The Senate yesterday continued with the screening of ministerial nominees sent to it by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, declaring that it will forward all petitions sent before it to the presidency and security agencies.
Senate President Godswill Akpabio stated this during the screening of Kaduna State nominee, Malam Nasir el-Rufai.
The Senator representing Kogi West under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sunday Karimi, had announced that he has a strong petition given to him against el-Rufai.
According to Karimi, the documented petition against el-Rufai bothered the unity of the country.
Even though Senators Sani Musa and the three Senators from Kaduna State said el-Rufai should take a bow and go, the petition was submitted to the deputy Senate president, Barau Jibrin, who was at the time seating as the chairman.
Barau said whatever the petition is it was an opportunity for el-Rufai to defend himself.
As el-Rufai made attempts to respond, there was disruption.
Akpabio who returned to his seat as the chairman said he received many petitions against ministerial nominees, adding that their jobs is only to screen them and send the petitions to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the security agencies.
Akpabio said, “they are nominees of the president. We will refer the petition back to the presidency and the security agencies,” Akpabio said and asked el-Rufai to take a bow after his response to some questions from Abdulazeez Yari.
Responding to other questions put across to him by some Senators on how to tackle the lingering problems of the power sector in Nigeria, el-Rufai said the electricity supply and distribution and the issue of privatisation of Discos in the country must be revisited, adding that even the act regulating electricity must be amended.
The former Kaduna governor who said the issue of electricity supply has defied every president adding that Tinubu is committed to ensure that Nigeria has a stable power supply within seven years.
“He has asked me to work with him to address this problem. Now, Nigeria has 13,000 megawatts but we hardly use 4,000.
“It is as a result of poor supply of Gas. There are power stations that are producing nothing because of poor gas supply which has existed for the past 20 years,” el-Rufai said.
He pointed out that transmission infrastructure loopholes need to be blocked so that the 13 transmission companies can start working.
“We need to work on the transmission infrastructure. The third problem is distribution. 10 years after privatisation, the government is still paying subsidy on electricity.
“The distribution companies who borrow from banks and did not pay, the banks have taken over. Some of the distribution companies are doing well.
“If they did not pay, the government will invoke partial rate guarantee. The ownership of the transmission companies needs to change because banks are not good managers of power companies.
“We will need fresh investors. The opportunity to do so exists. We can amend the electricity and the petroleum industry act. This will help bring this electricity issue to an end. In the next seven years, Nigeria will have stable electricity”.
“Our neighbors are having stable power supply. I urged the National Assembly to partner and support. Nigeria must adopt what is happening around the world. Nigeria must adopt other sources of power including renewable energy like solar and others,” el-Rufai said.
According to him, metering is a big issue, but with the support of the World Bank and CBN, every house must be metered.
“Nigeria must take a decisive stand on those who steal electricity. It costs money to generate and supply electricity and the private sector needs to return,” el-Rufai added.
Also, economic expert and former Lagos State commissioner for finance, Olawale Edun, who came as the ministerial nominee from Ogun State, while responding to questions from the Senators, said Nigeria has no justification for being poor, given the country’s enormous blessings of human and material resources in the land.
The Senate also grilled ministerial nominee from Ogun State, Olawale Edun, taking him on sundry issues of Nigeria’s tough economic challenges and seeking to elicit solutions from him.
Edun was particularly subjected to interrogation by the lawmakers who made him to answer questions as if he had been appointed the minister of Finance.
He told the Senators that Nigeria has all it takes to be successful given its vast human and material resources, stressing that all that is necessary is a clear vision and commitment to set the country on the path of economic growth and development.
Edun said that he accepted the call to serve, hoping to re-enact the success story of Lagos when he served as Commissioner in Tinubu’s cabinet then as Governor.
The economist expressed support for fuel subsidy removal and the unification of foreign exchange, admitting however that both policies have come with serious pains on the citizenry.
Edun expressed optimism that the pains would soon give way for gains and sustainable economic development.
Also, the ministerial nominee from Oyo State, Adabayo Adelabu, advocated improved supervision and oversight on activities of the CBN by economic management ministries of the federal government.
Fielding questions before the Senate, Adelabu said the CBN should never be in competition with the federal government, as the latter’s economic agency.
He said there was nothing wrong about the structure of the CBN, but about its governance structure.
“There are three decision-making committees at the CBN and the governor is the chairman of each of the committees. They are the Committee of Governors, the Monetary Policy Committee and the Board of Directors.
“It is good and there is nothing bad with it because all over the world the independence of the CBN must be guaranteed, and the governor is just first among equals; there are four Deputy Governors.
“We must ensure that the appointment of the Deputy Governors is independent of the CBN governor so that they are not subservient to the governor.
“The national economic management team – the Ministers of Finance and Budget and National Planning, the Accountant-General of the Federation and other relevant ministries must have some subtle oversight on decisions made by the CBN.
“If CBN knows that there is a body to which it will report on the allocation of foreign exchange, for instance, its decision on monetary policy and interest rates will be given more serious consideration,’’ he said.
Presiding, Akpabio observed that the nominee’s submissions indicated that there was no proper monitoring of the CBN.
He said Adelabu pointed out that there was no clear and organised statutory meeting of the CBN that involved the accountant-general of the federation, the Budget Planning ministry and other stakeholders.
He said remarks from the nominee also indicated that nobody was supervising the CBN for the years the nominee served as Deputy Governor of CBN.
“This is a good thought for senators and that means that we must revisit the Act setting up the CBN.
“Probably we may not have been where we are now if we had proper monitoring of the CBN by the Act itself,’’ Akpabio said.
Meanwhile, the Senate was able to screen a total of nine ministerial nominees out of the fourteen remaining nominees from the 28 names forwarded to it by Tinubu.
President Tinubu had on Thursday, July 28, 2023, forwarded a list of 28 ministerial nominees to the apex legislative chamber, asking it to confirm the nominees for appointment as ministers.
Consequently, the Senate commenced the exercise on Monday and screened fourteen of the nominees, with fourteen of them pending.
After approving the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day, the apex legislative chamber resumed the screening of the remaining nominees who were listed on the Order Paper for the day’s legislative business.
The first person to be screened was the former Governor of Ebonyi State and deputy Senate leader, Senator David Umahi, who by the tradition of the Senate, was asked to take a bow and go, after introducing himself as a member of the Red Chamber.
The Senate also gave a reasonable period of time to the ministerial nominee from Katsina State, Musa Dangiwa, who was alleged to have rushed to pay his tax for the last three years just last week because of his nomination.