Senate Commences Ministerial Screening as Senate Sustains Bow and Go Ritual …controversy over bio-data of Benue nominee

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By Iyojo Ameh

The Senate on Monday commenced the screening of ministerial nominees sent to it by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu but the exercise started two hours behind schedule

Meanwhile, contrary to the promise by the upper legislative chamber, the screening exercise was not devoid of the usual bow and go .

A total of 14 nominees were screened with ten of them accorded the privilege of bow and go.

A mini drama ensued when lawmakers grilled a ministerial nominee from Benue State, Joseph Utsev, citing “discrepancies” in his biodata.

Utsev told the lawmakers that he was born in Gboko, Benue State on December 2, 1980 and he attended the University of Agriculture, Makurdi where he studied Civil Engineering and graduated with a Second Class Upper in 2004.

Utsev said he observed the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kaduna in 2006.

The Professor of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering said he bagged his Master’s Degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2007 and further bagged a doctorate degree from same university in 2011.

However, Senator Tokunbo Abiru from Lagos East Senatorial District asked Utsev to clarify his biodata.

“You were born on December 2, 1980 but reading further down, you attended St John Primary School, Gboko, in 1989,” Abiru said. “I am wondering whether you finished secondary school in 1989 which suggest that you started primary school at the age of three to finish in 1989.”

“You also claim that you went to secondary school in 1995,” Abiru continued, adding that “what appeared a bit distorted” is that “you graduated in 2004 meaning that you probably would have spent nine years for your first degree”.

The nominee responded that he started primary school in the year 1984 and got his first school leaving certificate in 1989.

“I furthered to secondary school to 1990 to 1995, that was when I got my SSCE (Senior School Certificate Examination),” Utsev explained.

“I was actually supposed to pass out in 2003 but there was a prolonged strike by ASUU, I spent six years in the programme and that was why I graduated in 2004,” the nominee added.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio interjected and said the nominee probably finished nursery school at the age of three to start primary school at the same age.

“The question was you were born in 1980 and you had your first leaving certificate in 1989, that means that the period you should have been in nursery school at the age of four years, you were already in Primary one,” Akpabio said and the lawmakers had a good laugh.

Akpabio thereafter said the discrepancy in Utsev’s biodata must have been a typo error.

However, a member from Benue North-West Senatorial District, Titus Zam Tartenger, raised Order 42 on personal explanation, saying that there is no discrepancy in the biodata of the professor.

Senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, Ishaku Abbo, said there was no discrepancy in Utsev’s biodata.

He was later asked to take a bow and go.

Also Former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike took the podium and said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not regret nominating him as a minister, describing himself as a performer.

Speaking during his ministerial screening before the Senate, he said he executed and commissioned series of capital projects, across Rivers when he served as governor.

“Everyday I was commissioning projects . Mr President will not regret nominating me as a minister,” he said.

Senator Mpigi Barinada (PDP, Rivers) said over 5 million people from the state supported the Wike’s ministerial nomination and urged his colleagues to free him.

However Senate President Godswill Akpabio explained why the former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was not thoroughly quizzed when he appeared before the Senate for screening as a ministerial nominee

Akpabio said Wike was not thoroughly grilled because the Senate had his records, having formerly served as a minister.

He said Wike had appeared before the Senate for screening when he was nominated as a minister by ex- President Goodluck Jonathan.

It would be recalled that Wike served as Minister of State for Education under former President Jonathan.

Another screening was that of nominee from Taraba State, Senator Abubakar Danladi who was questioned on the Supreme court judgement that barred him from holding any public office as a result of certificate age and falsification

In his response, he said there was court that bar him from contesting for public office

” There was nothing in Appeal Court, they just struck out the case for lack of merit

“At the Supreme Court, the same thing happened as Justice Mrs Odili said that the Federal High Court Jalingo was wrong to have passed the judgemwnt that manner because when I was a deputy Governor in 2007 then the judgement on that, they used their executive power at that time to nullify me so from Supreme Court I had to go back to the Federal High Court Jalingo since the Supreme Court said there was no bases for the Federal High Court Jalingo to do that judgment.

” Then the same jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Jalingo are now sat on the same judgemwnt and set aside that judgement that is hanging on me.
Akpabio. he stressed.

The Senate President in reaction, said the Federal High Court Jalingo gave a judgement against you that you were not qualified to contest on the bases of perjury that you lied on oath in respect of your date of birth, then later the Federal High Court sat on the same matter and cleared you?

The Senate President therefore said his case will be looked into later and asked him to take a bow and go.

The screening exercise continue on Tuesday.

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