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MINISTERS: JONATHAN SETS FRESH HURDLES FOR NOMINEES

By NBF News
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There were indications on Tuesday that President Goodluck Jonathan had added new conditions to the set of criteria that must be met by ministerial nominees before their names could be forwarded to the Senate for screening.

Investigations by our correspondents on Monday showed that one of the fresh conditions is that nominees must have a minimum of higher national diploma or a first degree.

A Presidency source, who made this known to THE PUNCH added that the President had also pegged the age limit of the would-be ministers at 65.

Loyalty to the Peoples Democratic Party by its members whose names are on the lists sent by their state chapters is also to be highly considered by the President before their names could get to the Senate.

Our source, who asked not to be named because of the confidentiality of the list, added that the records of performance of the nominees were also a key factor.

He explained that Jonathan introduced the criteria to prune the number of nominees from some states, particularly where final selection had been difficult because of disagreements by interest groups.

The source said, 'Some nominees, who have less than HND or first degree would be weeded out. If the educational qualification for National Assembly members could be raised to a National Diploma, nothing stops qualification for ministers to be raised to HND or a first degree.

'You will recall that the last National Assembly in amending the Electoral Act set National Diploma as the minimum qualification for any Nigerian aspiring to contest election into the Federal legislature.

'The President is appointing dynamic Nigerians, who are not more than 65 years. But there are a few nominees, who made the list based on their merit.'

Investigations showed that the lists from the state chapters of the PDP included persons nominated on merit, but who have exceed the 65 years age limit.

It was gathered that PDP members, who at a time left the party but later returned were not being considered.

Our correspondents learnt that the yardstick affected mostly loyalists of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who had defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria and returned to the PDP in 2010.

A member of the PDP's National Working Committee, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the issue of party loyalty, said, 'We want members who have remained loyal to the party, not those who at a slightest chance leave us when their personal ambitions are not realised. This is to discourage defection from our party and make our members to remain loyal.

'Also, any man or woman, who is on the list must not only be responsible, but must be morally upright. The State Security Service has been directed to dig into the personal lives of nominees.

'We do not want people with questionable character. Former political office holders on the list must have record of performance.'

It was also learnt that nominees would be investigated to find out whether or not they had corruption cases against them.

Investigations showed that those who were nominated by godfathers but indicted for corruption, would also be weeded out of the list.

Besides the criteria, some nominees were considered on the basis of their contributions to the presidential campaign of Jonathan.

The ministerial list was originally scheduled to be ready last week so that the Senate could cut its vacation short and consider it ahead of its June 28 scheduled resumption.

But difficulty encountered in taking care of the interests of various groups delayed the final compilation of the list.

It was gathered that although more than 15 nominees had been screened by the State Security Service, the Presidency was still working on names from some states.

But as the President set the fresh criteria, interest groups on Monday besieged Abuja to ensure that their nominees made the final list.

It was gathered that rivalry between two groups in Lagos State PDP headed by an ex-convict, Chief Bode George, and a former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, has heightened as they lobbied to make the list.

The two groups had last month submitted different lists to the President as a result of the crisis that had hit the state chapter of the party since 2010.

Investigations, however, showed that Jonathan had dumped the lists of the two groups and picked nominees from the state based on merit.

It was also learnt that Jonathan and some governors differed on some nominations. An example is the case of Rivers State, where the President and Governor Rotimi Amaechi were said to have disagreed on the nomination of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Chibudom Nwuche.

The President was said to have preferred the former speaker, who is believed to be opposed by the state government.

The nominees whose names were reported on Monday to have been forwarded to the SSS included the current Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; a former African sprint queen , Mary Onyali-Omagbemi; daughter of an ex-Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, Jumoke .

Others are former a Transport Minister, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman; former PTDF Executive Secretary, Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar; Alhaji Nuhu Zagbayi, Acting PDP National Chairman, Dr. Haliru Mohammed, and the party's National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali.

Reacting to his nomination, Mohammed said that he was prepared to face screening committee of the SSS and the NIA.

The acting PDP chairman said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, dismissed insinuations that he had turned down the offer to serve in Jonathan's administration and that he had nominated his wife to take his place in the cabinet.

He said, 'I cannot say I have been nominated. It is one thing for your name to be on the list and it is another thing for the name to get to the Senate.

'I have not gone through the screening with the SSS. I will be there if I am invited to go through the screening.'