By Deji Elumoye
The Senate may have commenced moves to disqualify 42 out of the 43 ministerial nominees they are screening should they fail to submit their certificate of asset declarations before a stipulated date.
This is as the Senate yesterday screened seven additional ministerial nominees, bringing to 31 the total number of nominees assessed by the upper chamber since Wednesday. President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday forwarded 43 names to the Senate for confirmation as Ministers of the Federal Republic with 10 nominees being screened on Wednesday and additional 14 nominees went through the same confirmation screening on Thursday.
This followed appoint of order raised by Senator Lawrence Ewrudjiakpo from Bayelsa State who relied on Order 121 of the Senate rule which provides that should one who had held public office fail to submit certificate of asset declaration, he shall not be eligible to hold public office.
On raising the point of Order, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan agreed with him and hinted that should the condition not be met by any of the ministerial nominees fail to comply with the extant provisions.
The Senate says some ministerial nominees may not scale through the screening if they fail to provide their certificate of asset declaration which is a condition for persons holding public office.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, stated this while sustaining a point of order raised by Bayelsa West lawmaker, Lawrence Ewrudjiakpo, at the ministerial screening.
This implies that 42 out of the 43 ministerial nominees who have once held public office risk being disqualified if they don’t provide evidence of asset declaration by next week.
The Order 121 in reference provides that: “The Senate shall not consider the nomination of any person who has occupied any office contained in part 1 of the 5th Schedule of the constitution prior to his nomination unless there is written evidence that he has declared his assets and liabilities as required by Section13 of Part 1 of the 5th Schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such declaration shall be required for scrutiny by the Senate.”
Ewrudjiakpo who raised the order explained that there was need for things to be properly done and rules complied with for transparency and accountability, adding, , “Mine is an appeal to say that all the nominees that have appeared before us, very few of them have provided evidence of declaration of assets. I move that the National Assembly liaison should facilitate their submission of such declaration because before we were sworn in, we declared our assets. I want to suggest that the Senate takes this notice and asks them before we go into the confirmation stage to submit such requirement.”
He later added that “It is a breach of the constitution. If we are fighting corruption, we must be seen to be doing so. We should know what they are worth before coming to office and what they are worth at the end of their tenure.”
Speaking at the end of yesterday’s session that lasted from 10.50am to 8.10pm with four hour break from Noon to 4pm, Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, announced that the remaining 12 nominees would be screened in the next two working days with nine being assessed on Monday and the remaining three would have their turns on the last day on Tuesday.
He listed those scheduled for screening on Monday to include former minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Lagos); Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud (Kaduna); Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara); former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Goddy Jedy-Agba (Cross River).
Others are Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa); Clement Agba (Edo), Maryam Katagum (Bauchi) and former Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.
The three nominees for Tuesday are Sabo Nanono, former Information Minister, Lai Mohammed(Kwara) and Saleh Mamman ( Taraba).
The seven nominees screened yesterday include former Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami (Kebbi); former Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika (Katsina); former Minister of state for Health, Osagie Ehanire (Edo) and former deputy governor of Plateau State, Mrs. Paullen Tallen.
Others are Muhammadu Dingyadi (Sokoto); Festus Keyamo (Delta) and Ali Pantami (Gombe).
One of the nominees at yesterday’s screening, Keyamo, an activist lawyer, told the Senators that the nation’s apex court, the Supreme Court as presently constituted was frustrating in the administration of justice.
Keyamo said if made the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, he would unbundle the apex court into six regional divisions for speedy consideration and dispensation of Justice.
This is just as he also blamed the Police and Magistrates for prison congestion by allegedly not adhering to the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Keyamo lamented that the case diary of the Supreme Court as at now, was filled up to 2022 which he said, would not allow it to entertain any new case apart from political and constitutional ones, till after 2022.
Three Ds , the activist explained would be adopted by him in getting the Judiciary reformed for speedy consideration and dispensation of justice .
His words: “If I am AGF, I have the idea I call the 3 Ds that will be at the heart of judicial reforms: decongestion of supreme court, decongestion of prisons and decongestion of cases lists in courts.
“Nigerian supreme court is the busiest in the world. My first task will be to unbundle the Supreme Court; it is the busiest in the world and that is not acceptable. Some of the cases that go there are frivolous. This country is big enough to have six regional courts.
“The Justice sector in Nigeria is bedeviled with so many problems requiring three clear cut solutions which are decongestion or unbundling of the Supreme Court, decongestion of Prisons and decongestion of courts for facilitation of speedy trials and dispensation of Justice.
“For the unbundling of the Supreme court, six regional Supreme Courts need to be created to handle civil and criminal cases which had passed through the magistrate, High and Appeal Courts within their zones. If this is done, the required speedy consideration and dispensation of Justice will be facilitated across the six zones because it is scandalous for mere case on physical assaults between two individuals to move from Magistrates either through appeals or objections from affected counsels to high court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court at the federal level.
“Except for political and constitutional cases , cases such as physical assaults, theft and petty others , supposed not to be allowed to progress to Supreme Court at the Centre in giving room for the 21 Justices there to attend to more national concerned cases.
“The problem at hand now with the centralisation of the Supreme court which has only 21 Justices , is that of Justice delayed, which invariably translate into Justice denied as a result of cases spending 10 to 15 years not to talk of motion for leave of appeal into the apex court, pending for five years .
“Holistic unbundling or restructuring of the Supreme Court is in all honesty , based on worrisome realities on ground , is very necessary which will be definitely be pursued by me if appointed as Minister of Justice and Attorney – General of the Federation”.
He however blamed the problem of prison congestion on the Police and Magistrates across the 36 states of the federation.
According to him, provisions meant for tackling the problem as provided for, by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act passed by the 7th National Assembly and assented to, by former President Goodluck Jonathan, were not being adhered to by both the Police and the Magistrates .
The provision, he explained, constitutionally empowered the Magistrates to go round Police cells from time to time , for profiling of offences of suspects in their custodies with a view to freeing those with minor offences who often ended up in prison as awaiting trial inmates .
“Every Police station should open itself to the nearest magistrate courts for inspection; same with the DPOs. But they are not complying with those provisions of the Administration of criminal justice act.
“Magistrates should be given the powers to grant bail even in matters involving murder when there is no evidence at the early stage.
“We should amend the law to make the powers of the Attorney General and DPP subject to judicial review. It is subject to abuse when people accused of abuse are freed,” Keyamo further said .