Thursday, 15 October 2015

SEE How Kachikwu, Fashola, Steal Show At Senate Screening

Former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and Mrs Kemi Adeosun were clearly the star attractions at the screening of ministerial nominees, yesterday, as the Senate cleared 18 nominees for ministerial appointment.

Fashola’s suggestions on state police, review of the Abuja Master plan and apology to the Igbo over the deportation of some Igbo residents of Lagos during his second term marked one of the major highlights of yesterday’s screening of the nominees.

So also were Kachikwu’s comments on the oil industry and Adeosun’s remarks on the economy, devaluation of the Naira and Treasury Single Account, TSA, foreign direct investment and how to improve Nigeria’s alternative sources of revenue.

Their robust comments paved the way for the approval and  confirmation of 18 of the 36 nominees for appointments as ministers after two days of screening. President Muhammadu Buhari had first sent a list of 21 names. He later sent a list containing 16 names, from which he yesterday withdrew the name of former Deputy Governor of Niger State, Ahmed Isa Ibeto.
MINISTERIAL SCREENING—From left, Former Governor of Lagos State and ministerial nominee, Babatunde Fashola; Taofeek Adaranijo; Majority Leader, House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila; Ismaila Kawu, shortly after screening of Fashola in Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

MINISTERIAL SCREENING—From left, Former Governor of Lagos State and ministerial nominee, Babatunde Fashola; Taofeek Adaranijo; Majority Leader, House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila; Ismaila Kawu, shortly after screening of Fashola in Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

Those Screened by the Senate
1.Udoma Udo Udoma (Akwa Ibom) 2.Kayode Fayemi  (Ekiti) 3.Audu Ogbeh (Benue) 4.Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi) 5.Osagie Ehanire (Edo) 6.Abdulrahman Dambazau (Kano) 7.Lai Mohammed (Kwara) 8.Amina Ibrahim Mohammed (Gombe) 9.Suleiman Hussaini Adamu (Jigawa) 10.Ibrahim Usman Jibril (Nasarawa) 11.Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos) 12.Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (Delta) 13.Abubakar Malami, SAN (Kebbi) 14.Chris Nwabueze Ngige (Anambra) 15.Aisha Jummai Alhassan (Taraba) 16.Solomon Dalong (Plateau) 17.Kemi Adeosun (Ogun) 18.Hadi Sirika (Katsina).

Ministers awaiting swearing-in, assignment

Those screened, cleared and confirmed by the Senators as full time ministers to be assigned portfolios by the President were Senator Udoma Udo Udoma (Akwa Ibom); Dr. Kayode Fayemi  (Ekiti); Chief Audu Ogbeh (Benue); Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi); Dr. Osagie Ehanire (Edo); Lt.Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (Kano); Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Kwara); Hajia Amina Ibrahim Mohammed (Gombe); Engr. Suleiman Hussaini Adamu (Jigawa); and Ibrahim Usman Jibril (Nasarawa).

Also cleared and confirmed as ministers were former governor of  Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (Delta); Abubakar Malami, SAN (Kebbi); Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige (Anambra); Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan (Taraba); Barrister Solomon Dalong (Plateau); Mrs Kemi Adeosun (Ogun); and Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina).

After yesterday’s screening exercise which started at 11.48am and ended at 5.10pm, Senate President Bukola Saraki called for a voice vote to approve and confirm the nominees.

Those Awaiting Screening
Rotimi Amaechi, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, Bukar Ibrahim, Cladius Omoleye Daramola, Prof Anthony Onwuka, Geoffrey Onyema, Dan Ali, Barr James Ocholi, Zainab Ahmed, Okechukwu Enelamah, Muhammadu Bello, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Aisha Abubakar, Heineken Lokpobiri, Adamu Adamu, Isaac Adewole, Abubakar Bawa and Pastor Usani Uguru.

Drama over Lai Mohammed’s confirmation

See photos here

There was, however, a mild drama when Saraki called for yes or nay chant over the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as nay chants from Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP appeared to have overtaken that of the ayes during the Committee of the Whole because of their large number in the chambers, but Senate President Saraki had his way and confirmed Mohammed. The nominee from Oyo State, Barrister Adebayo Shittu whose name was number nine on the Order Paper was however not called for confirmation, probably for lack of time.

Ibeto’s nomination withdrawn

Before the commencement of yesterday’s screening exercise, Senate President Saraki announced that President Buhari in a letter to him had withdrawn the name of the immediate past Deputy Governor of Niger State, Ahmed Musa Ibeto. Ibeto’s name was one of the 21 ministerial nominees first sent to the Senate on September 30, 2015. No reasons were given for the withdrawal of Ibeto’s name. Senate President Saraki had on Tuesday read the final list from the President containing 16 names and on the list was Abubakar Bwari Bawa from Niger State, obviously the replacement for Ibeto.

Why senators will screen Amaechi today

Meanwhile, contrary to the Order Paper which had former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi as one of those to be screened yesterday, the Senate shelved his appearance.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu said that it was not possible to screen Amaechi because the report on the petition against Amaechi was not ready. Senate President Saraki, however, urged members of the Committee to ensure that the report was ready today.

