Controversy again trailed the Senate generous use of its “bow and go” privilege accorded ministerial nominees presented to the Upper Legislative House by President Muhammadu Buhari for screening and confirmation as members of his incoming cabinet.
Nigerians who watched the two-day screening of 26 of the 43 ministerial nominees accused the Senate of denying them the opportunity to assess the capacity and competence of the “appointees” for cabinet positions.
Some senators, whose attempts to grill the ministerial nominees were frustrated by the Senate leadership, lamented that the gesture was being extended to persons who were not qualified to be granted such status.
They expressed shock that some would-be ministers were openly begging the Senate to allow them take a bow and go instead of unveiling their plans when confirmed as ministers.
The controversy heightened yesterday when the Senate accorded 10 of the 14 nominees that appeared before it screening the take a bow and go special treatment, which in the Senate is reserved for serving and former lawmakers at the state and national levels.
During the first day of the screening exercise on Wednesday, the Senate accorded six of the 10 ministerial nominees the take a bow and go status. Only one of the four remaining ministers-in-waiting, Ikechukwu Ogar, was properly tested as he answered 20 questions from the senators.
When the Senate resumed the screening yesterday, more nominees were allowed to go without any interrogation because of gender, being from the same state with the Senate president and for previously holding public offices.
There were, however, protests on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday when the lawmakers were prevented from asking former Transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, questions because he was a former speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and governor of the state. Some senators complained bitterly that he was not qualified to enjoy the privilege. The same went for Senator Godswill Akpabio as efforts by the Akwa Ibom State Senate Caucus to question him were stalled by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
When the trend continued yesterday, the Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, kicked against the practice, warning that “it is a confirmation hearing and not endorsement of the nominees.”
Abaribe having observed the take a bow syndrome in the chamber, raised a constitutional point of order (Order 147)(2), noting that the exercise had turned out to be an endorsement screening.
He said: “Mr. President of the Senate, this is a confirmation hearing and not an endorsement hearing.”
Abaribe’s observation didn’t change the trend rather the caucuses of the Senate from different states of the federation continued to request their colleagues to allow their nominees to take a bow.
The take a bow syndrome assumed a new dimension when Bello, the ministerial nominee from Adamawa State, pleaded with the senators allow him to take a bow and leave because he was a member of the Senate by association.
Even though was not in the category accorded the privilege, Bello, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), begged to be granted the status.
He said: “Distinguished senators, I have had a very good working relationship with the National Assembly and I have come with a number of National Assembly members and if people say I have been successful in my public sector career, I must sincerely say it was because of the support of the National Assembly.
“I think I will be right if I say that by association, I am a member of the National Assembly. And I do hope that distinguished senators, the Senate president, and other members of the National Assembly have agreed that by association I am a member, I would appreciate if I can enjoy it.”
Senator Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi Central), Aisha Dahiru, his Adamawa Central counterpart, Binos Yaroe from Adamawa South, and Elisha Abbo (Adamawa North) also spoke in support of Bello who was subsequently granted his wish.
Senate Lawan, who cleared the air on why the lawmakers asked all the women to take a bow and go, said that the Red Chamber accorded so much consideration to gender.
He said that all the women-nominees are competent to serve in Buhari’s cabinet.
Among those to be screen today are the immediate past Minister of Justice and attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina), Goddy Jeddy-Agba (Cross River), Mrs, Pauline Tallen (Plateau), Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi (Sokoto), Lai Mohammed (Kwara), and Engr. Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa).