Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
Plenary at the Senate on Thursday was rowdy for about 30 minutes when some members protested against alleged lopsidedness in the appointments so far made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The senators, who are from the South-East geopolitical zone, pointed out that the recent appointments made by Buhari and for which he had sought Senate’s confirmation did not reflect the Federal Character principle.
The protests began after President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read a letter from Buhari seeking legislative confirmation of appointments into the board of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency.
The letter read, “In accordance with Section 2 of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency Amended Act 2007, I forward herewith the nomination of a chairman, a managing director and six representatives from each of the six geopolitical zones as members of the governing board for Federal Roads Maintenance Agency for confirmation by the Senate.”
The President appointed a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Tunde Lemo, as Chairman; and Mr Nurudeen Abdulrahman Rafindadi as Managing Director of FERMA.
Buhari also appointed a new managing director and six executive directors on the board of FERMA. They are Buba Silas Abdullahi, Babagana Mohammed Aji, Shehu Usman Abdullahi, Loretta Ngozichukwu Aniagolu, Mujaidu Stanley Dako and Vincent Oladapo Kolawale.
The President had written to the Senate to confirm the appointment of a former Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Dr Muiz Banire, as Chairman of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria.
The Senate had also on Tuesday confirmed the appointment of a former Inspector-General of Police, Musiliu Smith, as Chairman of the Police Service Commission. Smith was confirmed together with two full-time commissioners and four members of the commission.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, however, raised a point of order to protest against non-compliance by the President with his appointment of heads of Federal Government department, agencies and parastatals.
Ekweremadu read out Section 14(3) of the Constitution, saying, “I have no problem with a particular part of the country but I have a problem with the way the government is directing its appointments. Over the last two to three weeks, we had cause to either discuss this (issue of FERMA) that was announced today or the NDIC or AMCON or the Federal Civil Service Commission. The heads of these parastatals have come from one particular part of Nigeria.
“This is completely unfair and we can’t sit in this Senate and allow that to go on. So, I believe we need to bark it to the Federal Government to ensure that every part of Nigeria is represented in the running of Nigeria. This is completely unacceptable to me.”
Saraki interjected, saying Buhari’s letter on FERMA noted that the nominees were the chairman, managing director and a representative of each of the six geopolitical zones.
Ekweremadu, however, said, “I am talking of heads; the leadership of these agencies. All of them have come from one part of Nigeria. The leadership of all these…”
The Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, however, argued that the appointments were balanced.
“Whenever government sends in a request for confirmation, the government does its homework very well. What the Deputy Senate President raised is not the complete picture. He has restricted his consideration to the very few. If you go to the larger picture, that issue is not supposed to be raised in the first place.
“I’m not from the South-West of Nigeria. Let me be blunt: the issue raised is predominance. If we can have a larger picture, I’m sure we would see a balanced spread of appointments. I don’t want us to really devote so much time looking at the narrow picture,” he said.
Saraki pointed out that the Senate would not act on sentiments and opinions.
“This matter is too sensitive for us to be speculating. Anything anybody is going to say here is based on his own opinion of what he thinks the issues are. Why don’t we just make it easier for ourselves? We have the Chairman of Federal Character, let us ask him to carry out the exercise and give us a report. And when he gives us a report, we will contribute (to it) and be able to know whether it is the DSP’s analysis that is right or the Leader’s,” he said.
The Senate President ruled that the Committee on Federal Character investigates Buhari’s appointments and present a report to the chamber on Tuesday.
The session, however, became rowdy as the lawmakers were divided on Saraki’s ruling. The chamber became noisy as the lawmakers shouted yes and no.
Apart from Ekweremadu, three lawmakers from the South-East successively raised points of order to allege lopsidedness in Buhari’s appointments.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi raised a point of order on the matter and Saraki ruled him out of order, stating that the chamber had already reached a resolution on it.
More South-East senators, however, asked the chamber to suspend further consideration and screening of nominees pending the presentation and adoption of the report by the Committee on Federal Character.
The lawmakers were billed to consider Buhari’s request for confirmation of the Chairman, Bello Tukur Ingawa, and 12 commissioners of the Federal Civil Service Commission and refer it to a committee for their screening.
The Senate had also scheduled consideration of the report by the Committee on National Identity and National Population on the screening of 23 Commissioners of the National Population Commission appointed by the President.
Those who protested against further action on the appointments were Senators Mao Ohuabunwa, Obinna Ogba and Utazi.
Leke Baiyewu, Abuja