Saturday, 2nd December 2023

With one week left, Tinubu’s ministerial list fails to surface at Senate

By John Akubo and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
21 July 2023   |   4:26 am
After raised hopes, it was an anti-climax yesterday as the Senate failed to announce the arrival of the list of Ministerial nominees reportedly submitted by the Presidency.

President Bola-Tinubu.Pix:Twitter

• Senate dismisses talk on Ministerial list, sets up committee on NASS internal security
• Senators stop TCN from obtaining $155m World Bank loan to manufacture meters, seek protection for domestic manufacturers
• Implement 35% affirmative action, include women in cabinet, Reps tell Tinubu

After raised hopes, it was an anti-climax yesterday as the Senate failed to announce the arrival of the list of Ministerial nominees reportedly submitted by the Presidency.

Contrary to the expectations of Nigerians on the Ministerial list of President Bola Tinubu, the Senate, shortly before commencing the legislative business of the day, which was their last for the week, went into a closed-door meeting, heightening hopes it was about to brainstorm on the cabinet nominees of Mr. President.

Soon after taking the petitions, which is the fifth item on the Order Paper, the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, announced that the senators should go into an executive session after the leader, Opeyemi  Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central) had announced the private session.

The Senate entered into the closed-door session at 11.59a.m., and came out at 1.41p.m.

At the resumption of its plenary at 1:46p.m., it was gathered that nothing of such was discussed as the list had not got to the Senate.

The Senate President, however, disclosed that their ‘marathon’ discussion was centered on improving internal security within the premises of the National Assembly. The Senate President also announced that an ad-hoc committee has been set up to that effect, to be headed by Senator Danjuma Goje.

The development means that President Tinubu has just a week to the 60 days deadline as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which requires that the president and governors to submit the names of persons nominated as Ministers or Commissioners within 60 days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or state House of Assembly. Tinubu, who assumed office on May 29, 2023, has up till July 27, to unveil his cabinet.

Also, Senator Victor Umeh, representing Anambra Central, denied insinuations that the closed-door meeting was over the list of ministerial nominees submitted by the Presidency. The lawmaker, who spoke to newsmen briefly, shortly after plenary, noted that the meeting had nothing to do with ministerial list, rather it was due to other issues, which he did not mention.

It had been reported widely that the Senate was forced into closed-door session at 11:59a.m. a few minutes to the commencement of Thursday’s plenary due to the list of ministerial nominees believed to have been submitted by the Presidency. Earlier on Tuesday, reports emerged that the Clerk of the National Assembly had received communication from the Presidency on the Ministerial list.

The House of Representatives, yesterday, on its part, urged President Tinubu to consider the declaration on 35 per cent affirmative action on women participation in governance through the ministerial nominees. The call followed the consideration of a motion titled ‘Need to Ensure Beijing Declaration on 35 per cent Affirmative Action on Women’s Appointment into Positions,’ moved by Billy Osawaru.

Presenting the motion, Osawaru said that Nigeria as a member of the United Nations signed and ratified the several applicable international instruments, agreements and conventions without reservation, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995.

These instruments have always highlighted that member nations put in place all the necessary apparatuses needed to eliminate gender discriminations, ensure equality and human dignity to all, men and women.

“The National Gender Policy (NGP) has formulated a 35 per cent Affirmative Action (AA) in Nigeria since 2006. This policy demands that 35 per cent of women be involved in all governance processes.

“The NGP is recognised but is not practiced as expected thereby leaving our country behind many other African countries, like Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Namibia that have grown their women participation to over 40 per cent, and many global reports do not speak good of our country in this regard.

“The 2022 World Gender Gap report revealed that Nigeria ranks 123rd out of a total of 146 countries while another 2022 report by the Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), a nongovernmental organisation, showed that Nigeria ranked 181 of 193 countries on the Gender Equality Index, for countries with low women representation in governance.

“Nigerian women have continued to excel in Nigeria and other countries, serving in high-level positions in these countries and doing very well in the private sector but yet to be accorded this 35 per cent status in Nigeria.

