By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—Strong indications have emerged that today’s plenary session, where the Senate would unveil the ministerial list sent by President Muhammadu Buhari, may be stormy as senators are saying the President must, in line with the constitution, submit himself before the Senate for screening if he appointed himself Minister of Petroleum.
They are also set to reject an incomplete list, saying the constitution provides for a nominee from each state of the federation and that any list that did not cover the 36 states would suffer serious opposition on the floor of the Senate.
The senators have also vowed that they would not be cowed by the trial of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, just as they promised to adopt stringent measures in line with the provisions of the Constitution during the screening of ministerial nominees.
They added that the tradition of take-a-bow for senators coming for screening as ministers would be jettisoned, adding that they were prepared to send names of nominees to the sender of such a list.
Senate President, Dr. Saraki, is currently facing trial at CCT, following a 13-count charge levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, bordering on alleged corruption and false declaration of assets in 2003 and summoned him to appear before it, which he did.
‘We’ll stick to rules’
Speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia North, who noted that the list was expected to be complete, in line with the Constitution, said: “The list will be unveiled tomorrow( today). The Senate President kept to his words that the envelope will remain sealed until tomorrow (today).
“We know that all we have been reading could be speculations until it is opened. It will be read on the floor of the Senate and we will know. Even the 21 that people are speculating will be ascertained tomorrow (today) on the floor.
“The Constitution does not support ministers by batches. Every state must be represented but if the number is not complete, some of us may raise constitutional issues. If we have to wait for another three months for him to send another list comprising representatives of other states, it means those states would be non-functional.
“We will be guided by the constitution and the rules of the senate. This time around, we resolved that we are going to be quite stringent. We are going to ensure that whoever is coming as the minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must be somebody worth the salt; somebody we can rely upon and somebody that would have met the constitutional requirements.
‘We’ll stick to the rules’
“We are not considering waving any rule. Why should we wave the rule? If we want to do that, it should be before the screening. I believe that at the end of the day Nigerians will be happy because some Nigerians are already saying that the names being speculated were not what they have been waiting for these five months.
“This government has tagged itself as the government of change. If that is the cardinal thing, it will be against this Senate and, indeed, against the President and Nigerians for us to see a very strong allegation that hinges on corruption and we ignore it. If we see a strong petition, definitely we will look into it and follow it to a logical conclusion.
“If it requires writing to the anti-graft agencies like ICPC or EFCC to give us a report on such a person, we will do that because that is what screening is all about. Screening is not a tea party. In Cross River State the appointees are going to write aptitude test.”
Days of take-a-bow over
On the President’s decision to appoint himself as Minister of Petroleum, he said: “I do not think the President’s name will be on the list and I also do not think that the President will say he is a minister because if you are a minister, one of the conditions is that you must be subjected to screening and approval of the Senate.
“He, as the chief minister, can be there to supervise any ministry, but he cannot be a minister. Whoever is advising him to be minister is not advising him rightly.”
Chairman, Senate ad hoc Committee on Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West): “In our screening of ministers, it will not be business as usual. The era of take a bow and go are over. The right people will be made ministers without any political or religious consideration.”