It was a rowdy session on Thursday at the upper chamber of the National Assembly over alleged lopsided appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.
To this end, the Senate directed its Committee on Federal Character to probe all appointments of the President to establish this alleged lopsidedness.
The decision of the Senate to look into the appointments of President Buhari was sequel to the Point of Order raised by the Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu, alleging that Buhari’s appointments were focused more on a particular region of Nigeria.
Ekweremadu was reacting to a letter from President Buhari seeking Senate’s confirmation of the appointment of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tunde Lemo, as Chairman of Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) as well as six others.
The letter from the President reads, “in accordance with the provision of Section 2 of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (Amendment) Act 2007, I forward herewith the nominations of a Chairman, a Managing Director and six (6) representatives drawn from each of the six (6) Geo Political Zones as members of the Governing Board of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency for confirmation by the Senate.”
Trouble started shortly after the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki read the President’s letter on the floor of the Senate.
Immediately Saraki read the letter, Ekweremadu raised a point of Order to challenge the appointments, pointing out that most of the appointments of the current administration were not in line with the Federal Character Principle.
Ekweremadu read Section 14(3) of the Constitution to back his argument.
According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the federal character principle stipulates that, “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.
In the previous appointments sent to the Senate by President Buhari for confirmation, while Dr. Tukur Ingawa (Katsina) was appointed as Chairman of Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Banire Muiz Adeyemi (Lagos) was appointed as Chairman of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Chief Olabode Akeem Mustapha (Ogun), Chairman of Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and Senator Abba Ali (Katsina) and Mohammed Sagir (Niger) were made members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).
Supporting Ekweremadu, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi aligned himself with his argument that the appointments of the current administration had been so lopsided and favouring a particular region of the country
The Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, who also relied on a point of order countered Ekweremadu’s allegation, insisting that the Deputy President of the Senate did not look at the bigger picture before jumping into such conclusions.
Urging Ekweremadu to remove his mind from the narrow picture, Sen. Lawan told him to look at all other appointments in other agencies before alleging that the Federal Character Principle was not followed in the appointments.
The President of the Senate, Saraki, while trying to calm the situation, pointed out that observations by the lawmakers could only be considered as the personal opinion of those raising them.
He, however, mandated the committee on Federal Character to carry out a comprehensive investigation on the appointments of President Buhari, adding that when the committee submits its report, then the lawmakers would have a basis to make allegations if it is established that there was need to.
Even with Saraki’s intervention, the senators were not persuaded but continued with their shouting bout over the appointments, but, while some backed Ekweremadu observation, others disagreed.
Sen. Obinna Ogba, in his point of Order during the rowdy session, pointed out that his state, Ebonyi was shortchanged in appointments, adding, “Mr. President, distinguished Colleagues, we cannot continue on this nomination. If you look at this, Ebony state slot is completely missing.”
Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, also raised a point of order when the Senate further moved to begin the confirmation of the appointment of Chairman and commissioners of the Federal Civil Service Commission, insisting that the Senate should suspend the consideration.
His argument was that since the Senate had agreed to investigate all the appointments of the current administration, the confirmation should be stepped down until the committee on federal character submits its report.
Saraki, however, overruled him, saying that the screening should continue pending when the Committee on Federal Character submits its report, adding that the Thursday’s consideration of the Senate was not the final confirmation of the nominees.
He maintained that before the appointees are confirmed, the senate would have received the report of the Characters’ committee.
Saraki said: “We are just speculating, we are on the same page. Let us first get a document from Federal Character then we can take action, if the Federal Character Reports suggests that the Deputy President of the Senate is right, then we suspend the consideration.”
He, however, upheld that the screening of the Civil Service Commission’s appointees be continued and directed the Committee on Federal Character to conclude it investigation and report back to the Senate on Tuesday.