With five nominees to go, the Senate will today likely undertake the final lap of screening of would-be ministers.
Expected to be screened to day are Prof. Anthony Anwuka, Ms Aisha Abubakar, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, Mr. Muhammadu Bello and Mr. Adamu Adamu.
Yesterday, six were screened, including Cross River State nominee, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru, who drew the ire of some senators with his statement.
Uguru and the senators started by exchanging banters at the introductory stage before he made what the lawmakers considered “an offensive statement”.
Uguru mentioned names of some senators with who he traversed the country during the last campaign.
Then, one of the senators asked Uguru: “Were you interacting with the PDP too?” to which he replied “God forbid”.
Minority Leader Senator Godswill Akpabio raised an objection to the nominee’s statement. Coming under a point of order, Akpabio described Uguru’s statement as derogatory to PDP members.
Other PDP senators joined him. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South) declared that the nominee did not submit his assets declaration papers along with his documents in violation of one of the rules set for the nominees.
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP Abia North) also raised issues with the nominee’s tax papers. Waving the tax papers, Ohuabunwa said the nominee obtained his tax clearance certificates for three years in one day.
The senator said the implication was that the nominee was not paying his tax as at when due and as such, should be disqualified.
But Senate Leader Ali Ndume came to the nominee’s rescue when he cited the 5th Schedule of the Constitution to back Uguru’s action.
Ndume said by virtue of the provisions in that Schedule, a public office holder may submit his assets declaration papers before taking appointment, or within 30 days after taking office.
But many other senators still complained about Uguru’s “God forbid” phrase, and were in the process of pushing their grievances further when the Senate President doused the tension. Turning to the visibly ruffled Uguru, the Senate President gesticulated to him to apologise to the PDP senators.
A contrite Uguru then said in a subdued tone: “I am extremely sorry”. But he never regained his composure for the remaining part of the screening.
Outgoing University of Ibadan Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof Issac Adewole said university administrators should do something about the falling standard of education.
He also advocated sustained funding of the universities to maximise their performance.
The chronic situation of under-funding of universities persistently over the years, he said, should be reversed. Adewole lamented that Nigeria funds education with only 1.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Adewole said: “A World Bank survey of 41 countries in sub-Sahara Africa noted that Nigeria had only three countries below it- South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“We need to put money in education. We need to recognise education as a vital tool to promote not only the economy but this nation’s development. We also look at the supply system. We have a 6-3-3-4 system. The 6-3 is being taken care of by UBEC, also TETFUND taking care of the universities.
“But there is nothing taking care of the senior secondary school. That is an orphan. In other words, what the universities are getting are poorly-rated products.”
The Osun State nominee promised that if confirmed, “I will serve the nation with patriotism and zeal.”
Another nominee, the Executive Secretary and National Coordinator, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, lamented the non implementation of NEITI audit reports.
Ahmed appealed to the Senate to ensure the consideration and implementation of NEITI audit reports in the interest.
The nominee noted that the zero budgeting process is “very complex”, adding, but we need to start it with some selected organisations and roll it out next year to every other organisation.”
Ahmed shocked some senators when she failed to recite the National Pledge quite correctly.
Instead of saying “To be faithful, loyal and honest”, the nominee said: “To be loyal, honest and faithful.”
Hon. Bawa Bwari (Niger State) said he is delighted and humble to be chosen from among 170 million Nigerians to serve the country.
Bwari, as a former member of the House of Representatives was asked to bow and go without question.
Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu State) said other African countries were looking towards Nigeria for leadership.
On intellectual property, the nominee said there should be greater involvement with universities.
Onyeama said the country’s justice system should look beyond just penalising but should include rehabilitation of offenders.
Brig. Gen. Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali (Zamfara State) said the December deadline given by the Federal Government to end the Boko Haram insurgency is just a time line to encourage the military to work.
He noted that in the military the deadline is progressive line of action.
Boko Haram, he said, had already been sufficiently decimated by the military.