The Senate president Dr Bukola Saraki has said that ministers without portfolio is not new practice in Nigeria. He said this as a reply to President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment over the country’s inability to pay all the screened ministerial nominees, thereby some ministers would be without porfolio.
The President had after receiving the list of screened ministers from Saraki on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, reiterated that not all the ministers have ministries to work with, therefore, some may be without portfolio.
Acccording to a report by Vanguard, Saraki, during the brief ceremony to mark the presentation of the screened ministers, stated that the senate had concluded the assignment and that not having portfolios for ministers is not a new practice in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate president, Bukola Saraki exchanging handshake after the presentation of the ministerial list to the president in Abuja on November 3, 2015.
“Mr. President, we have finished the screening of the last batch of the ministers on Thursday and we waited for our vote of proceedings today which we finished this morning.
“I want to formally present the list of the 18 ministers who have now been cleared to you and that makes a total of all your 36 nominees that have been cleared by the Senate.
“I was just engaging the SSA to check in the record when last that has happened. So it must be credit to the nominees that were submitted and also credit to the Senate,” Saraki said.
President Buhari receives the Official report of the Screening of Ministerial Nominees from Senate President Bukola Saraki in Statehouse on 3rd Nov 2015
In an interactive session with journalists after the presentation, Saraki explained further: “Well I think before you had ministers of state in the past, I don’t think there is anything new, there was minister for special duties which really don’t have portfolio. I think the key issue is being in cabinet, is being part of government and those that would have the responsibilities of ministering are those that at the end of the day would do that.
“So minister of state is not new. We had it before, if you remember that very well. Honestly I believe we need to move away from the small issues and begin to focus on the major issues. I think the country presently now is at a very trying time no doubt about it.
“We have the challenges of revenue drop, challenges in trying to boost revenue and create jobs and you know we have some of these issues which we really need to address and I think that it is time for us to address them and these are some of the issues we looked at as a senate.
“That it is time for us to give support to the executive to move the country forward, and I think all of us apart from those in the legislature and the executive and even those of you in the media, we must begin to proffer and put our country in a positive view otherwise there is no way we are going to have those major issues addressed.
“As I said it is not new in having all not full time ministers, but let us wait to see what portfolio or responsibility some of them will have. I cannot speak on behalf of the President on that, but we have done our own constitutional responsibility.”
Speaking on the nominees and their pedigree, the Senate president believes that they have the wherewithal to move the country forward.
According to him: “As I said the work was not difficult because of the quality of nominees that came in. Secondly it is the fact that we put in the time to vigorously put the nominees to answer the questions and at the end of the day, we found out that most of them met the requirement and the senate was satisfied.
“You noticed that in some cases we delayed the number of one or two. It is all part of politics of behind the scene but at the end of the day, we finished with them. That is all about give and take and eventually I am happy with what the senators have done. The entire 108 senators, we have done a good job and I believe we have laid the platform for the government to fully take off.”
On why he personally delivered the screened ministers’ names to the president personally, Saraki informed that there were other private issues to discuss, but informed that his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunals was not one of them.
“Because there were other things we discussed. As you can see after you left we discussed for about 20 minutes on some major issues as well. So it wasn’t just about the letter. I think at the right time they will get to know.
“I have a constituency which is the senate which I must first engage and I am sure with time the major issue has to do with moving Nigeria forward.
“Did you think that will come up in this kind of situation? No, it didn’t come up.”