From Fred Itua, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee for the position of Director-General, National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Lanre Gbajabiamila, was yesterday warned to steer clear of the office until the Senate confirms his nomination.
Senators warned Gbajabiamila, who is also a younger brother to House of Representatives Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, not to be seen within the vicinity of the commission.
The lawmakers frowned at the assumption of office by the nominee without an appointment letter and Senate’s confirmation. They said it was in violation of Section 8 (1) of the Nigerian Lottery Regulation Commission, which stipulates that the president shall appoint the Director-General, subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
The resolution to bar Gbajabiamila from office until his confirmation, followed the adoption of the report of an investigation by the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan. The nominee was one of the 23 appointees to head various federal agencies by President Buhari, through an announcement made by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on April 14, 2017.
In a point of order raised at Wednesday’s plenary, Senator Dino Melaye observed that Gbajabiamila had already assumed office, in contravention of extant laws.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who expressed shock at the revelation, asked the Senate Leader to investigate the matter and report back within 24 hours.
Presenting his findings at yesterday’s plenary, Lawan confirmed that the DG had assumed office but added that the Presidency admitted that the nominee erred by assuming office without following due process.
He said, in his report: “The nominee for the office of the Director-General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission actually assumed office. I think he was misadvised and, therefore, assumed office without going through the stipulated due process.
“I spoke with all those who should know better, including the Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Habibat Lawal) and the conclusion on the side of the Executive is that he erred because, probably, he didn’t get the correct briefing that he should have waited until due process and due diligence were completed.
“On this side, I believe that, that was an error and there was a genuine appeal from the Executive that no such thing will ever happen again. I advise the SGF that that nominee should not be seen within the vicinity of the office of the DG until he is confirmed and an appointment letter is given to him.
“I also want to take this opportunity to ask and advise the Executive that such a thing must never be allowed to happen again. And also for nominees, who may be so eager to start work, that they should tarry a while until due diligence is followed to its logical conclusion.
“I believe that this is a worthwhile investigation and I believe that those who are supposed to ensure total compliance with our legislations now know better.”
In his contribution, Senator George Sekibo insisted that the matter should not have been brought under ‘personal explanation’ in the first instance.
According to him, “this matter is a complex matter and according to the point-of-order, it should not be a controversial matter, but you are bringing a major controversial matter.
“Somebody is flagrantly violating the Constitution of Nigeria, Section 5(1b) and you just bring it under personal explanation and he finished talking and sat down, as if nothing has happened.
“It is a major issue. I am saying for caution, next time issues of this nature should not come under personal explanation. They should look for other orders to bring the matter so that it is open to us for debate,” he said.
In his ruling, Saraki said the Senate Leader did a thorough job in that he had responded promptly.
Said he: “First of all, to establish that the point raised by Sen. Melaye was factual and that he got the assurances that this kind of thing must be stamped out and does not occur again.
“The nominee has erred, probably misguided but definitely, he must not be seen reporting for duty in that area.
“For nominees and the executive, they must respect our laws and processes and even if a nominee is unaware, somebody must guide him.”