Ambassadors: Senate Confirms 25; One Nominee Fails Anthem Test
ABUJA, March 16, (THEWILL) - The Senate today confirmed the nomination of 25 new career diplomats whose names were forwarded to the upper legislative chambers for screening in January.
One of the nominees, Ijeoma Bristol was however unable to recite the National Anthem, THEWILL can report.
Also, President Goodluck Jonathan forwarded the name of Justice Ibrahim Auta for confirmation as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. He is to replace Justice Dan Abutu, whose tenure expired on Tuesday.
24 of the nominees had a smooth ride, however, it was not so for Mrs. Ijeoma Bristol. But she was saved by the Senate President David Mark, who openly cajoled his colleagues to allow her scale the crucial hurdle.
Bristol had during her screening last week before the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, failed to recite the National Anthem and the National Pledge. She did not also know the capital of Jigawa State when asked to mention it by a member of the committee.
But despite this, the Senator Jibril Aminu-led committee in its report on the screening to the plenary recommended the wholesale confirmation of all the nominees.
However, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora (ACN, Lagos) referred to the remarks of the committee on individual nominees in its report and especially the one concerning Bristol in which it was observed that, "The nominee was not knowledgeable on specific and general issues" and wondered why such a nominee should be recommended for confirmation.
He described as an unpardonable lapse any attempt to appoint a person who does not know how to recite the National Anthem as an ambassador.
Urging his colleagues to reject Bristol as a nominee, Mamora said, "We cannot continue to give blanket clearance to just anybody based on sentiment; to me, this nominee does not deserve to be cleared for appointment as an ambassador."
But Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu) and Senator Grace Bent (PDP, Adamawa) put up a stout defence for the nominee.
While Bent, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee that screened the nominees informed her colleagues that Bristol "was nervous and a bit distabilised the moment she entered the screening hall", Ekweremadu pleaded that "we should just clear her since she has a fair knowledge of her job schedule as a career ambassador."
At this point, Senate President Mark urged his colleagues to "temper justice with mercy in this particular case", saying, "Bristol's case is what we call 'poor pass'.
He noted that if an ambassadorial nominee could be nervous before a mere Senate committee, what would she do when she meets a foreign president as our ambassador?
He said the nominee "just managed to scale through and her case should be a lesson for future nominees to be up and doing."
He said a letter would be written to the Presidency to intimate the President of Bristol's performance at the screening to enable him take a final decision on whether to post her abroad.
The Senate President however urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the ambassadors are posted to countries where they would represent the country well.
He said although the nominees were appointed on the basis of their career seniority, "we must not sacrifice efficiency on the alter of seniority."
Other nominees who were cleared include Kayode Obajuluwa from Ondo; Oyebola Kuku, Ogun; Maclean Omusa, Rivers; Ayoola Olukanmi, Osun; A. O. Idowu, Kwara; Felix Pwol, Plateau; and V. Okedion, Edo.
Others include B. S. Ringim, Jigawa; A. U Abubakar, Kano; O. C. Cocodia, Bayelsa; B. Z. Lolo, Kaduna, S. G. Sampson, Akwa Ibom; S. S. Yusuf, Niger; and M. Nuhu, Kebbi.
Meanwhile, the Senate adjourned to resume on April 19, 2011, to enable members campaign for reelection.