Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday averted what could have been the outright rejection of the nominees of President Muhammadu Buhari who are to be screened by the upper chambre.
The nominees included Mr. Williams Babatunde Fowler, Acting Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); Eng. Umaru Garba Dambatta, Vice Chairman of the National Communication Commission (NCC); Ahmed Lawan Kuru, Managing Director of Asset Management Corporation (AMCON) as well as Mr.Kola Ayeye, Eberechukwu Fortunate Uneze and Alh. Aminu Ismail, Executive Directors, AMCON.
The Senate President had read the communication from Buhari on the nominees during plenary on Tuesday and according to the rule of the Senate, he should, during the Wednesday sitting, raise the matter for the chambre to decide what day and how the screening will be conducted.
However, before the commencement of sitting that Wednesday, Saraki did a random sampling of opinion of his colleagues and, sensing that many of them were angry about the breach committed by the nominees who had assumed office and were already acting in their various capacities contrary to the position of the law, the Senate President ensured that the matter was not listed on the Order Paper for the day. He also refused to mention the issue on the floor.
Senator Barnabas Gemade, who did not know the reason Saraki refused to mention the issue, raised a point of order during the plenary sitting under Order 40, Rule 1, which states: “The President of the Senate shall immediately after prayers ….read to the Senate any message addressed to the Senate by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The Senate President had to counter Gemade by citing Order 40, Rule 2 which states: “A message from the President, if presented to the Senate by the Leader of the Senate may be brought up at any time before the commencement or at the close of public business, and shall be considered forthwith or ordered to be considered upon a future day”, The phrase relied on Saraki to save the day is ‘considered upon a future day’.
The belief is that if Saraki had tabled the matter for discussion and put the question to vote on when and how the senators should commence the screening of the presidential nominees, an overwhelming majority might oppose the screening and that summarily interprets to rejection and disqualification of the nominees.
“That was what happened when President Jonathan nominated Mrs. Mfon Akpan from Akwa Ibom, as Chairman of FIRS. Her nomination was summarily rejected during voting on whether to screen her or not. That is why a Director in the service, Mr. Odugbesan, was the one acting in the office until recently . If the Senate President had raised the issue, last Wednesday, the nominees could have been rejected. That is why the Senate President and the Presidency must be in good terms so that they can watch each other’s back”, a senator said yesterday.
The senator added that Saraki also demonstrated good faith in dealing with the Presidency later that Wednesday when he chose to stay in the office till 5.00pm to receive the ministerial list from the Presidency despite the fact that the Senate had concluded sitting around 1pm.
“If he had left the office after waiting for the list till 3.00pm, it means the Presidency would not have met the September deadline it set for the release of the list of ministerial nominees as announced by President Buhari to the nation and the international community. However, Senator Saraki waited until they brought the list and even announced to the nation that he got the list that day. That is to tell you that the National Assembly will always co-operate with the President at all times to ensure that state policies, programmes and appointments get the necessary legislative backing”, he said.