Senate Screens 10 Ministerial Nominees

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Lai Mohammed
Mohammed

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Ten of the first batch of 21 ministerial nominees appear before the Senate on Tuesday, October 13, for clearance, where they all present their views and programmes if approved to be ministers

By Olu Ojewale  |  Oct 13, 2015 @ 18:20 GMT  |

THE Senate on Tuesday, October 13, cleared 10 ministerial nominees out of 21 names in the list of first batch of nominees sent to the upper chamber for clearance. Those cleared after the screening session were Udoma Udo Udoma, a former senator; John Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti State; Audu Ogbe, a former minister of agriculture in the first republic; Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor of old Abia State and Osagie Ehanire, a surgeon.

Others were Abdurahman Dambazau, a retired lieutenant-general; Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress; Amina J. Mohammed, a special adviser to Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations; Suleiman Adamu, a civil engineer from Jigawa State and Ibrahim Jibril, from Nasarawa State.

Udoma was the first person to be screened. After telling the Senate himself about himself and what he had been doing since he left the Senate eight years ago. As former member of the legislative body, he was not questioned much before being asked to take a bow and leave.

Fayemi described himself as a teacher and researcher. While answering question from the senate members, the former governor said that only 10 percent of students gained admissions into the universities.

He identified particular problems bedevilling the education sector and suggested that urgent solutions would be required to salvage the sector. He specifically identified the problems of career mismatch, unfavourable school curriculum and school admissions difficulties, among others.

He urged that national university systems respond to the educational challenges of the people, as well as having quality teachers to match the demands.

Fayemi also debunked reports that he ran the economy of his state aground, while he served as governor. Responding to a thought-provoking question asked him by Olusola Adeyeye, Senate chief whip form Osun State, asking him to clarify media reports that he left Ekiti in debt, that he spent too much money on the Ekiti Govt House, Fayemi said they were all rumours, stating that the government house was built with just N2.5 billion. Fayemi added that the controversial N50 million bed in the government house wasn’t purchased at that price. He said none the beds in the government house cost above N1.5 million.

“The Government House in Ekiti is probably the cheapest Government House in Nigeria. I did it for Ekiti State and not for myself and when I was leaving I didn’t take anything from it… I did not borrow to pay salaries, I borrowed for capital projects… Road network in Ekiti and other infrastructures significantly improved while I was Governor,” Fayemi said.

Ogbeh who took the floor after Fayemi said he was there as a ministerial nominee not because there was something new but at the invitation of the president who wanted him to be part of his cabinet. He believes that the nation would be able to learn from his wealth of experience. “Since I left Government in 1983 I have been in School; the School of life learning about Agriculture,” Ogbeh said and went ahead to enumerate why Nigeria has not been able to feed itself.

He advocated that Nigeria should immediately begin to invest more on the agricultural sector in order to provide jobs for the rising population, as well as boost investment opportunities. Ogbeh warned that if nothing was done urgently, the future would be bleak for the country.

Onu on his part said there was no way unemployment would be solved until there is increase in productivity. He advocated diversification of power generation, with inclusion of the use of coal and sunlight to generate power.

The Senate took Enahire on health issues because of his background as a medical doctor. He argued that the nation would need to use the money allocated to health efficiently, while also indentifying the problems facing the sector as non-availability of equipment, trained staff and impunity of some health workers.

“We lack a system of proper management in our hospitals. We need to ensure that orientation is given so patients can be treated with respect and dignity,” he said.

Besides, he said: “Issues of remuneration and health facilities should be addressed. There should be a proper communication system between the government and young doctors… The respect patients get from private hospitals should also be gotten in public hospitals. A doctor shouldn’t take decisions alone in complicated cases.”

Dambazu was questioned on military tactics, welfare, remunerations among others.

The retired general said the military needed the support of everyone to succeed in its fight against insurgency. He called for the review of allowances paid to the military to further encourage them. “I’m very passionate about the welfare of soldiers,” and promised to do everything humanly possible to encourage them if made defence minister.

The floor of the Senate was thrown into frenzy and a drama of sort, as Lai Mohammed appeared before the Senators.

The emergence of the APC’s vociferous spokesman sparked off a mild drama, as senators, especially those from his party began to yell ‘bow and go’ ‘bow and go.’

Ali Ndume, Senate leader, moved a motion that Mohammed should bow and go but Saraki asked that senators allow him (Mohammed) to speak in line with the tradition of the Senate, even as of “bow and go” chant continued to rent the air.

In his speech, Mohammed said:  “I might have ruffled a few feathers in the course of my duties, it wasn’t personal. I believe four years is too small to stay in opposition, they might have to stay longer. It is service to be in opposition but its higher service to serve in government.

“The APC government will not be as harsh to the PDP as it was when his party was the opposition party.”

At this point, Godswill Akpabio Senate minority leader said having known Mohammed so well, it was not unusual that he might have propaganda to drop before the Senate.

The APC national image-maker, who is touted to become information minister, added that his mission and vision if confirmed minister was to be passionate, committed and patriotic as he was as the APC spokesman.

He later bowed and left the chamber.

Amina Mohammed Ibrahim from Gombe State spoke on millennium goals and how she would help to develop entered, at the time of filing this report. “We need partnerships to develop this country and grow domestic relationships,” Mohammed said.

The senate is scheduled to continue the screening of the remaining 11 nominees on Wednesday, October 14.

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