Screening: Ministerial nominees lobby senators …… PUNCH

There are strong indications that ministerial nominees, whose names were sent to the Senate on Wednesday, have started reaching out to senators ahead of their screening by the upper chamber.

Our correspondent learnt on Saturday that some of the nominees, including former governors, had sought the support of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and other senators.

It was gathered that the nominees were wary of the hard stand senators could take against them during the screening that would start this week.

It was learnt that they have been pleading for soft landing during the screening, which the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, had confirmed would start on Wednesday.

A senator from the North Central, who craved anonymity, said he was aware that some nominees had reached out the senate president and other members of the upper chamber.

The senator, who declined to name those who had reached out to him, said he did not think that his colleagues would give any nominees a tough time during screening.

On the alleged plot by some senators from the Peoples Democratic Party controlled states of Ekiti and Rivers to kick against the clearance of the ministerial nominees from their states whose names had been published in the media, the senator said that would be handled by the senate leadership.

He said, “Don’t forget that several precedents on similar issues had been set by the Seventh Senate when the then Senate President, David Mark, ignored protests by senators from Lagos, and Osun, against the nomination of two ministerial nominees and went ahead to clear them.”

Another senator from the North-East geopolitical zone, also confirmed to our correspondent on condition of anonymity that there were moves by the senate leadership to settle the face-off between it and the Presidency with the clearance of ministerial nominees.

He said, “Definitely we have to move the nation forward. If the President is saying that these are the people that I have picked, after a painstaking process, who could work with me, why should we deliberately constitute ourselves as stumbling blocks?

“Although some of them may have issues with their stewardship while they held sway as governors, the question is, is anyone among them being investigated by any anti – graft agency?

“Nobody is a saint. I am not one either. The senate president had appealed to us that we should jettison politics of vendetta in the screening of the ministerial nominees and I am prepared to heed his advice.

“Personally I will play my part by asking relevant questions and responses to them would make Nigerians know that we are not clearing the wrong persons at the end of the exercise”

Nobody will play politics with screening –Akanbi

In his own reaction, the APC member representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, said no senator would play politics with the screening of the ministerial nominees in the overall interest of Nigerians.

Although Akanbi neither denied nor confirmed whether any of the nominees or their godfathers had reached out to him, he said, “The fact that some of the people whose names had been published in the media have been reaching out, is a possibility in politics”

He added, “Nobody in his right senses will deliberately play politics with a sensitive issue like the screening of ministers. This is not the time for anybody to say he wants the legislature to hit back at the executive or the presidency over the current relationship between the two tiers of government.

“I am not saying that we should not do our jobs as lawmakers, what I am saying is that we should not deliberately frustrate the clearance of ministerial nominees, that does not also mean that those who fall short of expectation in glaring circumstances should not be dropped”

We will ask them questions on morals —Melaye

Meanwhile, the senate spokesperson, Dino Melaye, in an interview with our correspondent on the issue, urged Nigerians to await the reading of the list by the senate president before expecting the official reaction of the upper chamber.

He, however said that, “Questions for the nominees won’t be based on their educational qualifications alone but will also on their morals, character and antecedents because we won’t allow Nigerians to accuse the Senate of approving somebody with questionable character as President Buhari’s minister”

It will be recalled that Saraki, had on Tuesday, last week, pledged that his leadership would not employ vendetta in the screening of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s wise men.

Saraki had said, “As we await the list of ministerial nominees this week, I believe the presence of ministers will create the space for greater policy engagement with the Executive Arm of government.”

However, the senate spokesperson, Senator Dino Melaye, told journalists after plenary last week Tuesday that the screening of ministerial nominees would not be business as usual in the 8th Senate.

He had said, “We are eagerly waiting for the ministerial list from Mr. President and we want to assure Nigerians that as soon as we get this ministerial list we would start working on them expeditiously but diligently.