The Senate will on Tuesday (today) confirm the appointment of ministerial nominees who passed its screening. But the Peoples Democratic Party on Monday called on the Senate to send the nominees’ list to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for further screening because “some of the ex-governors and former ministers nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari have corruption cases on their necks.”
PUNCH NEWSPAPER: Ministerial screening: Senate okays nominees today, PDP demands EFCC probe
The red chamber had, between Wednesday and Monday, screened 39 out of the 43 nominees forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday last week. The nominees screened on Monday were Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara); Goddy Jedy-Agba (Cross River); Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa); Maryam Katagun (Bauchi); Clement Agba (Edo); Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu); Muhammad Mahmoud (Kaduna); Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos). The remaining nominees to be screened on Tuesday (today) are Sabo Nanono (Kano), Lai Mohammed (Kwara) and Saleh Mamman (Taraba). The Senate President will preside over the plenary after the screening of the remaining three nominees and seek confirmation for each of the appointees, one after the other through voice votes on Tuesday (today).
The red chamber is expected to proceed on annual two months recess after the confirmation. But as the Senate was screening some of the ministerial nominees on Monday, the PDP urged the Senate to further give credibility to its ministerial screening by sending the nominees’ names to the EFCC for further investigation and screening. The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement also stated that the screening must have enabled the Senate to further confirm that many of the nominees presented to it by President Muhammadu Buhari included alleged corrupt persons. These individuals, Ologbondiyan claimed, were former governors and ministers who had allegedly wrecked their states and ministries. He added that some of them had serious allegations of corruption, abuse of office and stealing of public funds hanging on their necks. According to him, the nomination of persons allegedly with corruption badges to serve in the federal cabinet indicated that “Buhari does not only condone graft but also explicitly promotes corruption.”
He stated that this was particularly sad as Buhari had earlier declared that he would only “nominate persons he knows personally.” Ologbondiyan said, “It, therefore, speaks volumes that the persons Mr President “personally” knows and has nominated as ministers include such individuals that have been publicly indicted and known to be answering questions as accomplices in ongoing corruption cases in various courts. “The PDP calls on the Senate to note that some of the nominees have failed to defend their corruption allegations. This includes a particular former minister from the North-Central, who had admitted to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission of complicity in the N2.5bn National Broadcasting Commission fraud case, still pending in court. “This is in addition to certain nominees, who as state governors, swindled their states, fleeced workers and committed several financial crimes for which they should rather be standing trial, instead of being rewarded with official protection as ministers. “Our party notes that the gathering of corrupt persons as cabinet ministers is a clear pointer to a scheme by the cabal in the Presidency to further entrench corruption in our nation.
“Urging the Senate to take a cursory look at the allegations of bribe-for-ministerial-slot making the rounds in the public space, the PDP said the Senate must rise to the occasion and ensure that Nigerians are not totally let down.” The PDP spokesman urged the Senate to note that Buhari had not demonstrated any commitment to the fight against corruption. According to him, for that reason, Nigerians now look up to the National Assembly to protect the nation from the alleged excesses of the Buhari Presidency. He stated that the PDP had demonstrated this determination in its nominations for leadership positions in the party at all levels.
Ologbondiyan urged the Senate to stand with the people by resisting the alleged manipulations of the Buhari Presidency to ensure that only persons with clean records were cleared as ministers. However, none of the presidential spokespersons, Mr Femi Adesina and Mr Garba Shehu, responded to calls from The PUNCH last night, to seek their comments on the position of the PDP. But Shehu had in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday asked Nigerians who held the view that some of the ministerial nominees were not qualified to become ministers to take their complaints to the National Assembly. He said Buhari alone could not fight corruption in the country, hence Nigerians must also play their role in the anti-graft war.
CACOL backs PDP, says nominees must be subjected to graft probe
Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, said the PDP was not alone in the call for the ministerial nominees to be subjected to corruption probe. Adeniran said, “It is not just the PDP that is making that call. What we even recommended was that the Senate, while screening, should have done background checks on the nominees to know those that corruption allegations are hanging on their necks, because the essence of screening is to find out how suitable they are. The Senate should have asked them to go and clear themselves of the corruption allegations before coming back to the Senate for screening. Those that are being prosecuted should have been asked to have their trial concluded before they come back to the Senate.
“I don’t understand why the President would nominate people that have been indicted of corruption. So, if the PDP is making such a demand, it is its duty to do so. But it is not only the PDP that is making the demand. CACOL is also saying that these people need to discharge themselves of the corruption allegations against them and they have to come with a clean bill of health before they would be allowed to be appointed minister.
Guardian Newspaper: Senators flay Buhari government over unfinished projects
The performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari government in the last four years, especially on infrastructure, came under heavy criticism at the Senate yesterday.Many lawmakers rated government very low when former Works, Power and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, currently a ministerial nominee, appeared before the chamber for screening. They frowned on the inability of government to bring any project to completion during the period, despite a huge budgetary allocation for critical infrastructural needs. Senators Francis Alimikhena and Adamu Aliero noted that “year in, year out,” there was no project commissioning by Fashola. They therefore wondered what difference he would bring on board if President Muhammadu Buhari deploys him to the same ministry.Former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha complained bitterly about the performance of the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS). He described their emergence as a “political roundabout,” saying serious measures must be taken to address the problems of electricity distribution in the country.
