Following the complaints that trailed the omission of some states from the ambassadorial list sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Engr Babachir David Lawal, has explained why some states had no representative on the list.
According to him, there are no nominees from Bayelsa, Ondo, Plateau and Ebonyi states for now because candidates from the areas failed to meet some criteria set by the federal government for career diplomats.
He noted that there are specialist areas for which only specialists are required, so even if a state makes the service length or rank criteria, those are not the only considerations, adding that even gender was considered in the nominations.
In an interview with select journalists in Abuja, he further explained that the constitution had made it clear that such nominations were entirely the prerogative of the president.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Senate had rejected the list of 47 nominees sent for screening and confirmation by President Buhari on the grounds that the federal character principle was not adequately followed as four states had no nominees on the list.
The Senate then summoned the SGF and the minister of Foreign Affairs to explain the omissions to its Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The SGF, however, pointed out that of the 47 ambassadorial nominees, 32 out of 36 states were represented, but that even though the constitution preaches federal character, it does not say that every state must be represented in any appointment, except in the case of ministers.
Lawal also assured that he would appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs as directed by the upper chamber.
He said, “One thing, however, is clear. The constitution makes it clear that it is the prerogative of the president to nominate ambassadors and the criteria he will use to do so is also the constitutional right of the president. Whatever criteria he chooses to use is constitutional.
“Be that as it may, I must say that we are disappointed that the National Assembly took the decision it did, but again we believe that the Senate is made up of very responsible and patriotic Nigerians and the Senate is made up of great people, including governors who have governed and known the constitution regarding separation of powers. “
“So at the last count, my recollection is that out of the 47 diplomat nominees, the 32 states were represented. While the constitution preaches federal character, it does not say that every state must be represented in any appointment, except of course in the case of ministers.
“It’s not in all other appointments, so the spirit of the constitution has been fully satisfied by having 32 ambassadors out of 36, plus one. I believe that every objective analyst will agree to this.”
The SGF further explained that apart from the criteria of seniority, there are other criteria and qualifications that must be met before one is posted to go and represent Nigeria, “not just because while in the Foreign Service or the civil service, you were able to make grade level 16 or 17; quite a number of qualifications are needed.
“There is the requirement of gender sensitivity. This government, in its APC manifesto, promises gender equality. This is another that was used to the extent that we have about 12 women in the list of 47, among other criteria.”
He also acknowledged that just as it was the president’s sole prerogative to determine the criteria to use to appoint an ambassador, the Senate also had the prerogative to approve or not to approve the nominations.
“So obviously for all the criteria set up for this nomination, quite a number of states did not make it. If I remember very well, Ondo, Bayelsa, Plateau and one other state did not make it, but, basically, if any state does not have anybody among the list of 47, it is because one way or the other they did not meet the criteria, including the criteria of qualification.
He listed other qualifications to include having the character, the integrity and the experience to represent Nigeria.
“You must be change compatible; that is, you must have the integrity; you must have the experience; you must really just have the qualifications that are required of a representative of Nigeria,” Lawal said.
The SGF further noted that those nominated so far were career diplomats drawn from the civil service, not political ambassadors, and revealed that the next batch of diplomat nominees would come from outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during which the noted imbalance would be redressed.
“It is obvious the government will use those appointments to try and balance any lop-sidedness in the current list, unless of course we again cannot take a political appointee that will meet a criteria that we will set up for that purpose.
“Secondly, there has to be merit and qualifications in every nomination. One of the criteria used is that it is important not to appoint someone an ambassador that will soon retire.
“Again, another criterion that was considered was your accelerating level; you must be someone on grade level 16 or 17. Due to no fault of this government, not all states have people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Foreign Service Department that met this criteria,” he explained
SOURCE: LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER.
— Jun 27, 2016