Two days ago the Senate commenced the screening of President Muhammodu Bohari’s ministerial nominees lists. The Red Chamber presides by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki has so far cleared 18 nominees out of the two batches of lists containing 36.
The cleared nominees who had put up their competence in their various profession before the senators are Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Osage Ehanire, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Amina Mohammed and Suleiman Adamu.
others are Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Senator Chris Ngige, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Senator Aisha Alhassan, Mr. Solomon Dalong, Ms. Kemi Adeosun, Mr. Hadi Sirika and Mr. Ibrahim Jibril.
Fashola who thoroughly quizzed by the Senate for about 70 minutes, addressed questions on several issues including the allegations that he spent N78 million on his website and almost N200 million on the construction of boreholes at the Lagos State Government House when he was the governor of the state.
He was also philosophical in his response on what he understood by the concept of loyalty when Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) questioned him on his perceived disloyalty to those who helped him become the governor of Lagos State.
On both issues, Fashola said when he was governor, he didn’t sign any cheque neither had anybody accused him of corruptly enriching himself.
BRF as fondly called reiterated that he never singed any cheque while in office as governor“Let me say first that it raises the question of the public understanding of the role of governors, public servants and some are surprised to hear that as governor of Lagos State, I did not sign cheques.
“None of my commissioners signed cheques. I did not fix contract prices. It is an institutional process. The only training I have is that of a lawyer. Nobody could award a contract over a benchmark price.
“Throughout my tenure, I have been confronted with the price of things and the reality is that when you design a road, what you meet in reality when construction starts is usually not what you end up with.
“In all of these, nobody has alleged that I have corruptly enriched myself. I could not have been a master in computer and technology. I need something to do my work” Fashola stressed.
He proceeded to add that his view on loyalty was that his loyalty should never be tested.
“As for loyalty, the concept of loyalty is a strange one. The real answer to that question is, may your loyalty not be tested. I always pray that my loyalty will not be tested because you might have to take a bullet for somebody.
“We discuss it loosely but in public service, I have remained loyal to courses that I have signed unto and in all my life, nobody can fairly accuse me of giving my word and going back on my word.” He explained
Fashola, who canvassed for the need to stimulate productivity through taxes and for the promotion of competition among the 36 states of the federation, called for the decentralisation of the police which he said was the antidote to a number of crimes at the local level such as rape which he said the centralised police could not handle.
“As far as distribution is concerned, one of the ways in which we can stimulate the economy of this country at this moment when there is a need, in any event, to move away from oil, is to encourage productivity and to allow the states which generate the most in terms of these taxes to keep as much of them.
“Competition has always been known to stimulate productivity and as much as I can say that I have not probably traveled to all the 36 states of Nigeria, the knowledge and information available suggest to me clearly that no state in this country is unable to undertake some kind of productive activity; whether from minerals in most rural areas, whether it is processing cocoa, whether it is timber processing, and so on.
“Those kinds of multiplier activities support the growth of industries and are accountable to happenings across the nation,” he said.
He further expatiated on decentralisation of the police “The number available to me is that we have probably a standing police force of about 500,000, less than a million, relative to a population that is heading to 180 million.
“So we are under-policed and if the federal government decides to take up these responsibilities on its own, can it do so at the micro-level what is necessary at the state and local government levels? My recommendation is a compelling urgency for decentralisation.
“I have made those recommendations in some of the committees on the constitution amendment where I was privileged to make presentations. There have been arguments about why we should not go there but those arguments did not go far.
“They did not address the fundamental responsibilities that government has. I have heard the argument that (state) governments will abuse the police for political purposes. But the abuse of political power is not as important as loss of lives. And everything we do to advance that course makes us more respected as a government that cares.”
After Fashola, the next screened was the General Managing Director,GMD of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu,
Kachikwu disclosed to the Senate that Nigeria had lost about $15 billion annually due to the failure of the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Kachikwu, who said he had not been restrained by the non-passage of the bill since his appointment as head of the corporation to ensure that the oil sector is salvaged using the existing laws, said the non-passage of the PIB had created uncertainty for foreign investors seeking to invest in Nigeria’s oil sector.
