Tuesday 8 August 2023

Ministerial nominees: El-Rufai, Damladi, Okotete fail DSS security test

Almost two weeks after forwarding names of ministerial nominees to the Senate, the upper legislative chamber, yesterday, suspended the confirmation of three ministerial nominees, following unfavourable security reports.

Those whose confirmation were suspended were former governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Sani Abubakar Damladi of Taraba State and Stella Okotekpe from Delta State.

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, while making the revelation, said: “We’ve confirmed only 45 out of 48 names sent to. The other three names have not been confirmed because we’re still awaiting security report.”

Those confirmed as minister-designates are Abubakar Momoh, Yusuf Maitama, Architect Dangiwa, Hannatu Musawa, Chief Uche Nnaji, Beta Edu, Doris Aniche, David Umahi and Nyesom Wike

Others are Mohamed Badaru, Ekperikpe Ekpo, Nkiru Onyejiocha, Olubumi Ojo, Uju Kennedy, Bello Mohammed Goroyo, Dele Alake and Lateef Fagbemi.

Mohammed Idris, Edu Muhi, Wahid Adebayo, Imma Suleiman, Ali pate, Joseph Usev, Abubaka Kyari, John Eno, Abdullahi Tijjani Gwarzo, Bosun Tijani, Isiak Salako, Tunji Alausa, Dr Yusuf Tanko Sununu, Adegboyega Oyetola, Atiku Bagudu and Bello Matawalle got their nominations confirmed too.

Also confirmed were Ibrahim Geidam, Simon Lalong, Lola Ade John, Shuaibu Abubakar Audu, Prof Tahir Mamman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Senator Alkali Ahmed Saidu, Senator Heineken Lokpobori, Uba Maigari Ahmadu and Zaphaniah Bitrus Jisalo, Dr. Mariya Mahmoud Bunkure and Festus Keyamo.

The exercise started on a chaotic note when the confirmation hearing of Keyamo ran into a storm. Trouble started at about 1:45 pm when a principal officer of the Senate from Abia Central and Minority Whip, Darlington Nwakocha raised a constitutional point of order.

In his long explanation, Nwakocha quoted Section 88, subsection 1&2 of the 1999 Constitution.

He told senators that the screening and confirmation of Keyamo be suspended until the nominee explains how he disbursed N52 billion approved by the ninth National Assembly for 774,000 beneficiaries of the Special Public Works (SPW) programme.

Nwakocha said Keyamo repeatedly refused to honour series of summons extended to him by the National Assembly. He said until the issues surrounding the disbursement of the funds or otherwise were addressed, Keyamo’s screening and confirmation be suspended indefinitely.

As soon as Nwakocha rounded off, the chamber was thrown into chaos. Seconding the motion, another senator from Abia State and former minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the confirmation be suspended immediately.

When Akpabio subjected the issue to a voice vote, those in support had their way but Akpabio refused to rule accordingly.

For over 10 minutes, Akpabio lost control of the chamber, until he had to stand up to read certain sections of the Senate Standing Rules.

Unwilling to let go, senators called for a division and a head count to ascertain those in support and against the motion. Sensing more trouble, Akpabio urged leader of the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele to intervene. Bamidele quickly called for a closed door session, after which a decision will be taken.

However, as soon as the Senate shut its doors to the media, Akpabio hurriedly left for the Presidential Villa, where he met with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for over one hour.

Senators told newsmen in confidence that during the meeting between Akpabio and Tinubu, the president insisted on the nomination of Keyamo and told the Senate President to create a soft-landing for him.

The senator said the Deputy President of the Senate, Barau Jibrin and the leader of the Senate, Bamidele, were also present at the emergency meeting in the Presidential Villa.

After the anger and protest on the floor of the Senate, Keyamo apologised. A senator from Nasarawa State, Godiya Akwashiki, begged his colleagues to accept the apology and allow him go. After accepting the apology, Keyamo was asked to take a bow and go without responding to any questions.

•S’East ministerial appointment

Meanwhile, Akpabio has promised to engage President Tinubu over complaints by South East senators, following the imbalance in the appointment of ministers.

The Senate president, who spoke at the end of plenary on was reacting to a motion stepped down in the Order Paper.

The motion tagged: “Urgent Need to Balance Geo-political Representation in the Ministerial Appointment”, was sponsored by Tony Nwoye and 14 other senators from the South East geopolitical zone.

Following the confirmation hearing of ministerial nominees, the item couldn’t be debated and a position taken.

Notwithstanding the above,  Akpabio said he will take up the issue with the President in order to address the imbalance.


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