By Dare Lawal
Pres. Goodluck Jonathan is not running for office anymore, and so he can afford to take anyone on, including the Sultan of Sokoto and the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
The Sultan was displeased with the fact that the president had dared to reconstitute the board of the Nigeria Hajj Commission without consulting him and the NSCIA.
In a letter which the Council wrote to the Senate asking it not to accept the list brought by Pres. Jonathan, the Secretary of the NSCIA, Prof. Ishaq Okoye, said “The way and manner in which the re-constitution is done smack of bad faith and symptomatic of a sinister plan to cause friction and disaffection within the rank and file of the Nigerian Muslim Community while covering up some irregularities. Even if it is not illegal, technically, to re-constitute the Commission, it is immoral and unprocedural, more so that the Commission is charged with administration of a sensitive assignment about which over 80 million Nigeria Muslims are concerned.”
Despite the concerns of the Sultan however, the Senate went ahead on Thursday and confirmed the nominees for chairman and commissioners of the commission, as requested by Jonathan.
Jonathan had in a letter to the Senate two weeks ago nominated Abdullahi Muktar Muhammad and eight others as Chairman and commissioners respectively in view of the expiration of the tenure of the outgoing management of the commission on the 24th of this month.
Senate President, David Mark, in view of the urgency of the request, asked the Committee on Foreign Affairs to screen the chairman and members of the NAHCON board and submit its report for consideration within two weeks.
Here’s how The Punch newspaper reported it:
Presenting the report of the committee on the floor of the Senate on behalf of his members, Senator Sani Saleh, explained that series of petitions were fired against the appointment of the nominees.
He said one of the petitions was received from the NSCIA and some other stake holders.
Saleh said that the NSCIA, in its petition, objected to the composition of the entire nominees presented to the Senate for the appointment.
He said the group claimed that contrary to the provision of the Act, the President made the nominations and forwarded the list to the Senate without consultation with the NSCIA or the Sultan.
NSCIA, according to him, quoted Section 3(2) of the NAHCON Act, 2006, which states that, “The President shall, after due consultation, appoints persons of proven integrity as Chairman and members of the commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
Saleh added that another petition was received from one Abdulmumini Adamu, who also kicked against the nomination of Muktar Muhammad as the chairman-designate without giving any specific reasons.
He said another petition filed by the Association for the Promotion of Consumer Rights International was withdrawn before the committee could look into their complaints.
The committee, in its recommendations after going through the petitions, dismissed that of Adamu because he did not appear before it.
The senate committee’s report explained details of how the nominees were screened without making recommendations for their approval.
The report reads, “The committee conducted the screening in line with its mandate from the Senate, but it is constrained to make specific recommendations on the nominees because of the sensitivity of the petition from the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which came half way into the exercise.
“The Senate is kindly requested to consider and give further directives and guidance on the matter.”
But the Senate, while considering the report, ignored the NSCIA petition by confirming the appointments of the eight nominees as proposed by Jonathan.
For instance, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said section 3(2) of the NAHCON Act 2006, quoted by NSCIA to back its petition, did not specifically state that the body or the Sultan should be consulted by the President for such appointments.
He said the section only urged the President to make due consultation, without specifically mentioning any person or body for such consultations. This, he believed the President must have done, before forwarding the names of the nominees.
He therefore urged the Senate to confirm the appointment of the nominees since there were no proofs from anybody or relevant institutions that the President did not carry out consultations before their nominations.
The Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi (PDP Bauchi Central), also rose in support of the Senate Leader that the nominees’ appointments should be confirmed by the Senate, regardless of the petitions filed against them.
He said, “Mr. President, I rise to concur with the submission of the Senate Leader that the nominees presented before us by President Jonathan for appointment into the board of NAHCON should be confirmed, having been screened by our Committee on Foreign Affairs and found worthy of the appointments.
“Personally, these nominees, as far as I am concerned, are men and women of proven integrity and meant for the jobs for which they are nominated for. No petition should be allowed to stand in their ways please.”
However, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South) , urged his colleagues to allow the current members of the board to continue in office pending when the new APC-government would take over and inaugurate a new board for the commission.