“I can tell you that the average source of volumes in investments that we are losing on an annual basis because of lack of the PIB is in excess of $15 billion per year. And the reason is simple: it would have been better that you didn’t start it at all than announce very flamboyantly that you were going to do a PIB then step back from it, because it created a level of uncertainty that no international investor wanted to grapple with.
“So I will urge this revered Senate to fairly quickly come to terms, find a way of working with us and go ahead and pass those elements of the PIB where there’s no much contention.
“One of the key things that killed the previous bill was that there wasn’t sufficient engagement. Our duties as individuals in the line of progress will be to go out there and have those engagements and hopefully submit to the National Assembly suggestions that have come with people; things that people can live with. There are amendments that need to be made,” Kachikwu said.
He further revealed that Nigeria’s three refineries were currently working at the rate of 25 to 27 per cent of installed capacity and debunked the notion presented by NNPC just before his appointment that the refineries were working at 65 per cent of installed capacity.
He also dismissed rumours of fuel scarcity in the country, saying NNPC has enough petrol in stock that can serve the nation for 40 days.
“We have come out very clearly that there is no such plan. In the next one, two days, you will find that individuals will open their stations and the products are there. We have enough storage in this country that will last us for the next 40, 50 days.
“The refineries are operating today at about 25 to 27 per cent capacity. I know that there had been this whole number bandied around to the fact that we are at 65 per cent performance level.
“That’s not true and I have advised His Excellency (President Buhari) as such. My analysis over the last six weeks confirms a consistent 25 to 27 per cent performance level, because the issue is not an upsurge.
“On average, our performance level is between 25 and 27 per cent, so if we can’t run them, then we need to get out, make adequate arrangements to privatise them and take them out,” he added.
Kachikwu, who said it was an embarrassment that the refineries were not functioning when smaller neighbouring countries like Ghana, Niger and Chad can refine their own products, also debunked the perception that NNPC is populated by corrupt people.
According to him, as many as 80 per cent of the staff were persons of integrity, adding that only 20 per cent of them were bad eggs.
Also yesterday, the nominee from Ogun State, Ms. Adeosun, urged the federal government to review its current mono-economy by engaging in an aggressive diversification of the economy.
She emphasised the need to encourage more youths to get involved in entrepreneurial skills which she said could create wealth and turn them into employers of labour instead of waiting for salaried jobs.
In her engagement with the Senate, Senator Alhassan, ministerial nominee and former governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State, said her nomination by Buhari was not compensation for losing the governorship election in the state.
She described the president as a man of integrity who would not betray his party by contemplating appointing her as compensation for the loss of the governorship election, stressing that she would not give up her battle at the election petitions tribunal challenging her rival, Darius Ishaku’s victory.
“Mr. President is a man of integrity, a man of honour, a man of justice. He will not stop me by giving me an option to take a ministerial position and withdraw my case,” she said.
“And in any case, Mr. President, Baba Buhari as we fondly call him, is a very committed and loyal party man. He will never and I repeat, never betray his party. There is no way Mr. President will tell me to choose between a ministerial position and the election tribunal case in Taraba,” she said.
Speaking on corruption in the judiciary in which she started her professional career, she said: “Corruption in the judiciary has little or nothing to do with giving or taking of money. When a judge or judicial officer exercises his discretion injudiciously, that is corruption.
“When a bailiff refuses to go and process and waits for any of the counsel to come and see him, that is corruption. When a lawyer advises his client who pleads or who confesses the commission of an offence and he tells him, when you go before the court say you are not guilty, that is also corruption.”
The screening, however, continues as former River State governor,Rotimi Amaechi is expected to be among those to be quizzed today after been referred yesterday due to the inability of the Simon Anyanwu-led Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions to submit its report on petitions against him
Left on the nominees’ list are Rotimi Amaechi – (Rivers), Barr. Adebayo Shittu – (Oyo), Hajia Khadija Bukar Ibrahim- (Yobe), Cladius Omoleye Daramola (Ondo), Prof Anthony Onwuka (Imo), Geoffrey Onyema (Enugu), Dan Ali (Zamfara), Barr James Ocholi (Kogi), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Okechukwu Enelamah (Abia), Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa), Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Bornu), Aisha Abubakar (unknown), Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Isaac Adewole (Osun), Abubakar Bawa Bwari (Niger), Pastor Usani Uguru (Cross River).