Ministerial screening: Senate okays nominees today, PDP demands EFCC probe - THE LIVING GUIDE

Ministerial screening: Senate okays nominees today, PDP demands EFCC probe

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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.”

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.

Some nominees are corrupt, send list to EFCC, PDP tells Senate

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.

“Besides, the nominees also should have declared their assets so that there would be a benchmark to assess them after their tenure of office.”

Infrastructure development hopeless – Fashola

Earlier on Monday at the Senate, a former Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola ( SAN), told the Senate that the Federal Government was helpless in tackling the poor state of infrastructure in the country.

Fashola, who spoke while answering questions from senators during his screening at the upper chamber, lamented that the nation lacked the much-needed funds to fix the nation’s infrastructural deficit.

On how to address the challenge, he said, “I think there are some opportunities and I made this presentation during the last 2019 budget presentation that one of the ways, I think, is to expand instruments like the SUKUK.

“Maybe it won’t be SUKUK this time but I think Nigeria can seek to leverage the large pool of funds with the ordinary people looking for secure investment.

“I hereby propose that we should consider something like a N10tn 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.”

On electricity, he said state governments could generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas not covered by the national grid.

Tinubu demands jobs for her constituents from nominee

There was, however, a mild drama during the screening session when the Senator representing Lagos Central, Oluremi Tinubu, appealed to Fashola to consider some of her constituents for job placements to address the unemployment challenges faced by her people.

The wife of the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, noted that attempts by Fashola to give jobs to Lagos Central youths in the immediate past did not succeed.

Ex-NNPC chief suggests plan to end oil subsidy

Also at the screening, a former group general manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr Goddy Jeddy-Agba, said it was possible to end petroleum subsidy in the country.

He also called for the establishment of a control room equipped with professionals and modern technology to end oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

He said, “We don’t need to import petroleum products. What we need to do is to strengthen the various agencies to check the actual crude being loaded and write report.

“We do not have the technology to monitor the process of loading up to the point of export. For now, it is the international oil companies that determine the quantity of crude they export because we don’t have control over their operations.

“If I am in that ministry, I will push for the establishment of a control room where we will monitor the process of crude loading up to the point of export. We can do that in Nigeria.”

Jeddy -Agba said the best way to stop pipeline vandalism was to lay pipes that would be difficult to destroy, to deploy drones to monitor pipes and pour hot waters on the vandals.

Aregbesola seeks huge tax regime for the rich

But fielding questions from the senators during his screening on Monday, a former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, said he would advocate a new tax regime for wealthy Nigerians to raise the country’s revenue.

Aregbesola, who is a nominee from Osun State, said, “We have left the rich men in Nigeria without allowing them to discharge their responsibilities to the citizens, particularly on taxation. I’m going to pioneer privilege taxes for those who have huge resources or wealth on which Nigerians must tap.

“If I go into details, there could be some ill-feelings in some quarters. I will recommend serious taxation for wealthy people in Nigeria.

“If that will now translate into lifting the burden on the states and the local government councils to reduce their penchant for taxes that make the poor people pay from their inadequate resources, I would have been satisfied. I will advocate a just tax system that will bridge the inequality in our polity.”

Aregbesola said the misinformation about the salary situation in Osun State when he was the governor for eight years was caused by mischievous people who were ignorant of the situation of things then.

He said the disparity in the payment of salaries was stopped in July 2018 before the expiration of his tenure in November.

“The narrative on the issue of salary payment in Osun State is either mischievous or based on ignorance. Nobody can pretend that the Nigerian economy did not suffer a huge downfall from 2014 until when the current administration came in with some palliative to support the state.

“Osun State was hugely affected because we had invested heavily in infrastructure that was totally neglected before. Personnel cost alone was 63 per cent of my total income then.

“Osun State civil service population is huge and top heavy. Whereas workers on grade levels one to seven that constitute 73 per cent of the civil servants take less than N1bn while the fat cats in the levels eight and above were less than 30 per cent of the civil servants but take over N2bn.

“I was therefore forced to do an interesting balancing short of retrenchment. I had to constitute a panel under the leadership of Mr Hassan Sunmonu to monitor all revenue incomes of the state and apportion whatever is left to salaries which was done innovatively.

“We knew that officers on levels one to seven and pensioners cannot even survive on their salaries if we didn’t pay their full salaries. We never owe anybody on levels one to seven a dime.

“But officers from levels eight to 10 earn 75 per cent of their salaries throughout my tenure which ended in July 2018, we stopped all forms of partial payment to anybody in July 2018 and I left the office in November 2018.”

He said it was only those officers on levels 12 and above that had to earn 50 per cent of their salaries between July 2015 and July 2018.”

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