The Senate yesterday confirmed 18 out of the 36 ministerial nominees sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Those who were confirmed included the ten nominees who were screened by the Senate on Tuesday and the eight others screened yesterday.
The eighteen nominees who are now ministers designate are Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
Others are Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Amina Ibrahim Mohammed, Engr. Suleiman Hussaini Adamu and Ibrahim Usman Jibril.
The rest are Babatunde Fashola, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachukwu, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Barrister Solomon Dalong, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Senator Hadi Sirika.
The Senate, however, deferred the screening of the former Governor of Rivers, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and Barrister Adebayo Shittu.
In the case of Shittu, there was no explanation for his absence at the Senate yesterday for his screening even though his name was listed as the ninth nominee for screening in the Senate order paper.
Regarding Amaechi, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had explained that the screening was not possible because the report of the Senate committee on Petition, Ethics and Privileges, which investigated the petition against the governor by the Rivers State-based Integrity Group was not ready for consideration and adoption.
It is hoped that the report would be made available by the committee today for consideration and adoption before the commencement of today’s screening exercise.
The screening of the rest ministerial nominees continues today
The Senate, again, commenced yesterday’s screening with an exclusive session during which the lawmakers reviewed the previous day’s exercise and adopted the procedure to guide the day’s exercise.
Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachukwu, has put the amount the country is losing annually for its inability to sign the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law at $15 billion.
Kachukwu explained that lack of the law did not give foreign investors in the oil and gas sector enough confidence to bring in the required resources to invest and grow the sector.
He stated that the nation must not necessarily wait to pass the PIB holistically, but to start somewhere by passing the law as deficient as it appears and later take it back to the parliament for amendment as implementation is in progress.
The GMD made this disclosure yesterday when he faced the Senate in the process of his screening as a ministerial nominee.
Regarding the vexed issue of fuel subsidy, Kachukwu was however not definite on the Federal Government’s position on the matter, especially whether or not government would eventually withdraw the subsidy and when, or whether government would eventually retain it.
He nonetheless explained that President Muhammadu Buhari was equally as worried as most Nigerians on the matter, noting that the greatest concern of the president was that the matter should be extensively analysed so that any eventual decision on the matter would be such that would serve the best interest of Nigerians.
Kachukwu further explained that there was a continuing dialogue on the issue of fuel subsidy with the president each time an opportunity in that area occurs because of the president’s determination to take the appropriate decision that would serve the interest of the greatest Nigerians on the matter.
He said the immediate priority of government was to determine the actual cost of the subsidy and what constitutes the corruption component of the scheme as well as the actual daily consumption of the product, which has been an issue of raging controversy. He explained: “There was a lot of fraud that went to the subsidy. We are all alarmed at the rate of subsidy, particularly the president. Our immediate concern is to find out the actual cost of subsidy. We are both determined that at a time something has to happen to it. If you don’t handle the matter well it will cause a lot of problem.”
Commenting on the issue of the refineries and the importation of oil, Kachukwu described as disgraceful the fact that Nigeria as an oil producing country is still importing finished products from abroad and pledged government’s plans to halt that trend in the nearest future.
He disclosed that upon assumption of office as the GMD of NNPC about six weeks ago, he gave a directive to all the heads of the four refineries in the country to ensure that the refineries were brought on stream within 90 days.
He stated that contrary to media reports that the refineries were operating at 60 per cent capacity, the truth of the matter was that so far, the refineries which were currently in operation were operating at 25 – 28 per cent rate, which is far below the global standard of 90 per cent.
He disclosed that it was only the Port Harcourt refinery that was only currently running at 60 per cent installed capacity, but that there were plans to raise it to 75 very soon.
The GMD reported that the Warri refineries was just about coming up now, even as he disclosed that the Kaduna refinery would soon commence operations with the repair of the ruptured pipeline that supplied crude to the place.
He regretted that in the last ten years, there had never been any proper maintenance of any of the refineries in the country and pledged that if any refinery was not able to refine at 60 capacity in the least, such a refinery would be sold or privatised.
Kachukwu dispelled the rumours currently making the rounds in the country and which he said was responsible for the noticeable fuel scarcity that government was about to reduce the price of fuel pomp price to N53, stressing that, “There is no plan by government to reduce the price of PMS to N53, it’s Amal rumour.”
Reacting to a question by Senator George Akume whether he would be willing to answer to National Assembly summons whenever he is asked to appear before the lawmakers, Kachukwu said he had no option on the matter.
He disclosed that he had already commenced the process of opening up the operations of NNPC to the public with the initiative of a new monthly publication called, “NNPC Manual,” which explains the workings of the corporation.
In addition to that, the GMD disclosed that he holds weekly briefing with President Buhari, where he explains the day to day operation of the corporation.
While also facing the senators during his own screening, the former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, made a strong case for the establishment of state police as a panacea to addressing the issue of insecurity in the country.
Responding to the question by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu on his position to the issue of the decentralisation of police as a lawyer, Fashola said for him, there was an urgency for the decentralisation of the police force in the country.
He took a swipe at those who argued that decentralisation of the force would lead to abuse by state governors, stressing that such arguments did not go far.
According to him, the country should start the decentralisation at experimental levels by allowing states that are ready and have the financial muscles to commence the process and for others to join at their own convenience, since the states are differently endowed financially.
He posited that to assuage the fears of the opponents of the idea, state police should undergo the same professional training as the federal police to unsure uniformity and even wear the same uniforms, but bear badges that differentiates them from the federal police.
According to him, as part of the experimental process, the state police could initially be limited in their areas of operations to include, for example, rape issues, domestic violence, etc. while the federal police could handle other matters.
“We can start at zonal levels, say at six zonal command levels. Not every state should join, especially if they cannot fund it. But states that want and can fund it should be allowed to start,” Fashola said.
Drawing experience as a former governor, Fashola disclosed that the purpose for which every government exists is to provide security for its citizens and that informed his decision to involve all the stakeholders in the state on the issue of insecurity.
He stated that after reviewing the state of preparedness of the police in Lagos and found out that they were ill-prepared in terms of equipment to fight crime, he had to involve the banks which operated in the state and which were being harassed on daily basis to pull resources together to equip the police properly to provide adequate security for them and their staff.
This was also as the governor stated that he consulted with the other stakeholders in the state for their support and cooperation, which eventually led to the successes the state recorded during his tenure on security.
He said as a governor he saw criminals as his competitors, noting that, “As a governor, my job was to ensure that nobody died or was robbed. I had to be right all the time while the criminals have to be right just once.”
The former governor also responded to allegations of inflated contracts, particularly the alleged N78m spent on his website while he was the governor of Lagos State.
He said as a governor, he never signed any cheque and that there were laid down procedures by the state government for the award of contracts, with the necessary inbuilt mechanisms to check possible abuses.
According to him, the contract tenders board was in charge of the award of contracts and the body never referred to him before doing their job.