Senate ends week without Buhari’s ministerial list

The move by Senate President Ahmed Lawan on Wednesday to pacify anxious colleagues over President Muhammadu Buhari’s delayed submission of a ministerial list fell on its face yesterday. Lawan had quickly intervened to douse growing tension among the lawmakers who were worried that the delay could increase pressure on their work schedule especially as the end of session recess was just two weeks away.

“This is to inform this Senate that the executive arm of government is working very hard to get the list of ministerial nominees to the Senate. I can imagine that before this week runs out, we could get the list,” he said. But with yesterday being the National Assembly’s last legislative day, the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the list is expected to thicken.

Reporters covering the Senate were forced to endure gruelling 24 hours as inquisitive callers sought to know whether the much-anticipated list had finally arrived. But rather than receive an answer, amazement took over when Lawan upheld a motion by Majority Leader Yahaya Abdullahi to the effect that the Senate had adjourned till July 16, 2019.

To the lawmakers present in the chamber, the import is clear: Nigerians will have to wait longer for the list of cabinet nominees. But late yesterday night, Buhari held a dinner with the leadership of the National Assembly led by Lawan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Sources hinted that the leaders might use the opportunity to discuss the issue of the ministerial list.At a press conference shortly after yesterday’s session, the chairman of the Senate committee on media and public affairs, Adedayo Adeyeye, confirmed that the Senate was not in custody of the list.

Flanked by members of the committee, he said though lawmakers were anxious to work on the list, their hands were tied until the executive would submit it as required by the constitution.“We cannot keep the list. If the list is transmitted to the president of the Senate, it will be read immediately. We are too eager. Like I have told you, we want to hit the ground running. This is an activity that is not within our control and there is nothing we can do about it. Like I said here two or three days ago, this matter is not within the control of the Senate. We cannot generate the list on our own. The constitution does not permit us to do that.

“The constitution has assigned responsibility to various parts of government and it is the prerogative of the executive to nominate ministers who will then be confirmed by the Senate. Until that duty is undertaken by the executive, there is nothing we can do,” Adeyeye said.

Notwithstanding, Buhari yesterday forwarded the name of Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammed Tanko to the Senate for confirmation as substantive Chief Justice. He also sent a list of 15 special advisers for screening. Buhari in his letter explained that the choice of Tanko followed recommendations by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The letter, read by Lawan on the floor of the Senate, cited Section 231(1) and Section 153 of the Constitution as the grounds for the appointments.“I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria. It is my hope that this request will receive the usual expeditious consideration of the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the letter reads in part.

An investigation by The Guardian meanwhile has revealed that deep-seated discord within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is to blame for the delayed list of ministerial nominees. Sources said that the president was compelled to discard more than three tentative lists produced shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned him as the winner of the February 23 presidential election.

One of the contentious issues was how to ensure a balance between technocrats and politicians that worked for the party’s victory, especially against the notion that the president made one-sided appointments in his first term. A source in the presidency, who pleaded not to be named, said: “Initially, Baba wanted to bring on board experts and patriotic professionals to help him deliver on the Next Level agenda, but politicians in the APC insisted that they should be carried along.”

The source hinted that APC governors also added their voices to the call on Buhari to collaborate with party stakeholders and appoint persons conversant with the party’s manifestos. Despite the stance of party chieftains, Buhari was said to have retreated with his immediate aides especially Chief of Staff Abba Kyari and produced a list, which leaked on social media, prompting a quick denunciation from the presidency.

Having learned of the plot to solely nominate his cabinet without input from stakeholders, some powerful party leaders were said to have sponsored a street protest in Abuja, urging Buhari to free himself from the shadows of his nephew, Mamman Daura, and Kyari.

The president thereafter was said to have hastened the reappointment of Kyari and Boss Mustapha as Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, apparently challenging the naysayers to do their worst.The Guardian further learned that the election petition from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is causing the president some worries, particularly given the assurances from certain political actors that they would help, if only they were brought into government.

Another source yet said that there was the fear that a massive implosion and discontent could hit the APC as soon as any “exclusive ministerial list” was made public, noting that efforts were being made to toe a middle path.According to this source, Lawan merely flew a kite to douse tension among senators when he said a list could soon arrive, because “as we speak, there is no list.”

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