The screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees entered the second day Wednesday after the event kicked off on Tuesday with the screening of 10 nominees.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, kicked off Wednesday’s screening session by announcing that Mr. Buhari had withdrawn a nominee from Niger State, Musa Ibeto.
No reason was given for his withdrawal.
Mr. Saraki also announced that the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi’s screening had been moved to Thursday as the Senate committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions was yet to submit its report on the petition against the former governor.
Below is our rating of how the nominees performed on Wednesday.
The first nominee screened was the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola.
Hardly had Fashola finished introducing himself than several senators raised their hands to be called upon to grill the former governor.
That underscored the interest lawmakers had in Mr Fashola, who is often considered perhaps the best performing governor the country has seen in the last eight years.
As expected, most of the questions centred on his performance as governor of the country’s most populous state and its economic capital.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, threw the first salvo at Mr. Fashola.
He asked about the administration of value added tax (VAT) in the country and security challenges facing the nation.
The former governor was also asked questions about traffic management in Lagos, state police, economic and political development as well as his controversial approval of N78 million for the construction of his personal website.
In his response to the questions, Mr. Fashola put up an impressive showing. Most of the questions were expertly answered and the depth of his responses was impressive and portrayed a man who knows his onions.
On his achievement as governor, he said it was a team effort and it would be inappropriate for him to take credit for all that were achieved by his administration.
“My attitude (as governor) was to see criminals as competitors and my desire is to win. I had no margin of error. I have to be right every time,” he said about his determination to rid Lagos of crime.
Mr. Fashola advocated state police, arguing that the 500,000 police personnel in the country is grossly inadequate to police a population of over 170 million people.
He said state police can, for a start, be given specific jurisdiction like power over rape cases and domestic violence to unburden the overworked Nigerian Police.
He explained that state police would create jobs for unemployed graduates, tailors, cobblers and the textile industry.
Mr. Fashola’s response to the N78 million spent on his personal website was far from impressive. His response was long winded and obfuscating. At the end he failed to answer the question directly. He chose to talk about how he did not personally sign cheques and did not sit at contract awards. He failed to admit that as governor, the bucks stopped at his table.
He ended his response with a comment on loyalty. “May our loyalty never be tested,” he said.
Most of the questions were well-thought out and specifically centred on his tenure as governor. However, the senators seemed awed or intimidated by his achievements, choosing to praise or thank him for what he did in Lagos rather than ask him hard questions.
Quality of Questions: 7/10.
The group managing director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was grilled for over one hour, 20 minutes, the longest for any nominee so far.
As expected, all of the questions thrown at him centred on the Nigerian oil sector and his six-week tenure as boss of the NNPC. And he did not disappoint.
He was asked questions about oil subsidy, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), turnaround maintenance of the country’s refineries.
He said was pushing for a more transparent NNPC and had already revoked all suspicious contracts to make sure that the country gets the best deal possible from them. He said he had cut cost in the corporation by reducing the number of top management staff.
According to him, a situation where the NNPC spent 40 per cent of the income it generated was unacceptable.
He said he introduced a monthly town hall meeting and had been briefing the President every week on his administration of the NNPC.
“Information is not a privilege that we give Nigerians. It is a right they are entitled to. I will ensure that right is respected,” he said on the need for better transparency in the NNPC.
He advocated the unbundling of the PIB stating that the biggest problem is that various version of the bill was now in circulation.. He said the bill should be broken down into different versions.
“Passing a holistic PIB will be a huge challenge. Once you break it up, you can make progress,” he said.
Although well dressed in a smart suit, he however wore sunglasses into the chambers of the Senate and was awkwardly removing it to read his jottings of the questions.
The question were initially too general and lacking in depth suggesting that the senators were either too lazy to ask more probing questions or are ignorant of the issues in the oil sector, which would be surprising since oil is the mainstay of the country’s economy.
The last set of questions however did much to compensate for the inadequacies of the first set of questions.
Quality of questions: 6/10
Mr Malami’s performance was a dampener after the brilliant showings of Messrs. Fashola and Kachikwu. His voice crackled and he stammered as he answered some of the questions – an indication that he perhaps had stage fright before the senators. For a senior lawyer it is shocking to see him fidget during the screening. Most of his responses were pedestrian and theoretical at best. He didn’t say anything innovative.
The questions he was asked also lacked depth. It was as though the senators were tired and wanted to get rid of him as quickly as they can.
Quality of questions: 4/10
Chris Ngige seemed to be well-liked by his former colleagues at the Senate. He actually spent more time greeting, laughing and shaking hands with senators than he spent answering questions.
When he eventually started talking, he spoke about his time as member of the 7th Senate and his work in the health committee. He sounded like a man at a political rally rather than someone being screened for a ministerial post. He wasn’t asked any questions. He was told to to take a bow and leave.
Score: 2/10 (for his good naturedness as he was asked not questions).
Quality of questions: NIL
As a former senator, the senators were expected to go easy on Mrs. Al-Hassan. But somehow she managed to make a complete mess of her screening.
She went on about how she wanted to denounce the rumour that she was nominated as to as settlement for her failed governorship ambition in Taraba State ( she is still challenging the result of the election at the electoral tribunal). Some of the things she insinuated were being said about her are rumours one usually hear in beer parlours and similar places.
It was therefore surprising that she would use the hallowed chamber of the Senate to respond to rumours, more so, without any prompting.
She was by far the worst performing nominee for the day.
Quality if Questions: NIL
Solomon Dalong, a lawyer from Plateau State put up an above average showing.
He spoke about the administration of Justice in Nigeria and came up with an interesting and innovative suggestions of how to de-congest the nation’s prisons.
His thoughts on the origin and possible solutions to the violence in the north central region, cattle rustling, herdsmen and host communities were also refreshing.
He said corruption should be define by how it is described in the country’s law and not by personal opinions of people.
“If morality is smuggled into law it is a dangerous trend,” he said.
He called for strict social media regulation, ironically he admits that most of his publications were done on social media.
Quality of Questions: 6/10
Kemi Adeosun is expected to be either named minister of finance or minister of trade and investment so most of the questions thrown at her were about finance and the management of the economy.
Her responses were full of buzzwords. She said all the right things in a typical economics textbook. Her responses were close to what you hear from a typical economist.
She however advocated diaspora bonds and finance. She also called for the growth of the private sector and that people should buy made-in-Nigeria goods.
Senator Adeola Olamilekan, of Lagos West Senatorial District, somehow appropriated the opportunities for more senators to ask Mr Adeosun more question, choosing to ask more than five questions at a go, drawing loud voices of disapproval from his colleagues.
Quality Of questions: 5/10
Hadi Sirika spent his time answering questions about unemployment and the restoration of a national carrier for the country.
He seemed to be in support of a national carrier simply as a chest-pumping, ego boosting strategies for the country.
He does not appear to bother about the economic impact of such a capital intensive project on the country at this time.
Quality of questions: 6/10