National Assembly leaders douse anger over ministerial list
• Senate president promises submission ‘this week’
• Speaker says Buhari at liberty not to appoint ministers
• Lawmakers worry about intense pressure as recess nears
The continued delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in sending the list of ministerial nominees to the Senate generated serious concerns on the floor of the chamber yesterday.
It was the subject matter of a motion sponsored by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom). Citing Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule, which deals with “personal explanation,” Akpan drew the attention of the lawmakers to what he called a disturbing issue arising from the delay.
He reminded them of the pending end of session recess, which would commence in the next two weeks, saying further delay could put more pressure on lawmakers.
“We understand the passion of Mr. President to consolidate on the gains he has so far attained. If we are going on this long vacation in two weeks, and by now, we have not received the ministerial nominees, it means we will have to put ourselves under intense pressure, because it is our collective responsibility that we must support Mr. President to succeed.
“I am just bringing to the attention of Mr. President of the Senate that there is the need for you to, please, urge Mr. President to send in the list of ministerial nominees so that the Senate can confirm them immediately,” said Akpan.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan waded in swiftly to douse the tension that had started building up as a result of the motion.
“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,” he said. “And I can imagine that before this week runs out, we could get the list. But I want to assure you that once we get the list, every senator here has shown and expressed the desire to stay long enough to screen and confirm the nominees in the interest of this country, and for the country to be taken to the next level.”
The Guardian last Sunday had exclusively reported that the growing anxiety among the senators regarding the delay might threaten the cordial relationship between the presidency and the National Assembly.
As the upper legislative chamber prepares to embark on its six-week end of session recess by the end of July, expectations that it could get the list and confirm the nominees before proceeding on the vacation have been high.
One of the newly elected APC principal officers in the Senate expressed concern that the list had not been sent, even as he confirmed that the presidency had expressed determination to avoid a repeat of the 2015 experience when the list reached the Senate very late.
He said the lawmakers’ expectation was that the president would have submitted the list before the resumption of Senate from the two-week recess it embarked upon shortly after its inauguration.
He said the Senate was seriously looking forward to having the list for prompt screening and confirmation, at least, within the next two weeks so that it could conclude work on it before the end-of-session recess.
“If you check around the Senate premises, you will notice that our offices are yet to be furnished. Yet, we decided to remain in session because of expectations that the list would soon be sent to us,” he added.
But it was learnt that the wait might be longer. A National Assembly source who is also close to the presidency disclosed that some political issues were still being sorted out. He specifically indicated that the list might reach the Senate towards the end of July, 2019.
He said that there was nothing available regarding the list of persons to be confirmed as ministers.
According to another lawmaker, who just got elevated from the House of Representatives to the Senate in the February 23, 2019 election, although the president is still within reasonable time if he submits the list before the end of July, expectations are that Buhari would make amends for the time lost during his first term when he delayed the list for six months.
Buhari took the oath of office seven weeks ago. Since then, he has not sent any request to the Senate to approve a list of special advisers as prescribed by the constitution, talk little of a ministerial list.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, on Tuesday, Senate spokesman, Adedayo Adeyeye, said the Red Chamber was at a loss on when Buhari would forward his list to them.
“That is the prerogative of the executive. We are not going to help them to do their job. The Senate cannot generate the list of ministers on its own.
“It is the prerogative of the president to send his ministerial nominee list to the Senate. And when he does that, we will consider it. That is our constitutional mandate. It is not even within our powers to even advise. We will wait until the matter is transmitted to us.
“The executive is aware of the timetable of the Senate. There is a particular time the Senate goes on recess. They should therefore be mindful of when they will carry out this constitutional responsibility,” said Adeyeye.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, on Tuesday, stalled a motion calling on Buhari to urgently submit the list of nominees to the National Assembly before the parliament begins its annual recess.
Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), in a motion moved under matters of urgent public importance, said it was imperative for Buhari to send the list quickly.
He was still articulating his points when Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) raised a point of order. Citing Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Monguno dismissed the motion as an “academic exercise”.
The lawmaker argued: “There is nowhere in the constitution, where there is a timeline for the president to appoint ministers.”
In his ruling, Gbajabiamila said: “Monguno is right. There is no timeline. The president is even at liberty not to appoint ministers.”