“The President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of 2015- 2019 and 2019-2023, reneged on his promises to Nigerian women as he appointed only six women out of the 36 cabinet ministers, representing about 16 per cent.

“Despite the clamours for improvement in women participation in politics and other sectors across the globe, Nigeria seems to be going in a wrong direction since 1999 till date. Out of over 2,657 legislators (both Senate and Reps) only about 157 women have been inaugurated into the National Assembly.”

When put to voice vote, the motion got the support of the majority of the members and was therefore adopted.

MEANWHILE, the Senate yesterday suspended the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) from obtaining a loan facility of $155 million from the World Bank for mass production of local meters. The upper legislative chamber resolved to suspend application of the loan because its agreement promotes foreign manufacturers against competent and qualified local meter manufacturers in the country.

The Senate by the motion sought protection for local manufacturers of prepaid meters following the approval of a $155 million World Bank loan for the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) of the Federal Government. The resolution was a sequel to the motion sponsored by Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) during plenary.

Presenting the motion, Umeh noted that it is the duty of industry procurement regulators in every developing economy to protect local manufacturers “and would only try to augment importation of goods and services where there is a clear-cut gap between local production and consumption.”

He said: “Members of Association of Meter Manufacturers of Nigeria (AMMON) are capable of producing world-standard smart meters; hence, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), under Phase 1 of the Mass Metering Programme of the Federal Government, issued the association, after a competitive bidding process, a ‘Letter of No Objection’ to award four million meters in 2022.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also in 2020, undertook to fund the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP), Phase 1, but after eight months of awards to local manufacturers, withdrew funding, which affected the workability of the programme.”

Umeh, who revealed that the World Bank has approved a $155 million loan for the National Mass Metering Programme, is, however, worried that “the ongoing World Bank-funded NMMP Phase 2 seeks to promote foreign companies’ participation against competent and pre-qualified local meter manufacturers, which will ultimately result in the loss of jobs and revenue.”

The lawmaker further informed that TCN, on behalf of the World Bank, closed the bidding advertisement on July 11, 2023, and further extended it to July 25, 2023, for the supply and installation of 1.2 million smart meters to the 11 distribution companies (DisCos) in the country.

The bidding criteria, according to him, could only be satisfied by foreign companies and had totally marginalised and eliminated the participation of the 35 local meter manufacturers.

If allowed to continue, he stressed, it would be disastrous to AMMON members, who have invested billions of naira in the sector and currently employ 10,000 direct workers and over 30,000 indirect workers.

Umeh, in his argument, noted that 70 per cent of the content of the meter could be sourced locally by meter manufacturers in the country.

“Seventy per cent content of the meter can be sourced locally. The electronic parts are also available. We cannot allow them to continue sabotaging the economy. We are not against the loan. We are talking about the application of the loan, it is to make our local manufacturers lose out, and the opportunity will go to foreign manufacturers. If we can produce 70 per cent of what we use in Nigeria, we will be a giant among countries of the world,” he said.

Umeh added that the meters, if manufactured by local manufacturers, will be more effective than handling by foreign manufacturers.

When the motion was thrown open for debate, many of the senators supported the suspension of the loan.

The senate president subsequently approved that the loan processing should be suspended, and the transmission company should negotiate with African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) for an alternative loan to achieve mass metering production if the World Bank loan conditions do not favour local economic growth at this critical time of massive unemployment and devaluation of the naira.

In its resolutions, the Senate urged the Federal Government to immediately suspend the TCN Tender for the World Bank-funded NMMP Phase 2. The aim is to undertake a comprehensive review of the procurement criteria to prioritise local manufacturing and assembling in line with the local content and backward integration policies that catalyse focal capacity building, employment generation, and economic growth for Nigeria.

The Senate further called for the assessment of the CBN intervention funds for members of AMMON with a view to further developing the sector and boosting the nation’s economy.

Akpabio also approved additional prayer to the motion by Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra South) to urge TCN to access intervention funds from CBN for the execution of the mass metering production.