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Another Look At The Ministerial Screening

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By Mon-Charles Egbo

Nigeria is presently going through her worst of times. The country never had it this devastating. The citizens are not just wailing but are suffocating sequel to pains and frustrations.

Yet ironically, these have provoked an unusual sense of vigilance and activism among the citizenry. Most people have suddenly become interested in governance more than ever. And consequently, there is now a massive expression of impatience regarding the expectations for interventions that deliver direct relief and assurances. The people are lamenting that what they experience today was certainly not what they bargained for with their votes.

Hence, the recent screening and subsequent confirmation of the ministerial nominees by the Senate was one event that underscored these feelings of disenchantment and rekindled citizens’ interest in governance.

The exercise was roundly dismissed as a mere formality, full of frivolities. This perception was cumulatively sequel to the “bow-and-go” syndrome, eligibility and competency questions, lack of scrutiny and vigour as well as the absence of proofs of declaration of assets and liabilities. Others included low-level youth inclusion, gender disparity, exclusion of people living with disabilities and the over-bloated nature of the nominee’s list, the elevation of partisan patronage above technocracy and then imbalance along the geo-political divides. Then to dramatize those issues and the belief that indeed, the exercise was below public expectations, there were various protests, advocacies and petitions.

Therefore by way of illustrations, certain nominees were shielded from scrutiny having been asked to just take a “bow and go” with little or no presentations, thereby denying Nigerians the opportunity of ascertaining the capabilities or otherwise of the would-be ministers. Also, while some others who had unimpressive outings in the past and the ones with moral burdens were given a clean bill of health, nothing was done about the absence of the nominees’ proofs of assets and liabilities declaration as required by the laws.

Fundamentally, these perspectives sign-post patriotic consciousness and clamour for public officials with proven competencies and abilities who are validated by a responsible and responsive parliament, towards good governance and national development.

But as compelling as those conclusions are, they can still be subjected to objectivity tests primarily by interrogating the laws.

By section 147 of the 1999 constitution on the appointment of ministers, it is the prerogative of the president to nominate while the senate confirms upon screening. It further says that primarily, the nominee must be “qualified for election into the House of Representatives.” And such qualification according to section 65 sub-section 2 of the constitution; the nominee must be educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent and, is a member of a political party and be sponsored by that party.

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Instructively, there are no definite rules or a template for performing this all-important function. It thus implies that the Senate enjoys all the latitude and flexibility to apply any mode, provided that the laws, especially on the basic qualifications, are recognized. So by inference, the legislators,

in establishing the characters and relative competencies of the nominees, are to restrict themselves to the earlier submitted details and then the interactive presentations on the floor. Also, they can screen and confirm based on antecedence.

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that screening does not translate to probe. There are specialized agencies that undertake elaborate investigations ahead of the Senate. This is the tradition.

However, citizens have the right to raise objections to the appointments of public officials. But such rights are exercised to their full potential either through the legislature or the judiciary. Between the elected representatives and the courts of law, including even the security agencies, one is at liberty to express themselves. At least, the nominees are well-publicized before their appearances for screening, which affords ample time to raise whatever misgivings, through either petitions or legal judgements. And of course, as highlighted above, records spoke for some. Those whose past conducts challenged the institutional memory of the Senate and the ones whose nominations elicited security concerns were duly taken care of.

Furthermore, and except for ignorance or deliberate motives, there are parliamentary conventions that confer some kind of privileges to certain categories of persons. These include those who have previously passed through the legislature, either having served as a lawmaker or screened by the parliament. By the protocol, they do not necessarily require reassessment given that their background data are already on the legislative archive. As such, their recent details ought to have answered all the eligibility and capability questions. But unarguably, this peculiar courtesy does not completely immune the nominees from re-evaluation, when necessary. And again on another hand, it will be extremely difficult to establish the ingenuity or expertise of a prospective appointee in the absence of the intended portfolios.

Then above all, because the buck stops on the desk of the president, who takes all the glory and blames, the discretion is entirely his, as to the quality of hands to enlist in his bid to actualize his agenda. He was entrusted with the popular mandate based on what he represents and the things he promised to deliver. Besides, there are mechanisms to regulate productivity or tackle incompetence and ineligibility in governance, such as key performance indices, KPIs, and the force of public opinion. The potency of these instruments has variously been demonstrated wherein some public officials were either sacked or made to resign when found wanting, while those that eventually served out their terms were denied subsequent opportunities.

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Similarly, and on the claim of corruption, it is absolutely unfair to conclude that someone is of questionable disposition without concrete proof. The rule has always been that whoever is convicted faces the law. Nigeria’s history is replete with instances where variously, a serving lawmaker was sent to jail, serving ministers and heads of agencies notably, a serving secretary to the government of the federation, as well as some prominent judicial officers were relieved of their positions when proven corrupt. Also by the same token, a finance minister and presidential aides were made to quit offices principally by the immense power of public opinion. So it is uncharitable to just condemn an individual merely on parochial sentiments.

