“Saraki, who described the matter as “very sensitive”, mandated the committee on Federal Character to scrutinise and present a report on federal appointments on Tuesday.”
Fred Itua, Abuja
There was muscle-flexing on the floor of the Senate yesterday, as lawmakers queried alleged skewed appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Senators, predominantly from the South East, took over the floor to convince their colleagues that a grave injustice had been done to their zone in the spread and leadership of federal agencies and parastatals.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, led the charge when he drew attention to what he called “unacceptable nominations for the leadership of some agencies.”
He was angered when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read a communication from President Buhari on the nomination for appointment of chairman and members of the governing board of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
A former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Tunde Lemo, if confirmed, will chair the board. Other nominees for the board included Nurudeen Abdulrahman Rafindadi (managing director), Buba Silas Abdullahi, Babangana, Mohammed Aji, Shehu Usman Abdullahi, Loratta Ngozichukwu Aniagolu, Mujaidu Stanley Dako and Vincent Oladapo Kolawale, as executive directors.
Ekweremadu said the Senate should not continue to allow lopsided appointments to escape its scrutiny and sanction.
Citing Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which deals with federal character principles, Ekweremadu said that the constitutional provision was clear on how appointments should be shared in the federation to accommodate every section to ensure equity and fairness.
“I don’t have problem with any part of Nigeria. But I have problem with the way government is directing its appointments. Over the last two to three weeks, Sir, we have had cause to either discuss this FERMA that has been announced today or the NDIC or AMCON or FCSC.
“The heads of all these parastatals have come from one particular part of Nigeria and this is completely unfair. We can’t sit in this Senate and allow that to go on.
“So, I believe that we need to point it out to the federal executive to ensure that every part of Nigeria is represented in the running of Nigeria. This is completely unacceptable to me, Sir. I am talking of the leadership of these agencies. The leadership of these agencies, all of them, have come from one part of Nigeria”.
Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, however, faulted Ekweremadu, who he said picked only FERMA appointments in exclusion of the general picture of appointments.
He said that a holistic consideration of appointments should be conducted.
Ekweremadu interjected and noted that he was talking particularly about the leadership of the appointments made by the president, which continued to “tilt in favour of a particular area of the country.” He said fairness demanded that all sections of the country must be given a sense of belonging, both in appointments and other affairs of the country.
Tension raged in the chamber as members took ethnic and regional lines.
Saraki, who described the matter as “very sensitive” to be considered on its face value, mandated the committee on Federal Character to scrutinise and present a report on federal appointments on Tuesday to enable the Senate take a position.
Saraki had barely concluded when the senator representing Enugu North, Chukwuka Utazi raised another point of order on privileges.
Utazi who also insisted on fairness and equity in the country was cut short by Saraki on the ground that the issue had already been ruled upon.
The presentation of the request of President Buhari for the confirmation of nominees for appointment as chairman and commissioners for the Federal Civil Service Commission who had Dr. Bello Tukur Ingawa (Katsina) as proposed chairman did not help matters.
Other proposed members of the commission included Moses Musa Ngbale (Adamawa), Waziri Umara Ngurno (Borno), Bello Mahmoud Babura (Jigawa), Ahmed M. Sarna (Kebbi), Iyabode Odulate-Yusuf (Ogun), Shehu Umar Danyaya (Niger), Fatai Newton Adebayo (Oyo), Ejoh Michael Chikwumemeka (Anambra), Joe Philip Poroma (Rivers), Ibrahim Mohammed (Kaduna), Aminu Dio Sheidu (Kogi) and Simon Etim (Akwa Ibom).
The senator representing Abia North, Mao Ohuabunwa, moved that consideration and screening of the nominees should be suspended pending the submission of the report of the Federal Character committee.
Ohuabunwa maintained that suspension of the screening whould allow the Senate to take proper cognisance of the leadership and spread of appointments made by the president.
He resisted attempts by some of his colleagues to shout him down.
“As a comrade, I can shout louder but shouting is not the issue. We are talking of the important issue of fairness and equity in this country. I move that the consideration and screening of the nominees be suspended to allow us to receive the report of the Federal Character committee,” Ohuabunwa said.
Utazi agreed that “every thing should be kept in abeyance until the submission of the report.”
Obinna Ogba, said it was curious that certain states have continued to be favoured in appointments to the disadvantage of others particularly Ebonyi State.
Saraki insisted that the Federal Character committee had been mandated to submit a report on Tuesday.