Babachir David Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has defended President Buhari’s ambassadorial list which he sent to the senate on June 9th for screening. Babachir’s statement comes days after the senate summoned him and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godffrey Onyeama, over what it described as irregularities in the 47 names put forward for screening.
During their plenary last Wednesday, most of the Senators argued that the list did not reflect Federal character as 4 states namely Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ondo and Plateau, did not get any nomination.
However in an interview with journalist over the weekend, Babachir argued that the constitution stipulated that Federal Character must be applied for Ministerial positions and not ambassadorial positions. Lawal said since the ambassadors are career diplomats, it is possible that states without nominees did not have officers who met the criteria to be nominated.
“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 are 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”he said
Asides merit and qualifications which were used as criteria, Babachir said the prospective year of retirement from civil service of the nominees was also taken into consideration.
“So one of the criteria the person must have is that he must not be less than 30 months to retirement. If you know the processes of nominating and deploying ambassadors you will know that for example, it is highly unlikely that the Senate will be done with it within the next two, three weeks. These ambassadors will need to be presented to the countries where they are going to be posted for checks and confirmation by those countries. We cannot dictate the speed at which they will do it, so it could take in all honesty probably six to seven months for an ambassador to fully be cleared and assume his new post. It will take longer still for him to acclimatise and settle down in his work. There have been a subsisting policy not by this regime alone that it will be good for someone who has 30 months to retire not be be posted because then he will just be settling down before retiring, it doesn’t make sense.” he said
He said that another criteria that was considered was the grade level of the nominees
“Due to no fault of this government, not all states have people in the ministry of foreign affairs, in the foreign service department that met this criteria.”
Babachir said himself and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will honor the senates invitation next week.
“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 ex-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.”he said