The presidency has expressed disappointment at the Senate following its decision to suspend the confirmation process of the 47 ambassadorial nominees' list forwarded to the legislators by President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly lacking the principle of federal character.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal, while fielding questions from journalists this past weekend in Abuja, said that the four States – Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ondo and Plateau – omitted from the list of ambassadorial nominees sent to the National Assembly lacked qualified candidates.
Mr. Lawal disclosed that “specific criteria were being set by the presidency to pick the nominees and the four States without representatives have no career diplomats in the foreign service who met the objective.
“Four States didn’t make it one way or the other, though not necessarily on the criteria of seniority. There are criteria and qualifications that are required to qualify anyone to go and represent Nigeria, not just because while in the foreign or civil service you were able to make grade level 16 or 17. Several other qualifications are needed. So even if you make that retirement, service length or rank criteria, there are other requirements," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate has summoned Mr. Lawal and Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama to appear before it on July 11 to explain the inconsistencies in the list.
The SGF emphasized that the executive arm of the government was disappointed following the Senate's decision to suspend the screening of the 47 ambassadorial nominees, as the issues could have been sorted out through a phone call.
“Certainly, we will appear. We are law-abiding, we respect the National Assembly and we respect the laws of the land. However, one thing is clear, as the constitution spells it out, that it is the prerogative of the president to nominate ambassadors and the criteria he would use to do so is also his constitutional right.
"Whatever criteria he chooses to use are constitutional. I must say that we are disappointed that the National Assembly took the decision since of the 47 diplomat nominees, 32 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were represented.
"Though the constitution preaches federal character, it does not say that every State must be represented in any appointment, except in the case of ministers, not in all other appointments.
"So, the spirit of the constitution has been fully satisfied by having ambassadorial nominees from 32 out of the 36 States plus one from FCT. I believe that every objective analyst would agree with this,” Mr. Lawal concluded.