The 43 ministerial nominees sent by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate for screening will be confirmed today.
As of yesterday, 40 of the would-be-ministers had been screened by the senators, leaving only three to face the Committee of the Whole today before the scheduled confirmation.
Former Osun and Lagos states governors Rauf Aregbesola and Babatunde Fashola were among the nine nominees who appeared before the Senate yesterday. They gave good accounts of themselves.
The screening began last Wednesday, a day after the memo containing the nominees’ names was transmitted to Senate President Ahmed Lawan through the President’s Chief of Staff (CoS), Abba Kyari.
Aregbesola, Fashola and the other seven nominees, told the senators what they would do to add value to the Buhari-led administration if cleared for appointment as ministers.
The former Osun governor, who highlighted his eight-year tenure in the “State of the Living Spring”, said he planned to push for a new tax regime if confirmed for an appointment.
Aregbesola who described his proposed tax regime as “just”, noted that wealthy Nigerians should be appropriately taxed to raise revenue for the country.
He noted that if confirmed for an appointment, he would champion the collection of “privilege tax” from those with huge resources.
Aregbesola said: “If confirmed, I will advocate for a just taxation system that will bridge the inequality in the system. The truth is that Nigeria is a federation and I am a federalist.
“We have left rich men in Nigeria without discharging their responsibility to the country. I am going to champion a just tax regime for wealthy Nigerians.”
The former governor also told the Senate that the disparity in the payment of salaries during his tenure in Osun State ended in July 2018 before the expiration of his term in November.
He said civil servants from grade level 1-7, who could barely survive with their salaries, were never owed a dime during his tenure.
Aregbesola described his nomination for appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as a minister as a great privilege.
He noted that his stint in Lagos as Works & Infrastructure Commissioner provided him a great opportunity to test his capacity to manage the affairs of people.
The nominee, who reminded the Senate that the primary responsibility of governors was to provide security and welfare for the people, thanked God for giving him the capacity to do that in Osun.
Aregbesola described himself as a Nigerian who had been tested in all aspects of human endeavor to serve.
Senator Rochas Okorocha described his nomination as a blessing, assuring that Aregbesola as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would not hesitate to point out the President’s mistake if need be.
The former Imo governor said the nominee “talks nothing but the unity of the country and how the country could move forward”.
Stating that “honour should be given to whom honour is due,” Okorocha moved that Aregbesola be allowed to take a bow and go.
On how he gave his salary to Adamawa Senator Elisha Abbo to fund his local government area chairmanship election, Aregbesola noted that he had forgotten the gesture but added that he was tutored to be large-hearted by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Fashola, who was grilled for almost an hour, proposed the introduction of a N10 trillion infrastructure bond to address the country’s massive infrastructure deficit.
Senate President Lawan said that over 40 senators enlisted to ask questions from the Lagos ministerial nominee, who was the immediate past Minister of Power, Works & Housing.
Attributing infrastructure deficit to paucity of funds, Fashola said the country continued to operate a deficit budget.
He believed that the introduction of the bond would go a long way to address the infrastructure challenge the country is facing.
The bond, he explained, should also be backed by a legislative instrument that would enable interested Nigerians to invest as low as N1, 000.
Fashola noted that like the Sukuk that was over-subscribed, the infrastructure bond should be tried in the country.
The nominee told the senators that the Federal Government had operated deficit budgets in the last four years due to paucity of funds.
Fashola also noted that to the credit of the Federal Government, there is at least one federal road project in each state of the federation.
He said: “We could, with some pride say that there is in each state of the federation at least one federal road.”
Fashola noted that the government also intervened inroads in universities, adding that at the time he left office, “we were intervening in at least 14 federal universities”.
The nominee stated that housing projects were ongoing in at least 34 of the 36 states.
Fashola reiterated that scarcity of resources was a major constraint in his efforts to execute projects.
He noted that contrary to the wide, held view, there are constitutional provisions for states to participle in the provision of power.
On the adoption of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for projects, Fashola said that PPP is not attractive in some projects.
He canvassed the possibility to expand financial instruments, such as the Sukuk, to fund projects.
On the power reform program, the nominee said that it would be wrong to conclude that the reform was not working until the country exhausts all the powers of the regulator to ensure that the Discos and Gencos perform.
Fashola also said the country could decide not to initiate new projects in a particular year.
He noted that Nigeria should learn to prioritise projects, adding that “Nigeria is not yet a rich country that I know it will be.
He said that the Federal Government was working to raise $5 billion from China for the Mambila Power Project.
The other nominees, who were screened yesterday are Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud (Kaduna); Senator Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara); Goddy Jedy-Agba (Cross River); Sulaiman H. Adamu (Jigawa); Clement IK Anade-Agba (Edo); Ambassador Maryam Katagum (Bauchi) and Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu).
After screening of the nine nominees slated for the day, Senate President, Lawan said that they would screen the three remaining nominees today.
He also said: “We will do the approval and confirmation of all the screened nominees.”
The three remaining nominees to be screened today are former Information, Lai Mohammed (Kwara), Sabo Nanono (Kano) and Saleh Mamman (Taraba).