The Senate on Thursday released the criteria for screening President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees. The screening is scheduled to commence on October 13. On top of the demands from the nominees is: come with a proof that you have declared your assets. Briefing journalists at the end of plenary, Chairman, Senate ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Dino Melaye, said the upper chamber at its closed session agreed on hurdles to be scaled by the nominees before their eventual clearance.
Melaye explained that the senators insisted that each nominee must submit proofs of their asset declaration; must have their nomination approved by two senators from their states; and must have a clean bill of health from its public petitions committee, among other conditions.
Submission of asset declaration form was not included in the modalities for screening ministerial nominees in 2011. President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, is currently on trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false asset declaration when he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011. Melaye said:
“We considered a number of issues that had to do with the approach and the procedure for the screening of the ministerial nominees. So, we developed two modalities for the screening of the ministerial nominees. The first criterion is using constitutional provisions as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a fundamental procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees”.
“Section 120 of the Standing Rules of the Senate states that the Senate shall not consider the nomination of any person, who has held any public office as contained in Part 2 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution prior to his nomination unless there is a written evidence that he has declared his assets and liabilities as required by Section 11(1) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Such declaration shall be required for scrutiny by the senators. What this Section is saying is that every ministerial nominee must produce proof of compliance as required by the Constitution and the Rules of the Senate. You must declare your assets, and you must have a certificate of proof that you have declared your assets, and that you are given a certificate of proof by the Code of Conduct Bureau”.
“We also, in line with our convention, agreed that for you to be cleared as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, minimum of two senators from your state must, at least, show support for your nomination. It’s a convention by the Senate, and we have decided to uphold that convention in the sanctity of the integrity of the Senate. The era of take-a-bow-and-go is over. We are still going to maintain that, except with slight modification as regards former senators and former members of the National Assembly”
“For those who have been members of the House of Representatives and senators before, for them to become members of the House of Representatives and senators, they must have met those conditions before now. So, they would not be exposed to the same rigorous scrutiny that those who were not members of the National Assembly will face.”
“The Senate is also going to give priority to former members of the National Assembly in terms of the time for the screening. What I’m saying is that we may call up those, who are former members of the National Assembly before we begin to consider those, who are not members.
“We also, as a matter of modification for the take-a-bow-and-go, where it concerns only former members of the National Assembly, they may be questioned only by the chairman of that sitting, who is the President of the Senate.’’
No fewer than 25 petitions have been submitted by various individuals and groups seeking to stop the clearance of some of the 21 ministerial nominees. Checks at the office of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions showed that 25 petitions had been submitted to it as of the close of work on Thursday.