Senate confirms two new ministers


The Senate has screened and confirmed Stephen Ocheni and Suleiman Hassan as ministers, following their nominations by President Muhammadu Buhari in March.

Mr. Ocheni is from Kogi State which has not had anyone in the Federal Executive Council, as constitutionally required, since the death of James Ocholi in an accident last year.

Mr. Hassan, Gombe State, is to replace Amina Mohammed who left Nigeria’s public service to take up top responsibility at the United Nations.

Both nominees, as they were before the confirmation, displayed impressive performances, on Wednesday, when they came before the Senate committee of the whole chaired by Senate President Bukola Saraki.

They responded to questions posed by lawmakers mainly on their respective areas of competence and backgrounds.

Mr. Ocheni, a professor of accounting, explained the importance of the Treasury Single Account which he said was for transparency, consolidation and optimal utilization of financial resources.

To tackle poverty, Mr. Ocheni proposed increased capital expenditure through which more jobs would be created; and encouraging graduates to be self-employed.

“If we increase capital expenditure by any percentage, we will also be reducing poverty by that percentage,” said Mr. Ocheni.

He also said self-reliance – mentioning local refinement of petroleum products — was key to hauling the country out of recession.

The second nominee, Mr. Hassan, is a surveyor and, formerly, chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change in Gombe State.

He said empirical determination of boundaries using current geo-spatial data “which we generate” was the way to check incessant communal disputes over boundary in Nigeria.

Boundary dispute is an elitist problem because of resources, he added.

Mr. Hassan had previously been screened and confirmed by the Senate for ambassadorial job, before he was nominated minister Mr. Buhari.

So, there were not many questions for him before he was asked to “take bow and go”, like Mr. Ocheni who was the first to face the Senate on Wednesday.

After the confirmation hearing, the lawmakers resolved through voice vote the approve the nominations of Messrs. Ocheni and Hassan for ministerial positions.