How Fashola rattled Senators

Former governor of Lagos state who appeared before the Senators from 11. 48am to1pm told the Senators of the need to review the Abuja Master Plan which has been distorted, just as he said that it has become imperative to decentralize the Nigerian Police as he advocated the establishment of a state policing system if the nation’s insecurity problem must be addressed.

Fashola who defended allegations concerning a N78 million website and N258 million borehole, said that throughout his stay as governor for eight years, nobody has so far come out to accuse him of enriching himself corruptly, even as he said that he did not personally sign any cheque as well as his commissioners. He also apologised to Nigerians for deporting some citizens of the state,particularly from the South-East to their states of origin.

He said: “The number available to me is that we have probably a standing Police force of about 500,000, les than a million in every event to a population that is heading to 180 million. So, we are under-policed and if the Federal Government decide to take up these responsibilities on its own, can it do so in the micro level that is necessary at the state and local government levels?

“My recommendation is a compelling urgency for decentralization. I have made those recommendations to some of the committees on constitution amendment where I was privileged to make presentations. There have been arguments about why we should not go there but those argument did not go far. They did not address the fundamental responsibilities that government has. I have heard the argument that government will abuse the Police for political purposes.

“The abuse of political power is not as important as loss of lives, and everything we do to advance that cause makes us more respected as government that cares. There is a process for curing abuse of institution but there is no process known to me today for recovering lives already lost. These are challenges that are before us as a people and as a nation. At the state level, you can also wonder what governors are going through.

“They have parliaments that make laws but they have no capacity to enforce their own laws. We are talking about domestic issues — rape and domestic violence — there are criminal offences in many states across the country but who is prosecuting them? This is because the Police officer is too busy chasing a robbery. Our mothers, daughters and sisters are expected to tolerate rape. If we are afraid of abuse, one of the things I will suggest is that we start a state Police.

“I proposed a system where we have six zonal commands from existing the Police force. It is not every state that can start if it cannot fund it. States who can fund can decide to employ 1,000 men, the Police Service Commission will train and graduate and if at the end of the training, only 800 pass the exam, they would be employed. The state buys their uniforms, there is a national license.”

On security, Fashola said, “ As far as security is concerned, that is the primary purpose of every government. It is the purpose for which government exists, to protect the citizens and their assets and it is the toughest job that any government can have. It is the challenge that leaders across the world are facing — terrorism, youthful gangs, cults and so on.

“My attitude was to see criminals as my competitors and in a competition, my desire was to use my resources to outspend my competitors, out-think the competition and out-maneovre the competition. But our risks are different. As a governor, my job was to ensure that nobody died, my job was to ensure that nobody robs. So, I have no magic for error. Every citizen that was robbed, I have failed that citizen. So, I have to be right every time, the criminal has to be right only once.

“So, we brought all the stakeholders — from the banks who were being robbed everyday then without the capacity to respond and one of the things I told one of the bankers was that if he could protect and bullet-proof his banks, if he cared about his workers and customers, can the government bullet-proof every home? If you bring some of this money and we put it in a pool and give these Policemen, it will help us and so, the point here is that there is a necessity here to decentralize.

Speaking on Abuja, the nominee said, “ In deciding what to do about Abuja, these are the real issue. First, getting a hold of its resources, knowing its districts and its problems, knowing the people, sharing with them what the thoughts are. The Master Plan itself may perhaps need to be reviewed. Plans are not static documents, they must be reviewed periodically. A level of consultation and knowledge would be necessary in order to accurately say this is where Abuja should be heading. In spite of our complaints, it is still a beautiful city, getting it to be better than it is, is a matter of choice for all of us. Laws have to be enforced and it should be rigorously followed.”

On old and young politician and how they relate to economic development, he said, “The sum total of every nation is its people. The more elderly ones are the more matured ones. No matter how hard we try, we will never discount the experience, the maturity, counselling and guiding support of people who are older than us. We must continue to interface with them. I must walk away from the tendency to condemn the level of our national development. We must begin to see our cup as half full rather than half empty.”

On the alleged website project, Fashola said: “Let me say first that it raises the question of public understanding of the role governors, public servants and some have a surprise to learn that as a governor of Lagos State, I didn’t sign cheques, none of my commissioners signed cheques. I didn’t fix contract prices. It is an institutional process.

“The only training I have is that of a lawyer. Nobody can award contract over benchmark price. Throughout my tenure, I have been confronted with the price of things and the reality is that when you design a road, what you meet in reality when construction starts is usually not what you end up with. In all of these, nobody has alleged that I have corruptly enriched myself. I could not have been a master in computer and technology. I need something to do my work.”

When asked about his definition of loyalty, Fashola who noted that he remained loyal to causes he believed in said: “As for loyalty, the concept of loyalty is a strange one. The real answer to that question is, may your loyalty not be tested. I always pray that my loyalty will not be tested because you might have to take a bullet for somebody. We discuss it loosely, but in public service, I have remained loyal to causes that I have signed onto and in all my life, nobody can fairly accuse me of giving my word and going back on my word.”

