The Nigerian Senate has developed a controversial procedure for the confirmation hearings next week for the 21 ministerial nominees.
The criteria for the nominees to be cleared include:
• Each nominee securing the approval of at least two out of the three senators from their state.
• Each nominee to be cleared by the Senate’s public petitions committee.
• Each nominee must submit proof of their declaration of assets
While asset declaration is a constitutional requirement, the first two criteria are based on procedures drawn up by senators, and have raised concerns about their legality.
The constitution states: “Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.”
The constitution does not make provisions for how the Senate should confirm ministerial nominations. In the absence of such provisions, the Senate is then empowered to use its discretion.
There have been suggestions that the requirement for nominees to gain the support of two senators from their state was introduced as a reaction to the practice of state governors providing the names for ministers from each state. Senators, not wanting to miss out on the ministerial gravy train, then wanted a say in who became minister from their state. There is always a whiff of corruption in whatever legislators do in the country.
While many have raised concerns about this requirement for nominees to be endorsed by two senators from their state, the major hurdle for some nominees is likely to be clearance by the Senate’s public petitions committee.
A former governor such as Rotimi Amaechi from Rivers State, faces the prospects of a double whammy of struggling to secure the endorsement of any of the three Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators from his state, who are allies of the governor and Amaechi’s sworn enemy Eze Wike, and having to endure the petitions committee investigating several petitions against Amaechi’s legendary corruption in his eight years as governor.
Senator George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East) has already submitted a petition from his constituents against Amaechi.
Babatunde Fashola, the former governor of Lagos State, also has several corruption petitions hanging over his head. He is also no longer best of pals with his former mentor Bola Tinubu. All the Lagos State senators, which include Tinubu’s wife Remi, sing from the Tinubu hymn sheet. They are likely to make things a bit hairy for Fashola.
The Senate leadership under Bukola Saraki is also likely to use the confirmation hearings to flex its muscles in the low-intensity battle it is having with the presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) hierarchy.
The Chairman of the Senate’s ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, and crucially, a part of Saraki’s inner circle, said when he announced the criteria for the confirmation hearings: “We maintain that the screening exercise will be rigorous, will be expeditious, and it will be thorough. And I repeat that the Senate is not going to politicise the screening exercise, there will be no considerations for region, for ethnic, for religion, for tribe, for friendship.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be our ultimate interest, and we are going to do all these things in public interest. We have received a number of petitions, and those petitions are going to be looked into, and the variety of those petitions will also guide our proceedings during the screening exercise.”
No one should remotely believe that they would act in the interest of Nigeria or the public interest. They will act, as usual, in the interests of their pockets, alliances, friendship and their political ambitions.