Still, on the issue of code of conduct, section 149 of the constitution says, that declaration of assets and liabilities is not done prior to appointment but after the nominee has been confirmed and has “subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office as minister.” As such, anything to the contrary is unconstitutional and diversionary.

So, conceding that Mr President in the exercise of his sole priviledge, has put forward those he trusts could deliver, the critical questions then should be: do they individually have the will, courage, and capacity to provide solutions?, are they Nigerians and passionate about national development?, are the states of the federation represented as required by the law, especially for the first time, the FCT? and lastly, does the senate have the constitutional powers to stop the president from appointing anyone of his choice?

All these uphold the urgent need to tinker with the laws, particularly towards strengthening the legislature and other strategic institutions. The constitution is plagued by a substantial measure of weakness and in its wake, retards democratic governance and development.

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But in the interim, the senate in a deliberate bid not to slow down governance, and guided by national interest, has discharged its responsibility. And thankfully also, the people have established the basic moral and performance benchmarks for the prospective ministers. So the ball is now in President Bola Tinubu’s court. As he dispatches them to their respective duty posts, governance has taken off in earnest and also, the assessment and evaluation by the vigilant masses have begun.

But moving forward, everyone should pay attention, with open minds, to the national assembly. The Senate cannot just for political expediency, feign ignorance of the shallowness of the constitution and begin to question the sense of judgement of the president in assembling those he believes can catalyze his obligations. The president of the senate, Godswill Akpabio, was popularly elected by his colleagues on the strength of his avowed commitment to collaboration against confrontation with the presidency, in the lasting interest of the citizenry, without of course, compromising the interdependence of the arms of government. His ideology is anchored on the truism that it is in the commitment of the arms of government to a shared vision or common policy direction while pursuing their different but complementary functions, that the welfare and security of the citizens are guaranteed. And to his credit in this regard so far, he has demonstrated steadfastness.

Even beyond that, past experiences have shown that whether or not the Senate withholds confirmation, the president who is the appointing authority must work with whoever he chooses, as long there are no significant breaches. The cases of the immediate past EFCC and Customs headships are pointers.

Once again and empirically, the Senate’s confirmation does not mean the end of the process. The ministers are now open to a critical round of ‘screening’ wherein the president’s fire-and-hire powers are wielded against those who fall short of the right traits to hold offices.

But it all depends on how much the people sustain this renewed sense of vigilance and interest in governance, particularly by closing ranks with the legislature, given its peculiar constitutional circumstances. Active participation through a regular exchange of information with the elected representatives backed by constructive criticisms is crucial now if we truly wish for a happy, just and prosperous Nigeria.

Egbo is a parliamentary affairs analyst

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General News

First Lady Calls for Gender Parity, Applauds APC Initiatives, and Encourages West Africa to Follow Nordic Models

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By Iyojo Ameh

Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, has recognized the substantial barriers that women in the West African sub-region face in achieving gender parity.

Speaking at the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) event at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Monday, 22 July 2024, Tinubu emphasized the need for women’s active participation in politics, stating:

“Despite progress, significant barriers still exist. We must rethink women’s proportional representation in governance.”

Tinubu commended the All Progressives Congress (APC) for removing financial barriers for women in politics and highlighted the success of gender quotas in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Spain, which have led to more inclusive governance. She urged governments to enforce gender quotas through legal frameworks and monitoring systems, saying:

“Governments must take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

The First Lady expressed confidence in Nigerian women’s abilities, stating:

“Nigerian women are smart and intelligent and can work alongside our male counterparts, without friction, for the good and development of our country.”

She thanked ECOFEPA for its commitment to achieving 30% women representation in parliament, saying:

“The journey towards achieving 30% women representation in our parliament is achievable once we take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

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General News

TIME TO STAND TOGETHER

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By Sen. Ahmad I. Lawan, Ph.D, GCON

In these difficult times facing our beloved nation, Nigeria, we stand at a critical juncture where the weight of history rests squarely upon our shoulders. As leaders, we have individual and collective duties and responsibilities to safeguard the future of our country and ensure its prosperity. In the face of mounting economic challenges that threaten to undermine our national unity and progress, it is imperative that we unite and rally behind our President, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. It is time to set aside our differences and work together to build a prosperous future for us all.

Nigeria’s economy has been plagued by a myriad of problems, including high inflation, unemployment, and a widening income gap. President Tinubu, upon assuming office on May 29, 2023, had pledged to prioritize economic growth and job creation through a series of bold and innovative policies captured under the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’. He backed these up by investing heavily in infrastructure, making efforts to attract foreign direct investment, and promoting entrepreneurship. His thinking was that by creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, we can expand our tax base, generate more revenue, and provide the much-needed employment opportunities for our teeming youth population.

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Nevertheless, the economic headwinds that we encounter are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. The global economy has been severely impacted by a confluence of factors, which in turn have resulted in supply chain disruptions in the demand for crude oil, our country’s major source of revenue. These external forces have exacerbated pre-existing economic vulnerabilities within our country, leading to rising inflation, unemployment, and falling living standards.