Fashola calls for state police, apologises on deportation of Igbos

On deportation of Igbo people, he said: “In a federation, the right to free movement is not absolute, it carries with it a responsibility not to be a nuisance.” He said those moved to their states of origin were those who asked to be taken home. Fashola concluded his submission by saying he apologised in the interest of national cohesion.

No palliatives, no fuel subsidy removal

Also answering questions from Senators when he appeared before them, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu who noted that there will be no removal of subsidy until palliatives were put in place, disclosed that with the non-passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, Nigeria was losing 15 billion dollars yearly, adding that the Federal Government has no plans to reduce the price of fuel.

Kachikwu who disclosed that plans were on to distribute free cylinders to every home with gas stations closer to homes, said that over 40 percent of what NNPC makes is used by the corporation, adding, “in the next one, two days, you find that individuals will open their stations and products are there. We have enough storage in this country that will last us for the next 40, 50 days.

“First of all, let me say that one of the things I’ve said to myself since resuming as GMD of NNPC is that I will not be constrained by the lack of PIB in making sure that holistic solutions to the industry continue to be propelled. So, using existing laws, we have continued to make changes.

Because at the end of the day, whether or not PIB is available and passed, it really doesn’t lie within the umbrella of the executive, it lies with this revered Assembly. But I also do not think that the problem with PIB has been the facts of the versions. By the time the last Senate was rounding off, it had gotten a version that was clearly the version that both houses were looking at. Am I going to create a new version? Not really. What I will need to do is take the version that you have, look at it again and make changes.

“The key issue is that as long as we continue to want to pass a holistic PIB, it is going to be a very major challenge. But once you begin to break it up into critical aspects, you begin to make a faster run to passing PIB. Fiscal regime, for example, you ask yourself, why would you want to have fiscal regime inside the PIB? Because to change those fiscal regimes, which are very dynamic environment, you have to come back to this Assembly to also make changes.

“You must find a way of pulling out fiscal regimes and leave them to existing tax laws which you can amend. And additionally, look at the PSCs and Joint Venture Agreements to enable you determine fiscal regimes. The advantage in that is that you have the flexibility of changing with the times.

“At the time when oil prices was so low that nobody was willing to invest in your country, you may give some incentives. At the time when they are so high that people are making outrageous profits, you may increase your taxes. But so long as you leave it in a holistic blue-barrelled, high voluminous PIB, you are stuck in terms of how you are going to get the required votes each time to make amendment. I think the way to go is, first of all, take what is there, look at it in the context of where we are today.”

We need creative solutions – Adeosun

Mrs. Kemi Adeosun expressed the need for creative, innovative solutions to add value to our country and economy. Responding to questions, Mrs Adeosun said that to block leakages, we need to ‘chase out cash. Every where that people transact in cash, there are leakages.”

She said the country needs to adopt other forms of cash transfer that phases out physical cash, adding that there is need to invest primarily in infrastructure. She also said that banks are not in business to sit on government money, it’s bad economics.”

“TSA was introduced in Ogun State in 2011, which consequently reduced borrowing by the state government,” Mrs. Adeosun said. Speaking about foreign investment, she said that the major challenge of foreign investment is infrastructure.

“We need to establish public-private-partnerships to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure. If we get our infrastructure right, there are opportunities,” adding that Nigeria has to increase its revenues and improve on things like audits.

“Increase revenues, better cost efficiency and seek out other sources of funding to avert recession”, Mrs Adeosun said. Advising the government on cost-reduction, Mrs. Adeosun said that we all need to eat, drink, and focus on ‘Made in Nigeria. Addressing funding to non-oil sectors of the economy, she said that our interest rates are far too high. It’s very difficult to make a profit with these interest rates.

“Markets tend to over-react when there is a shock or a slight depression, hence, the recent recession projections”, Mrs. Adeosun said. She added that unemployment Solutions, jobs and entrepreneurship are what she intends to capitalize on while crashing interest rates.

“TSA was introduced in Ogun State in 2011, which consequently reduced borrowing by the state government,” Mrs. Adeosun said. Speaking about foreign investment, she said that the major challenge of foreign investment is infrastructure.

“We need to establish public-private-partnerships to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure. If we get our infrastructure right, there are opportunities,” adding that Nigeria has to increase its revenues and improve on things like audits.

“Increase revenues, better cost efficiency and seek out other sources of funding to avert recession”, Mrs Adeosun said. Advising the government on cost-reduction, Mrs. Adeosun said that we all need to eat, drink, and focus on ‘Made in Nigeria. Addressing funding to non-oil sectors of the economy, she said that our interest rates are far too high. It’s very difficult to make a profit with these interest rates.

“Markets tend to over-react when there is a shock or a slight depression, hence, the recent recession projections”, Mrs. Adeosun said. She added that unemployment Solutions, jobs and entrepreneurship are what she intends to capitalize on while crashing interest rates.