Senate suspends screening of career ambassador nominees

The Nigerian Senate has summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal over alleged irregularities in the list of career ambassador nominees recently sent to it for approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Minister and the SGF are expected to explain why some states of the federation were omitted in the list of the nominees which is now awaiting confirmation in the Upper legislative Chamber.

They are also expected to clarify  perceived irregularities in the list of the nominees, including alleged selection of some junior officers in Foreign Service for Ambassadorial appointment instead of their superior counterparts.

The Senate made the resolutions following to its consideration of a point of order, raised by Senator Joshua Dariye, who came under Orders 42 and 52. While making his submissions, Senator Dariye observed that the career ambassadors list was full of omissions and irregularities, and should therefore, be corrected before approval by the Senate.

He said that in his state, Plateau, those nominated by the President were not qualified, as serving senior career officers in the Foreign Service from the state were left while their junior colleagues were nominated.

He further said, “given the important role played by ambassadors, due diligence must be given and there should be a criteria to nominate qualified eminent Nigerians. We should direct that the minister for foreign affairs and the SGF should appear before the Senate committee on foreign affairs to explain the omissions and irregularities, and the processes by which some of these names came about”.

Seconding the point of order, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC-Osun Central) called for the intervention of the Senate in view of numerous petitions which it had received in respect of the matter. He said there was a need to ensure that the right processes were followed in the selection of the nominees.

“I have been approached by three different people including one from my state with the grievance that there was a lot of irregularities with the way that list emerged. I cannot ascertain that except to say that in the case of two of these people they are the most qualified from their own states and have been bypassed in this nomination. Their own case is that there is nothing in their service record to show that they have not been superb in the discharge of their duty.

Two of them are already on level 17 and in making the recommendations, many who are junior to them in experience and in status have been elevated above them,” he submitted.

Also, supporting the point of order, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji (PDP-Ebonyi South) expressed concern that his state was not represented in the nomination, stressing that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the SGF should explain the modalities in the selection.

The Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign affairs, Senator Shehu Sani, said that the committee had begun investigation into the matter, and urged all aggrieved persons to forward their petition to the committee.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, said he had equally received petitions from lawmakers and other Nigerians on the omission in the list. He called on the committee on foreign affairs to expedite action on the petitions, saying screening would be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

“A number of senators have raised this observation and I have received a lot of petitions on this matter. If we say they are career ambassadors we must ensure that the process is transparent, especially as they are going to be ambassadors. It is important for the foreign affairs committee to invite the minister and the SGF so that they can explain the processes that led to these names before we begin to consider the nomination,’’ he ruled.

The Senate President, thereafter, directed the committee to report back to senate in one week.