In his submission, former Gombe State Governor Danjuma Goje declared that road projects in the last administration were “perpetually ongoing” even when expectations were high that some would soon be commissioned.Also, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central), the wife of All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Bola Tinubu, shocked lawmakers when she disclosed that her constituency was not carried along by the Works, Power and Housing Ministry in the last four years. She decried the lack of access to Fashola to secure employment opportunities for members of her constituency in the ministry. “I want you to put that in your agenda for the second term that we all need slots for employment for our constituents,” Tinubu appealed.Despite the nation’s N24.9 trillion debt, Fashola suggested that another N10 trillion should be borrowed to fund the infrastructural needs, to which Senate President Ahmad Lawan replied: “Borrowing is an option. But is there a way to get another complementary means of solving the problem of infrastructure?”Fashola stated that funding gap in the budgetary allocation was responsible for the non-completion of the litany of projects across the country. According to him, the ministry had to make do with about 50 per cent budget. The challenge, he explained, is evidenced in the deficit incurred yearly.
The former Lagos State governor recalled his earlier suggestion to the Senate for innovative funding like Sukuk, which provided N100 billion to fund road projects across the six geopolitical zones in 2018.He said a possible funding opportunity for critical infrastructure could be accessed from Sukuk or a slight variation of its kind. “I think there is some opportunity, and I made this presentation during the last 2019 budget presentation that one of the ways, I think, is to expand instruments like Sukuk.“Maybe it won’t be Sukuk this time but I think Nigeria can seek to leverage from the large pool of funds, with the ordinary people looking for secure investments. Some of them are not even in the banking sector. “I propose that we should consider something like a N10 trillion infrastructure bond backed by parliamentary support and secured by the Federal Government with a reasonable coupon issued in tranches each year, as we need to fund infrastructure.”
Fashola also said such expansion of the funding vehicle should be “broken up into even very small denominations that people can invest as much as only N1,000. And those who want to invest in billions can do so.“In my view, if we don’t try this, we wouldn’t know whether it has worked. But I am convinced that we can do something along this line, based on the interest that I saw in Sukuk. In the N100 billion Sukuk for example, there were about 286 investors and the instrument was oversubscribed, which meant there was an appetite for it.” Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu noted: “As it is today, it is going to be difficult for us to achieve our maximum expectation in the road sector by yearly appropriation. We can use the Public Private Partnership (PPP) option to fast-track the process and the private sector involved.”
But Fashola argued: “PPPs are complex. They take time to negotiate. Even here, in the Federal Government, we need to go through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to advertise. In a government that has four years to show results and in a country where there are high expectations for results, we must be more skillful on how we use them.”He explained further: “Let me also say that PPPs are not attractive for all projects. I have learned to distinguish between social projects like roads and commercial projects like airports and hospitals where there is a daily cash count. Those are easier for private investors to want to put their money into, than roads and the risk of construction.
Sun Newspaper: Abdulsalami warns over rising tension
Former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) has expressed concern over growing tension and resentment in the country occasioned by the security challenges. General Abdulsalami said the problems, which revolve around issues and matters of peaceful co-existence and security demand urgent actions by governments and well meaning Nigerians. The former head of state spoke in Minna, yesterday, at the opening of a two-day roundtable discussion organised by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. “This roundtable is the centre’s contribution to the search for solutions to some of the problems we are currently experiencing as a nation, particularly issues and matters around co-existence and security.
“Nigeria is going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment all over the country. “There is anger in the land and the voices of reason are drowning very rapidly. It is clear that the situation requires that we all live up to the expectations of a nation that puts so much value in elders and leaders.” He emphasised that the round table discussion which had participants drawn from across the country would brainstorm on solutions to the problems being experienced in the country. “We are all here as Nigerians who share responsibility for the state of our nation, therefore if any forum can help in the accurate identification of the problems and solutions for a united peaceful Nigeria, let us be counted among such fora.” Chairman and former Nigeria permanent representative to the United Nation, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari cautioned those agitating for outright separation of the country as solution to the current crisis to take a second look at the experiences of other countries that have travelled the same road.
He said there could never be military solution to any conflict, hence the need to embrace dialogue. “To bring conflicts under control, you must look for a common ground,” he admonished. He suggested that team building must go hand-in-hand in conflicts resolution, stressing that “this enable you build foundation for conflicts resolution.” In attendance were: Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullah, PDP national women leader, Josephine Anini, Amb. Yahaya Kwande, presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, Emir of Bida and Chairman, Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, Emir of Minna, Alhaji Umar Farouk Bahago, representatives of the chief of defence staff, the national security adviser, among others. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) had, at the last minute, pulled out of a roundtable cited the invitation of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) as their reason.
The forum, in a letter co-signed by Edwin Clark, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) leader, Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader, John Nwodo, leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Pogu Bitrus, leader of the Middle Belt Forum said: “We observed that the roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, chief of defence staff and notable Nigerians, underscoring the high level of the dialogue. “We were comfortable up to that point until we saw the following: Gan Allah Fulani Development Association, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.”