New Telegraph – The Senate yesterday rejected the 46 non-career ambassadorial nominees forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari for screening and confirmation, due to over 250 petitions from aggrieved members of the public.
New Telegraph had exclusively reported on Monday that after facing frustration from the Senate in getting approval for the nominees, Buhari caved in to pressure, by agreeing to withdraw the list to enable him produce an acceptable list. But without waiting for the president to willingly withdraw the list, the Senators in plenary, rejected the document and resolved to return it to Buhari.
The Senate, however, confirmed the 47 career ambassadorial nominees earlier screened for appointment as ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Monsurat Sunmonu (APC, Oyo Central) told the Senate, while presenting the report of the committee on the ambassadorial nominees, that the committee had been inundated with over 250 petitions from members of the public.
According to her, most of the petitioners were protesting against what they perceived as the lopsided composition of the non-career ambassadorial list, as they alleged that it lacked geographical spread as provided for by the constitution and the Federal Character principle. Ebonyi, Bayelsa and Plateau had no nominees at all on the list of 47 career ambassadors and the problem was not addressed by the second list containing names of non-career nominees.
Imo State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are completely omitted on the list of non-career ambassadors, a situation that senators from these areas protested on the floor of the chamber and demanded that the omission be corrected before the Senate could consider the list for approval.
Her words: “We thought that the issue of non-equitable representation across the 36 states of the federation raised on the list of nominated career diplomats by the President will be addressed in that of noncareer nominees; unfortunately, the 46 nominees have more troubles than the others.
“This is in spite of public outcry over it and the committee’s observation to that effect to the Secretary to the Government of Federation, David Babachir Lawal, during an interface with us before the screening. “We have received over 250 petitions on the non-career nominees. Therefore, we’ve found it difficult to start the screening of the 46 non-career nominees since last month and in fact; we proposed to the Senate that the list be returned to the Executive for needed review and re-presentation,” she said.
Although she did not expatiate on the grievances of the petitioners, New Telegraph however, learnt that these petitions cut across the 36 states of the federation and hinged on diverse reasons of partisan interests. Sources close to the committee said that some of the petitions were instigated by state governors, who were either not consulted before the selection by the president, or those whose candidates did not make the list.
The governors had protested against the list and formally conveyed their reservations on the list. Some senators told New Telegraph that their governors kicked against the nominations from their states and urged them to oppose such.
“You can’t believe it that most of the petitions were instigated by the governor. They felt the president did not consider their political interest before coming up with the nomination. So, most of the petitions were instigated by governors and leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” one of the senators told our correspondent.
In Borno State, for instance, it was learnt that all the local government areas wrote petitions against the candidates from the state, obviously engineered by political stakeholders, whose interests were not protected in the nominations.
Another reason for the massive petitions that trailed the nominees, according to our investigation, is that some of those nominated by President Buhari are non-core politicians, who are not true party members.
The petitions also bother on geographical imbalance. In Kwara State, the two nominees are said to have come from the same senatorial district, which is contrary to the constitution and the federal character principle in particular. Sunmonu observed that even though the committee received many petitions against the career nomi- nees, the petitions received against the 46 non-career ambassadorial nominees were more overwhelming.
Accordingly, she advised the Senate to return the list to the president so that he could prepare and re-present what would be acceptable to Nigerians. Heeding this advice, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, moved a motion and seconded by the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, urging the Upper Chamber to return the list to the president.
When the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, put the motion to voice vote, it was overwhelmingly supported by the lawmakers, who appeared to have resolved the issue during its short closeddoor session, as there was no dissenting voice to the resolution.
Notable names on the rejected list are former Senator Olorunnibe Mamora from Lagos State, retired Justice of the Supreme Court, George Oguntade (Lagos), Yusuf Tuggar (Bauchi) and immediate past Deputy Governor of Niger State, Ahmed Ibeto (Niger), whose nomination as a minister was withdrawn by Buhari in October 2015. Former National Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Usman Bugaje and former Deputy Governor of Plateau, Mrs. Paullen Tallen, had earlier rejected their nominations.
Speaking after plenary, Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said that unless the issues arising from the 250 petitions were resolved, the Senate would not do anything about the non-career nominees. On the 47 career ambassadorial nominees earlier screened by the committee, the Senate confirmed all of them, after initial opposition by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who insisted that the nominees who failed to recite the National Anthem should be dropped.
He expressed concern that people trusted to represent the country abroad could not recite the national anthem, despite rising from the ranks to the present cadre, where they were considered to protect and preserve the image of the country at the international community.
However, the Chairman of the Committee and other members, including senators James Manager, Bala Na’Allah and Gbenga Ashafa, among others, said that the screening was conducted without political coloration, urging the Senate to confirm all of them.
Manager explained that it was stage fright and not incompetence that made the nominees to encounter difficulty in the recitation of the anthem, appealing that the minor hiccup was not sufficient to prevent their appointment.
Therefore, in confirming the 47 career nominees, the Senate ignored observations by senators that 14 of the nominees had less than 30 months left to stay in service while three others couldn’t recite the National Anthem during the screening. In his remarks after the confirmation, Saraki urged the 47 career ambassadors to be good ambassadors of the country wherever they would be posted to serve the nation.