In this interview with Senator Uba Sani representing Kaduna Central Senatorial district, the former Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Public Affairs and immediate past Special Adviser to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state on Political Affairs speaks on why the Senate postponed its recess for a week to screen and confirm 43 ministerial nominees, the crisis in Edo State House of Assembly constitution of standing committees. The interview was conducted by HARUNA SALAMI. Read on.
Q: How will you describe the activities of the Senate in the last few days, especially the screening and confirmation of 43 ministerial nominees?
A: What has happened in the last one week is a clear demonstration of the level of commitment the present Senate has for the progress of the country. You’re aware as someone who has been conversant with the workings of the National Assembly for some time that what happened was extraordinary. It has never happened in the history of Nigeria. Even the Senate President who has been in the Assembly for about 20 years has made it clear that in all his years in the National Assembly this is the first time the Senate has suspended its rules to sit on Monday and Friday. But this time around we decided unanimously to put our personal interest, comfort and political affiliation aside to work for the interest of our country. This shows that this 9th Senate is a different Senate that works for Nigeria, not any section or political affiliation or personal interest. I can assure you that what we have done in the last one week is just the beginning. We screened 43 ministers in less than a week, that is unpredicted. I also commend Mr. President because most ministerial nominees, I can’t say all, have clearly demonstrated that they are competent, prepared and ready to face the challenge. We are ready to work with the executive but we will not take our oversight function lightly, we will be very serious about it. We will do that with the interest of our country at heart, that is sacrosanct.
We make sure we pass the budget in record time when the President brings it. One of the major reasons we decided to stay back and clear the ministerial nominees is simply to make sure that the budget circle returns to what we used to have in the past, from January to December. The 8th Senate, many important projects were inserted in the budget by the President but unfortunately the budget got passed around June and there was no time for the executive arm of government to implement anything. We have procurement procedures which takes not less than 3 months after the passage of the budget to initiate any project. That is why we urge the executive to present the budget early when we resume in September. As the Senate President has promised, we are ready to suspend plenary for at least one month and focus on the budget so that we can pass it before December so the President can start executing the major projects by January.
A: From what you have said do think the Procurement Act should be amended to make the process faster?
A: I don’t think it is necessary at the moment. The Procurement Act is there simply because there must be due diligence in the process to follow in the award of contract. Amending the Act means suspending some of those fundamental processes. I think it is not necessary, what is more important is to pass the budget early and any serious minister can start the process in January and begin to implement in February, March or April. That is okay, we will be able to meet the target.
Q: What is your view on the Edo State House of Assembly crisis?
A: The Edo State House of Assembly crisis is a constitutional issue. The constitutional provision is clear. What is happening is that democracy is under threat in a particular state. When people are elected to positions of responsibility I think they have to put their personal interest aside and consider the interest of the electorate. What is happening in Edo State House of Assembly is unfortunate because people were elected, but up till now they have not been inaugurated. It is not the leaders that are suffering, but the people who elected them. The executive cannot do anything without the state assembly
That is why the Senate decided to look at the constitutional provision and quickly resolved to give the governor one week to issue a proclamation for the inauguration of the assembly. I’m sure the governor will do the right thing. It is not as serious as people are thinking, just a procedural issue. We all talking about APC there.
Q: You have just been made chairman of Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions. What is your plan for the committee?
A: Whatever committee you are, it is about working for the interest of the country. Wherever I find myself, I will work for the interest of the people.