Deji Elumoye and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
For over 30 minutes Thursday, the Senate plenary was held amid rowdiness over allegations of lopsidedness in the appointments into federal boards made against President Muhammadu Buhari by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and three other senators from the South-east zone.
It all began when the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the commencement of the plenary, read a letter from President Buhari, asking the Senate to confirm the nomination of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Tunde Lemo, and seven others as Chairman and Executive Directors of the Board of the Federal Road Management Agency (FERMA).
President Buhari in the letter nominated Nurudeen Rafindadi as Managing Director and five others – Oladapo Kolawole, Mujaidu Dako, Loretta Aniagolu, Shehu Abdullahi, Babangana Aji and Buba Abdullahi as Executive Directors.
Saraki had barely finished reading the letter when Ekweremadu raised a Point of Order to complain about the recent nominations and appointments by the executive, saying they did not reflect the federal character and national unity.
According to him, Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution says the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character and the need to promote national loyalty
He said the constitutional provision “is to ensure that there shall be no predominance of a few states or a few ethnic groups or other factional divisions in government or any of its agencies.”
Ekweremadu added that he was seriously concerned about how government has been directing its appointments.
According to him, “I don’t have any problem with any part of Nigeria but I have problem with the way the government is directing its appointment.
“Over the last two or three weeks, we have had cause to either discuss this FERMA that has been announced today or the NDIC or AMCON or FCSC. The heads of all these federal parastatals have come from one particular part of the country.”
Ekweremadu added for emphasis that “this is completely unfair; we can’t sit in this Senate and allow that to go; so, I believe we need to send it back to the federal government to ensure that every part of Nigeria is represented.”
The Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, while responding to Ekweremadu’s allegations, said the executive usually did its home work before presenting any nominee before the Senate.
He said what was said by Ekweremadu did not reflect the true picture of the federal appointments.
“If you go through the larger picture, that issue is not supposed to be raised in the first place. I am not from the South-west; let me be blunt, the issue raised is predominance but if we can have a larger picture, I am sure we will see a balanced spread of appointments.”
Senators Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North), Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North) and Obinnna Ogba (Ebonyi Central) all joined Ekweremadu to complain about the recent presidential nominations and wanted the Senate to take immediate action to reverse the appointments
The rowdy session continued and it took the Senate president some time to restore order to the chambers.
He promised that the observation of Ekweremadu and other senators had been noted and was referred to the Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs headed by Senator Tijani Kaura (Zamfara North) which is expected to report back to Senate next Tuesday.
The Senate had in the last one week acknowledged no fewer than four letters for confirmation of Chairmen and Members of Boards of federal parastatals from President Buhari.
They include that of Federal Civil Service Commission with Dr. Bello Ingawa as Chairman and 12 Commissioners; 23 Nominees as Commissioners for National Population Commission ; AMCON Board with Banire as Chairman and five other members and NDIC Board with Chief Olabode Mustapha as Chairman and five other members.
The Senate also during the period confirmed the nomination of former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Musiliu Smith and five others as Chairman and members of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Meanwhile, President Buhari has approved the appointment of three Directors-General/Chief Executive Officers of three agencies under the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
The agencies are National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA), Kaduna, National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC), Jos and Nigeria Institute of Mining and Geosciences, (NIMG), Jos.
A statement issued yesterday by the Permanent Secretary (General Services Office) Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Olusegun A. Adekunle, listed the appointees as Umar Albarka Hassan, DG, NSRMEA; Prof Suleiman Bolaji Hassan, Director-General/ CEO NIMG and Prof. Linus Okon Asuquo, Director-General/ CEO NIMG.
The statement said their appointment is for an initial period of four years, with effect from July 12, 2018.
It said the president enjoined the new appointees to use their expertise and varied experiences to reposition and reinvigorate the agencies.
Buhari also charged them to discharge their duties with utmost rectitude and sensitivity to government’s commitment to enhancing mining and steel sector as a major driver of the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.