Cronies and close political associates of President Bola Tinubu who are among the ministerial nominees got an easy pass during the Senate screening Monday.
The Senate commenced the screening of the 28 ministerial nominees with no assigned portfolios at about 1:30pm at the plenary. The first nominee to be screened was Abubakar Momoh (Edo State), followed by Nyesom Wike, former Rivers State governor.
In total, the upper chamber screened 16 of the 28 on the list presented by the Executive.
The Senate had set aside its own rules to pave the way for the commencement of the screening: by the provision of the Senate rules, the senators were not supposed to sit on Monday.
However, during the screening, the tradition and widely condemned practice of automatic ‘take a bow and go’ was used for some of the nominees, especially former lawmakers.
The way the Godwin Akpabio-led 10th Senate handled the ministerial screening did not go down well with many Nigerians.
Nigerians had expected that the screening of the ministerial nominees this time around would be more thorough, in view of the daunting tasks on ground relating to fixing of the economy, fuel subsidy removal, education, exchange rate stabilisation, among others.
Many Nigerians who reacted to the ministerial screening on social media criticised the manner the Senate went about the exercise, expressing pessimism that nothing would come from such exercise.
Some people said they had expected the Senate to carefully scrutinise the competence, background and ability of the ministerial nominees before confirming them.
They also noted that the Senate went against its promise. Yemi Adaramodu, the chairman of the Senate committee on media and public affairs, had earlier promised that the screening would be thorough.
Adaramodu had ruled out the tradition of ‘bow and go’ for any of the nominees, except where necessary, saying the 10th Senate would not disappoint Nigerians.
He had said, “The 10th Senate will scrutinise the character, personality and the ability of every nominee. Thorough screening for anybody who will be minister entails he/she must have ideas about everything, but in core specialties like health, judiciary; yes, the minister must be a professional.
“The character of the nominees must carry the resume, but we will not manufacture questions and allegations against anyone.”
President Bola Tinubu has initiated sweeping reforms since assuming office aimed at resuscitating the economy, including the removal of petrol subsidy and the floating of the naira.
However, the reforms come at a cost, many Nigerians are not happy that the prices of essential goods, food have risen astronomically in recent weeks.
Observers say that the quality of Tinubu’s ministers was crucial to the success of his reforms, especially in key sectors.
Part of their concerns is that the ministerial nominees may be assigned portfolios different from professional expertise which had become a norm in the recent decades.
The trend often affects the performance of such ministers and ultimately the administration.
Experts say that the new ministers coming on board should roll up their sleeves and begin to work immediately considering the enormous task ahead and expectations from Nigerians.
Seun Olofin, a lawyer, said: “I watched the screening briefly and left; there was nothing cheering about it; the same practice of ‘take a bow’. I mean there are no deep questions that the senators were asking them.
“May be, it would have been easier for the senators to do the screening if the President had attached a portfolio to each of the names. For me, that should be the way forward.
“If someone is a nominee for the defence ministry, they can ask questions on how such a person will deal with the nation’s security challenges, etc.”
Tope Musowo, a public affairs analyst, described the ministerial screening as a charade that was needless because he knew the process would not be thorough.
“I did not expect anything from the senators; it was just a ritual. The screening would not be thorough from the lawmakers. Can they even reject anyone? It was the President that even handpicked Akpabio and the rest; so, anyone he wanted they would approve,” Musowo said.
The nominees are drawn from 25 states of the federation, comprising four former governors, six former federal lawmakers, two former lawmakers, three serving presidential advisers, and seven women, among others.