Uproar, drama in Senate over screening of El-Rufai, Musawa, seven other ministerial nominees

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By Fadehan Oyeyemi

There was an uproar and mild drama in the Senate on Tuesday, as senators continued with the screening of President Bola Tinubu’s ministerial nominees.

The drama started when former Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai escaped the Senate’s axe as Senator Sunday Karimi (APC Kogi West) moved against him over an alleged petition to stop his screening.

Senator Karimi, who disclosed that the petition, which he was holding in a brown envelope, borders on the issue of insecurity, said: “Mr President, I have a petition written against the nominee over the issue of insecurity in Southern Kaduna when he was governor. If I am permitted, I will like to read the petition.”

As El-Rufai was about to comment on the alleged petition, most senators opposed it with loud murmurs of “no, no, no” while the Senate President stopped him.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who refused to take the petition, said a number of petitions were submitted against some of the ministerial nominees, explaining that the chamber is not to entertain petitions against any nominee.

He said: “This is not the place to consider petitions, we will sit with the petitions later and refer them to relevant authorities. Please, take a bow and go, my brother.”

El-Rufai had earlier reeled out his achievements as governor and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, after which he answered questions from the lawmakers.

But Senator Suleiman Kwari (PDP Kaduna North), appealed to his colleagues to allow the former governor to take a bow and go.

All three Senators from Kaduna State, who are incidentally members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), supported the screening of El-Rufai for confirmation as a minister.

The Senate, however, grilled a nominee from Ogun State and former Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Olawale Edun for more than an hour, during which he posited that Nigeria has no justification being poor, given the country’s enormous blessings of human and material resources in the land.

Edun was particularly subjected to interrogation by the lawmakers, making him to answer questions as if had been appointed the Minister of Finance.

He told the senators that Nigeria had all it takes to be successful given its vast human and material resources, stressing that all that was necessary was a clear vision and commitment to set the country on the path of economic growth and development.

Edun said that he accepted the call to serve, hoping to re-enact the success story of Lagos when he served as Commissioner in Tinubu’s cabinet then, as governor.

The economist expressed support for fuel subsidy removal and the unification of foreign exchange, admitting, however, that both policies have come with serious pain for the citizenry.

Edun expressed optimism that the pains would soon give way for gains and sustainable economic development.

The Senate also gave a reasonable period of time to the ministerial nominee from Katsina State, Musa Dangiwa, who was alleged to have rushed to pay his tax for the last three years just last week because of his nomination.

The last nominee to be screened for the day, who is the Special Adviser to the President on Arts, Culture and Entertainment, Barrister Hannatu Musawa, gave in to emotions as tears rolled down her cheeks during the screening.

She was still presenting long introductory remarks when the Senate President stopped him, saying she was not presenting a presidential address.

Immediately, Akpabio stopped his remarks, the senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, Elisha Abbo, rose up after being recognised and pleaded with his colleagues to take a bow and go since she’s a well-known Nigerian with an intimidating resume.

His prayer was approved by the majority of lawmakers in session, while the Senate President banged the gavel.

In all, the Senate was able to screen nine of the nominees, while the remaining five among the first batch of the 28 nominees would have their turn on Wednesday.

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