbonnaya Onu, said Nigeria is a rich nation and there was no reason Nigerians should be poor.
He said the nation was facing challenges, noting that if senators confirm him, he would join hands with Nigerians to change the situation.
He made a very brief remark.
Senator Kabiru Gaya said Mr. Onu as a former governor, a former national chairman who made distinctions in his education from the basic level to the advanced level, he should take a bow and go.

Mr. Onuh called for diversification of power generation in the country, saying Tanzania had shut its hydro power stations duee to paucity of rainfall. “Power is central to many of the things we are going to do in this our great country,” he said.
He said Nigeria’s coal was one of the best in the world because of its loe sulphur content, and so it should be harnessed to generate enough power and industrialise the country.
On unemployment, he said production capacity should be improved to make job opportunities in the country.
On non-inclusion of youths, he said he didn’t see the full list of the nominees to ascertain wether youths were included.
He was asked to take a bow and go.

1:36:  Next  nominee is Dr. Osagie Ehanire from Edo State. He described himself as the first of the non mainstream figures that will appear for screening.

Mr. Ehanire said he had worked to enthrone Buhari as President since 2003 because he shared his vision, commitment and patriotism.

Senators are asking him what he would do to fix Nigeria’s health sector if appointed minister of health, especially in the areas of poor diagnosis, efficiency in service delivery and training.

Responding, Mr. Ehanire proposed training and retraining of all actors in the health sector, a review of curriculum of health-related schools. He also proposed peer review of diagnoses by other doctors.

The doctor said Nigeria has to design its own health models, not copy models simply because they had worked elsewhere.

The nominee said it is unethical for doctors in public service to open private hospitals and then divert patients there. He said a process would be put in place to draw the line on what doctors can and cannot do.

2: 14: Senator Godswill Akpabio said as governor, he built the biggest hospital in West Africa. His colleagues could be heard challenging him why he did not seek treatment there if the hospital was that great.

2.19: The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, reminded the Senate that there were still five nominees awaiting screening, thereby calling for limit to questions.

2: 22: Mr. Ehanire was asked to bow and go.

2: 25: Enters the next nominee – Abdurahman Dambazau, retired lieutenant general and former chief of army staff. He is reading his CV- detailing his career history and accomplishments

Mr. Dambazau says he relaxes by listening to soft English music and traditional Hausa music.

The nominee also debunk the claim by a senator that Nigeria has no defence policy, saying he was indeed contacted some months ago to be part of a committee to review the document.

3:12: Mr. Dambazau said Nigeria should identify particular grazing land for cattle herders towards maintaining the nomadic culture and avoid clash with farmers.
Another challenge, according to him, is the fact that Fulani move around West African subregion, sometimes because of their large population.
He said public private partnership should be considered for  the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON). He believes the private sector should be involved in arms manufacturing while DICON acts as watchdog.
“I was passionate about the welfare of the military, a reason I came up with the idea of establishing new barracks like the Abacha Barracks,” Mr. Dambazau said.
3:25: Spokesperson for the ruling APC, Lai Mohammed, is the next nominee before the Senate.
He said, “Four years is a short time to learn the rope in opposition. You may have to stay there a little longer.”
He said, “In government, we (APC) will not be as harsh as you (PDP) were to us while we were in opposition.”
Senator Akpabio said, “If I know the nominee very well, I know he will like to drop some propaganda before he leaves.”
In his closing remark, Mr. Mohammed said if confirmed minister, he would be as committed and patriotic as he was in opposition.
Mr. Mohammed’s appearance had the shortest time-span so far, and it was laughter all through while it lasted.
Reporter Jaafar Jaafar filed below additional report on Lai Mohammed’s appearance
Rowdy session as Lai Mohammed takes the podium. The senators break his speech intermittently to laugh or object to his remark.
Lai Mohammed admits he might have ruffled some feathers in the course of his job as spokesperson of political parties in the last 10 years.
He said he would be more comfortable to serve in government. “I stand before you to seek your support to be confirmed as minister,” he said.
The minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, said Lai Mohammed should drop one or two propaganda before he is allowed to go.
When the Senate president called for order, Mr. Lai spoke again, saying he would serve the nation diligently to the best of his ability.
“If I am screened, I will be as passionate, committed and patriotic as I was when I was in the opposition,” he said.
He was asked to take a bow and go.
3:41: Next nominee is Amina Mohammed. She steps into the chamber and bowed to senators several times. She then spoke about her career history and accomplishments, working in the public and private sectors, and later at the United Nations.
Ms Mohammed was asked to bow and go as she was answering the questions put to her about her stewardship as presidential assistant on MDGs.
Responding to questions, Ms. Mohammed  said conditional grant scheme was a good initiative if it would be applied towards improving healthcare, education, water supply, etc.

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, would succeed the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, as the UN’s chief initiative for advancing basic living standards in the world and addressing a range of issues, including armed conflict, climate change, and equality.
According to her, the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, are a set of seventeen goals comprising 169 targets and indicators for reducing poverty and improving environmental sustainability.
She spoke at length on development issues, with some interruptions from the senators – obviously complaining about the length and intellectual depth of the speech.
She was then asked to take a bow and go.
4:04: Next nominee is Suleiman Adamu, from Jigawa state.
He narrated his long-standing relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari.  Among others, he said he had been part of Mr. Buhari’s think tank since the latter’s foray into politics in 2002.

04: 26: Suleiman Adamu emphasised the need by the Federal Capital Development Authority to commit resources to the development of Abuja satelite towns.

Responding to questions, Jigawa State nominee, Suleiman Adamu said APC manifesto was clear about the employment challenges in the country.
“We have to improve on training and skill acquisition so that people should become employable,” he said.
He added, “Adequate and potable water supply, I have noticed neither the federal government nor the state government is investing water infrastructure.
“Water quality should be enhanced by establishing treatment plants as frequent drilling borehole is to the detriment of ground water available.”
He said the FCDA should shift focus to satellite towns towards ensuring the security and development of the areas. He said the Abuja satellite areas were eyesores.

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