The Senate on Wednesday said the ongoing screening of ministerial nominees will not end soon, disclosing that the exercise would now last for seven weeks. This disclosure was made by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, while answering questions from journalists.
He confirmed that the Senate had resolved to do the screening piecemeal with the maximum of three nominees per day as against screening 10 per day as it did last week. Ndume also clarified the constitutional provision on the non-screening of a nominee within 21 days, saying the provision stipulates 21 working days and not 21 days, following which if the person is not confirmed or rejected by the Senate, he or she would automatically become a minister.
According to him, the constitution bears in mind that the Senate sits three times a week which he said implied that it had the luxury of seven weeks to conclude the screening. He also defended the closure of the chamber for plenary yesterday, saying this is an “extraordinary” time and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled state could not afford to take chances.
Ndume said: “The Senate president had to be in court at 10.00 a.m. He is the presiding officer. And this is an extraordinary time because we are screening ministers who are predominantly APC members. So, that was why we said this screening should continue under the Senate president presiding, and we are continuing tomorrow (today) by God’s grace...
“The Senate is an institution, an independent arm of government and should be respected and strengthened. Besides, if the president uses his discretion to take his time to submit the (ministerial) list which Nigerians patiently waited for, why are Nigerians not patient with the Senate to wait for its conclusion? And why don’t you take us up on issues other than these trivialities? “Supposing we said let’s take it off till next week, we have the right to do that. But the constitution is guiding us that we have to do this within 21 working days. And we are still within the 21 working days. It is not 21 days. It is 21 working days. And our working days in the Senate plenary is three days in a week.
“So, if you are talking about 21 working days, (it means) that the Senate will do this within seven weeks because we sit for plenary Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. That is three working days. It means that logically, we can do this up to seven weeks...“We screened 10 the last time. The public started saying ‘you are screening 10 in one day?’ In America, they screen one minister in two weeks. We said which one is the reasonable number? We have six weeks going.
“So, let’s take three (ministerial nominees) so that we will take it for six days. And that will be six weeks by our calendar and we will still be within the 21 working days. So, we started yesterday, taking three, one was not ready for certain issues.”