The Senate has given President Muhammadu Buhari till Friday to submit the list of ministerial nominees for screening, failure of which the red chamber will proceed on its two-month annual recess.
In line with its annual calendar, the National Assembly is meant to go on its annual recess on July 26 and resume on September 26.
Buhari, who won election in February and was sworn in on May 29, has continued to delay the submission of the ministerial list, arguing that he will need to take his time to appoint the people he knows.
The Chairman, Senate ad hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Saturday night, said the red chamber would proceed on its annual two-month recess this week if the Senate did not get the ministerial list by Friday.
He said, “If the list does not come before Friday, the Senate will proceed on its annual recess. We are not giving the president any ultimatum. The schedule of the Senate will go ahead if the Senate does not receive the list. The list is the only thing that can hold us back.”
Adeyeye said the President was at liberty to send the list whenever he pleased and that the Senate also had a duty to consider it in the overriding national interest.
He added, “However, any time they submit the list, we will consider it. It is not our responsibility to put pressure on the President. We can be recalled whenever the list is submitted even if we are already on recess, in the overriding national interest.’’
Corroborating this position, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, told Sunday PUNCH that the Senate would go on its annual recess on schedule.
Sunday PUNCH had asked him if the Senate would still postpone its annual recess despite the fact that the President had not submitted the ministerial nominees’ list.
Abaribe said, “The Senate will keep to its schedule.”
Findings by Sunday PUNCH revealed that the upper legislative chamber would require at least two weeks to screen the 36 ministerial nominees being expected from the President.
Meanwhile, investigations showed that members of the red chamber were divided over the proposal by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, that members might have to postpone their recess to treat Buhari’s lists.
Some senators, who spoke with one of our correspondents off the record, said the idea of postponing the recess was not yet a resolution of the House.
Lawan had two Wednesdays ago said that the President could most likely submit the ministerial list for consideration and approval of the red chamber before the end of that week.
He had said that the executive arm of government was working hard to ensure that the list was ready early enough before the senators proceed on their annual two -month recess.
The President of the Senate was then reacting to a point of order raised by Senator Bassey Akpan to the effect that the delay in the submission of the list could affect the holidays of the senators.
But Lawan said his colleagues had expressed readiness to sacrifice their time to screen the nominees when forwarded to the upper legislative chamber.
Lawan said, “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.
“I can imagine that before this (penultimate) week runs out, we could get the list.
“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 ministerial nominees in the interest of this country for the country to be taken to the next level.”
Akpan had earlier stressed the need for Lawan to urge President Buhari to forward the ministerial list on time as the National Assembly would soon embark on annual recess.
This, he explained, was to avoid putting lawmakers under undue pressure, especially if the President decided to forward the list on the eve of their recess.
He had said, “We understand the passion of Mr President to consolidate on the gains that he has so far attained.
“If we are going on this long vacation in two weeks (July 26), and by now, we have not received the ministerial nominees, it means we will have to put ourselves under intense pressure.
‘‘It is our collective responsibility that we must support Mr President to succeed.
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“I am just bringing to the attention of Mr Senate President that there is a need for you to please urge Mr President to send in the list of ministerial nominees so that the Senate can confirm them immediately.”
Meanwhile, other senators who corroborated the position of Akpan in separate chats with Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said they were already looking forward to the long vacation.
A senator from the South-East geopolitical zone said, “I have planned to travel and all arrangements have been perfected.
“It is not yet a resolution of the Senate that we should postpone our holiday to screen the nominees.
“I’m not even sure there will be a need for the postponement because the President does not appear to be in a hurry to send the list.’’
No response from Presidency
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, was asked whether Buhari would forward the list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly before Thursday, next week, but he refused to comment.
“I will not be able to speak and it is not wise for me to speak. That is my response,” he stated.
Buhari needs ministers to drive economy – Economists
The delay by the President in appointing members of his cabinet is having a negative impact on the economy, experts have said.
As a result, they called on the President to quickly constitute his cabinet in order to achieve the objectives set out when he took the oath of office on May 29 for his second term.
Speaking on the economic implications of the delay in appointing ministers, a professor of Economics, Sheriffdeen Tella, stated that ministers should to be appointed in order to drive the economic programmes of the government.
He said, “Of course it (delay in appointing cabinet members) is slowing down action on the economy because a Permanent Secretary cannot play the role of a minister.
“A minister is supposed to actually carry out the party agenda. The Permanent Secretary is a technocrat and so the delay is actually slowing down action on the economy in all ramifications because the Permanent Secretary’s function is different from that of a minister.
“And when you don’t have a minister, it simply means the President is doing everything and the President cannot do everything effectively.
“So it has serious implications for the economy.”
Also speaking, a developmental economist, Odilim Enwagbara, noted that the cabinet delay was having a negative impact on the economy as there were agreements that permanent secretaries could not sign on behalf of the country.
He said, “The President won a re-election in February and five months after, he cannot constitute a cabinet. Such is not good for our economy. There are critical roles that ministers perform in the running of the government and without them, things will not move.
“There are certain agreements that Permanent Secretaries cannot sign. A one-man government is a dangerous government and that is not the way to go. We are beginning to experience what we went through in 2015 when it took the President about six months to form his cabinet.”
Commenting on the development, the Founder, Centre for Value in Leadership, Prof Pat Utomi, did not quite believe the delay in forming the cabinet would affect the economy.
He said people who did risk analysis should have factored in the fact that there could be a delayed period of the pattern experienced in the past.
He said what was more important was the leading consensus in Nigeria around where Nigerians wished the country to go, saying that was what people would look at and make a decision with it.
He said what would reduce uncertainty was more of a long -term view and perspective plan on issues.
He said the elite generally had a shared vision of what their country was going through and things that would make it continue to run.
He, however, stated that what was more problematic was that the country did not have the shared vision as people chose to run in different directions.
Utomi said, “Well, I really can’t say anything for a fact. People who do risk analysis, I think may already have factored in the fact that there could be a delayed period of that pattern in the past, so in their calculation that has been accounted for.
“There should be more long- term view and perspective plan on issues so that it will reduce uncertainty and, therefore, does not matter whether there is a cabinet or no cabinet. The elite generally have a shared vision of what their country is going through and that things will continue to run.
“That is what is more problematic in Nigeria. We don’t quite have the shared vision – people are going in different directions and all of that.”
Delay in forming cabinet not good for economy -LCCI
Speaking on the effect of the delay, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Muda Yusuf, stated that the delay was not good for the economy, noting that the delay had adverse implications for the economy and investments.
Yusuf, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, explained that there were certain decisions beyond permanent secretaries in the respective ministries and that such could slow down the pace of government activities.
This, he said, was in addition to the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting that would not hold until ministers were appointed.
He said, “The delay contributes to the challenge of uncertainty that you have in the economy, and uncertainty can undermine investors’ confidence. When that happens, it has a negative impact on investments generally.
“So, from the point of view of investors’ confidence, it is not good for the economy, because when you have ministers in place, you have better clarity as to how the government wants to move forward, how it wants to function, implement its policies and such things. Therefore, that team is very important.
“Then, there are things that the permanent secretaries in the ministries cannot handle if they don’t have ministers and some of those decisions could have implications for the economy and the investment environment. That is also an issue.
“Also, the absence of ministers means that you don’t have a Federal Executive Council, which meets once in a week to take very important decisions that affect the economy and certain aspects of budget implementation. You know that sometimes when talking about awarding major contracts, they take it to FEC and if you don’t have FEC in place, you may not move forward with such decisions. That is also taking its toll on the economy and it means those decisions and the projects cannot take place.”