Senate Okays Exclusion of Ondo, Bayelsa, Others from Ambassadorial List

  • Says five children die of malnutrition every hour in IDP camps
  • Passes N241.4bn FCT budget

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

About six weeks after the Senate received the list of 47 ambassadorial nominees from President Muhammadu Buhari amid protests and petitions against the choice and selection of the nominees, the parliament yesterday said the procedure for the selection was in order.

Consequently, the Senate resolved to immediately begin the screening of the nominees which had been suspended since June 9 when the list was sent by the president.

The upper legislative chamber had in contrast to its tradition to speedily treat executive communications suspended the screening of the nominees, thus fueling insinuations that the feud between both arms of government was responsible for the action.

However, the resolution to immediately begin the screening of the nominees yesterday was the fallout of the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs which had been mandated to investigate the petitions and complaints which trailed the selection of the nominees.

The committee had received 37 petitions which among others, alleged lopsidedness in the nomination while states such as Bayelsa, Benue, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, and Taraba were not represented on the list.

But the report of the committee presented by the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani during yesterday’s plenary, recommended the immediate commencement of the screening, submitting that states that were excluded in the nominations did not meet the requirements for selection.

According to Sani, such states were not represented on the list either because the most senior officers from such states did not meet the required minimum of 30 months before retirement or fell short of other necessary criteria.
The committee also claimed that contrary to complaints which trailed the selection, due process was actually followed in the appointments adding however, that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, assured the committee that Buhari would address the perceived lopsidedness during the appointments of non-career ambassadors.

The committee also advised the federal government to quickly submit the list of non-career ambassadors just as it urged the government to subsequently sustain the tradition of submitting the list of both career ambassadors and non-career ambassadors simultaneously.

The committee added: “The President should be advised to expedite action on the submission of non-career nominees, which is expected to balance the perceived lopsidedness in the appointments. Moreso, in future nominations, the executive arm should be guided to see the logic of sustaining the previous practice of presenting to the Senate a combined list of both career and non-career nominees for confirmation;

“The executive arm should be equally advised to promptly commence the process of the selection of all nominees and other principal officers of government for appointment, ahead of confirmation by Senate to avoid delays in governmental operations.

“The government is advised to sustain the recommendable compliance to gender representation and balance in the remaining nomination and any other one in the future with a view to giving the female gender the desired sense of belonging.”

Also yesterday, the Senate asked the federal government to immediately release necessary funds through the Ministry of Finance to free up “a strategic framework for the release and distribution of monies from the service wide vote appropriated for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the 2016 budget.”

It also mandated its Joint Senate Committee on Special Duties, States and Local Governments to pay a fact finding visit to the troubled states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States with a view to finding out the challenges of the lDPs.

The parliament also advised the federal government to immediately coordinate a fund raising initiative with the private sector with the objective of ensuring that no child or woman dies again of malnutrition as it is currently the case.

These resolutions were the by-products of a motion moved by Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (Borno Central) during which he noted with utter dismay the recent Joint United Nations Assessment Report released in June 2016 by the International Medical Aid Agency and Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) also called Doctors Without Borders on how hundreds of Nigerians die daily in lDP camps.

According to him, the report gave an estimated 485,822 cases of severe acute malnutrition among children below five years of age as well as pregnant women. He added that 128 of the children reportedly die everyday in the camp, a situation he said implied that five children die every hour.

Noting that the organisation described the situation as a catastrophic humanitarian emergency because 550,000 people face severe food shortages, the senator said the situation was directly linked with the inability of farmers in the affected region to access or cultivate their farms in the last three years.

He also noted the inadequate access to relief materials as well as the need to get more institutions involved in the provision and distribution of the needed relief materials to the people in the IDP camps, regretting that between January and May 2016, United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) treated 2,530 children in Borno State for acute malnutrition.

He also said a total of 47,423 children from Adamawa Borno and Yobe States were treated of acute malnutrition within the same period.

Therefore, he recalled how the precarious situation in the North-east of the country prompted the National Assembly to appropriate N10 billion in the 2016 budget under the service wide vote for relocation and resettlement of IDPs nationwide.

He also observed that the report showed that only about $349.9 million is needed to adequately provide the IDPs with basic living condition for at least 3 months.

In another development, the Senate wednesday passed N241,455,285,471 budget for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the 2016 fiscal year.

Of the sum, N52,982,280,360 is for personnel cost; N34,388,260,823 for overhead cost while the balance of N154,084,744,288, representing 64 percent of the sum is for capital expenditure.

Breakdown of the capital expenditure shows that Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Engineering Services has the vote of N70,596,313,220; Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA), N21.754 billion; FCT administration, N2,767,750,001; FCT Water Board, N1,354,024,237; Abuja Environmental Protection Board, N1,065,024,237; Public Buildings, N12,393,559,931 while Resettlement and Compensation Department gets N3,469,216,002.