President Tinubu is acutely aware of the challenges and hardship that Nigerians face. His administration, to the best of our knowledge, has outlined a comprehensive economic plan aimed at addressing these issues in a holistic and sustainable manner that seeks to, amongst others, Stabilize the economy and control inflation; Promote job creation and economic growth; Improve infrastructure and energy production; Enhance agriculture and food security; and Combat corruption and promote transparency.

However, the success of any government’s economic plan depends heavily on the cooperation and support of its citizens.

In the face of difficulties facing the country, it is essential that political leaders come together at this time to support President Tinubu in developing and implementing effective solutions to the unintended outcomes that trailed some of the policies of the administration.

The nation’s future hangs precariously in the balance, and it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to prioritize the well-being of our citizens.

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It is disheartening to witness the petty politicking and divisive rhetoric that have dominated our political discourse in recent times. While healthy debate is essential for a vibrant democracy, it must not be allowed to overshadow the urgent task of addressing the plight of our people.

The hardship that Nigerians endure is palpable. Skyrocketing inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the average citizen, leaving many struggling to put food on the table.

It is, therefore, imperative that as leaders, we all put aside partisan differences and work together in the national interest. By collaborating with President Tinubu, political leaders and stakeholders alike can pool ideas and expertise to come up with innovative solutions to Nigeria’s economic challenges.

Moreover, we all should be willing to make tough decisions and sacrifices for the greater good of the country. This may involve implementing unpopular reforms or policies, but these are essential in order to secure a better future for all Nigerians.

Although the federal government has announced the distribution of 20 trucks of rice to every state, which, in my opinion is a step in the right direction. But, I must point out that the quantity of foodstuffs needed in Nigeria today requires expeditious and massive supply by the FGN to address issues of both availability and affordability.

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President Tinubu cannot succeed in achieving this alone. He needs the support of governors, lawmakers, and local government officials. He needs the cooperation of the private sector and civil society organizations. And most importantly, he needs the patriotism of all Nigerians.

We must all be willing to compromise and find common ground, even if it requires us to step outside of our comfort zones.

The spirit of patriotism that once defined Nigeria must be rekindled. It is a spirit that transcends ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation. It is a spirit that puts the interests of the nation above all else.

By working together as leaders, we can overcome the country’s challenges and set it on a path towards sustainable development, growth and prosperity. It is my hope that we all rise to the occasion and support President Tinubu in his efforts to build a stronger and more vibrant economy; and a secured, stable and peaceful nation.

We are stronger together.

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Crime

Shitile Integrity Group Condemns Attacks on Harga, urges Govt.to Improve security in Sankara

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Shitile Integrity Group (SIG),a social -cultural group of Shitile sons in diaspora have condemned in strongest term, the incessant attacks on Harga, a community in Katsina -Ala Local Government Area of Benue State where several innocent residents have been killed, including the recent attack which about 18 defenceless citizens were gruesomely murdered in cold blood ,at the early hours of Saturday, 20th July 2024.

In a statement made available to the Citypost, Hon. Ben Ukeji
Ivaan I Ayange Tsanyi,
President, SIG group says the continuous tergeted attacks on Harga ,and other places in Shitile land is an indication of a complete breakdown of law and order, and urges government at all levels to step up security around Shitile, and indeed Sankera axis to protect lives and property .

Jeremy Bentham, says the essence of government is utilitarianism .

SIG bemoans the manner where lives of their kinsmen are brazenly wasted in a horrendous manner and called on the government to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous crime are made to face the full wrath of the law.

The statement reads in parts: “We condemned in its enterity ,this act of barbarism where innocent people are slaughtered, murdered like animals within Shitile land . This shameful, inhumane , criminal behavior
have continued unabated for some years leading to herriofic deaths as well as the destruction of socioeconomic and educational activities.”

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“We also want to state emphatically that, such acts are inhumane , ungodly, and must stop now!

SIG, note with utmost dismay, the violation of all international protocols and municipal law, especially the fourth (4 ) Geneva convention of 1949 which protects Civilians and civil objects from harm even in a war situation, talkeless of peace time .

“It is therefore, surprising to us that innocent blood of peaceful citizens is being wasted without adequate machinery on ground to contend the renigants .
We use this midum to appeal to those behind this murderous activities to eschew violence and embrace peace for the growth and development of Shitile nation both in Taraba and Benue States respectively.
It’s very important for the youth to understand that, issues are resolved through dialogue”

“SIG wishes to commend His Excellency, the Governor of Benue State, Rev. fr. Hyacinth Iormen Alia, for his efforts towards ending the menace and urge him not to relent on his oars.

We are aware of the government approval for the deployment of a Police Mobile Force to Harga to quell the crises

While we acknowledge the many initiatives of the governor in this regard,we most respectfully request the government to seek for a wholeistic approach to end this wanton killings and distraction of lives and property.

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“We equally call on the” traditional institutions in Shitile and Sankera intermediate area to take necessary measures in conjunction with the political class, and other stakeholders towards bringing this sad narrative to an end.
We sincerely commiserate with the families of victims of the attacks , the Mbacher community, Shitile nation and indeed Katina-Ala LGA.
May the good lord in his infinity mercy ,restore peace to Shitile land “

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