SGF faults Senate, says Buhari has power to nominate ambassadors the way he wants

Close- up: Babachir Lawal, the engineer who got caught up in grass-cutting scandal

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir David Lawal, has faulted the action of the Senate for suspending the screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ambassadorial nominees, insisting that the President has the power to nominate ambassadors the way he wants.

It would be recalled that the Senate had suspended the screening and confirmation of the 47 nominees by President Buhari because, according to the Senate, the list did not reflect the Federal Character principle.

While suspending screening, the lawmakers also summoned the SGF and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to come before it to explain the criteria used in the nomination of the 47 ambassadorial list.

The list has no nomination from Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ondo and Plateau states.

Lawal, while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, said he was ready to appear before the Senate but insisted that the President is not bound by any law to adopt any particular criteria while nominating ambassadors.

According to him, the constitution does not impose any restriction on the President in his choice of ambassadors unlike what obtains in that of ministers, where he is expected to nominate a minister to represent each state of the federation.

The SGF also further frowned at the action of the upper chamber of the National Assembly, saying instead of suspending deliberation on the list, the matter would have been resolved with just a phone call

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Lawal said: “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. We acknowledge also that it is also the prerogative of the Senate to approve or not to approve that nomination.

“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.

“We believe that the Senate will not do anything that will bring the country to disrepute because right now Nigeria enjoys tremendous goodwill all over the globe. Countries now have high regard and respect for our president, our ministers and all other representatives of government are treated very well and with respect wherever they go. It is important to have ambassadors to sustain this goodwill.”

The SGF also noted that having ambassadors in foreign countries have a long way to go in seeking foreign investment into the country.

“Again, a lot of the travels by the president and government representatives is to attract direct foreign investment into the country and ambassadors are key to sustaining this and ensuring that the goals for these trips are achieved.

“A third reason why we think these ambassadors are key is because of the phenomenal of global terrorism; almost every country around the world is facing it and all nations of the world are now collaborating with each other to fight this international terrorism. It is important that Nigerians have representatives on the ground who will represent its interest and defend it.”

Speaking further, Lawal any delay by the Senate in screening and approving the nominees is inimical to the country.

He said: “We believe that senators being patriotic Nigerians will not want to cause undue hardship and put Nigeria at an undue disadvantage in any regard. While we respect their rights and their views on the issues of ambassadorial nominees, we expect that in coming to whatever decision, they will consider patriotism and put into cognizance the interest of their own country and not probably political considerations or even personal considerations to bring undue hardship and disadvantage to their own country.

Speaking on the Federal Character principle, Lawal said: “Of course we have read in the newspapers some of their concerns such as federal character and so on. At the last count my recollection is that out of the 47 diplomat nominees, …. Out of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, 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. 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 with this”.

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