Speaking during an interaction with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), has said that the four states (Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ondo and Plateau) omitted from President Muhammadu Buhari’s list of ambassadorial nominees sent to the National Assembly had no qualified candidates.
“Specific criteria had been set by the Presidency to pick nominees and the four states without nominees have no career diplomats in the Foreign Service who met the objective.
“Four states didn’t make it one way or the other; however, not necessarily on the criteria of seniority. There are criteria and qualifications that are required to post you 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. So even if you make that retirement criteria, service length or rank criteria, there are other criteria,”the SGF said.
We had reported it here last week that the Senate suspended the confirmation of the list of 47 ambassadorial nominees forwarded by President Buhari earlier in the month after arguing that the nominations were not reflective of the Federal character principle as four states had no nominees.
The Senate had proceeded to summon the SGF and Geoffrey Onyeama, Foreign Affairs Minister. They are to appear before the upper chamber on July 11 to explain the inconsistencies in the list.
Lawal said the Executive was disappointed that the Senate decided to suspend the screening of the 47 ambassadorial nominees when the issues could have been sorted out with only a phone call.
“Certainly, we will appear, we are law abiding, we respect the National Assembly and we respect the laws of the land. 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.
“I must say that we are disappointed that the National Assembly took the decision it took but at the last count my recollection is that out of the 47 diplomat nominees, the 36 states were represented. Out of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, 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. Not in all other appointments, so the spirit of the constitution has been fully satisfied by having 32 ambassadors out of 36 plus one (FCT). I believe that every objective analyst will agree with this,” Lawal said.