By Cecilia John
The Senate on Wednesday in Abuja confirmed Mr Anthony Ayine as new Auditor-General of the Federation in spite of petitions against him.
This followed presentation of the report of his screening by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Sen. Andy Uba at plenary.
Ayine was confirmed in a voice vote, after deliberation on petitions written against his suitability for the position.
Presenting the report, Uba admitted that petitions were brought before the committee prior to Ayine’s screening.
He said that the petitions bothered on his suitability for the position in view of the fact that he was an auditor general for a ‘mere’ local government in Cross River among other reasons.
Contributing, Sen. Binta Masi (APC-Adamawa), said it was necessary for the Senate to take a critical look at the petitions before taking any decision on his confirmation.
According to her, some of the reasons adduced in the petitions include the fact that Ayine is related to the Head of Civil Service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita.
“The petitioners said that Ayine was an Auditor-General of a Local Government in Cross River and that if he was to be converted to Federal Civil Service, he would be on grade level 14 and that he ought to be on level 17.
“Also, that the Head of Civil Service, Mrs Oyo-Ita, is a cousin and that Ayine and acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr Walter Onnoghen, who hails from Cross River , negating the spirit of Federal Character.
“So I think we should critic it,’’ she said.
However, the minority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio made some clarifications on the qualification of Mr Ayine.
“In my little brief comment, I want to give clarification. The appointment is not a promotion sent by Mr President and we are not considering elevation or change of service.
“The position was advertised nationally and internationally and he was the best in terms of qualification, capability and others.
The issues raised here was raised and president in his wisdom still chose him.
“Besides Ayine was on salary level equivalent to a Permanent Secretary.
“The appointment of auditor general of local government does not mean he is for one local government but all local governments combined.
“Equally, where he comes from does not matter. He came top in written and oral interview.
“The country advertised the position, he went through due process, so it will be wrong to set another examination for him.
“I want to say that when we have a committee that takes a lot of things into cognizance and comes up with recommendation we should not question it.’’
Akpabio said a similar scenario played out in the past when unwarranted petitions against a nominee caused the nominee a job she was qualified for.
He stressed that, “I will not like to see another Nigerian destroyed here’’.
The Leader of the Senate, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, said similar petitions came up when he was Senate Chairman on Public Accounts but were dismissed for lack of credit.
He called on the senate to confirm Ayine in view of his competence to handle the position, particularly in view of the continued fight against corruption.
“I have looked at the three reasons why the petitioners don’t want him to be confirmed. It is the prerogative of the president.
“ That he is even the auditor general for local government makes him very qualified for the position because it is the most complex work to do,’’ he said.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, while presiding over plenary, congratulated My Ayine for emerging the Auditor-General of the Federation.
He urged him to put in his best to help reposition the economy in that capacity.
“We believe that his entrant will strengthen the position, especially now that the country is fighting corruption.
“I hope, he will work with our committee on Public Accounts for proper collaboration.
“We wish him good luck going forward and I commend the committee for doing a thorough job,’’ he said.
Ekweremadu urged Nigerians to always verify their facts before writing petitions against public office holders, adding that Ayine was not from the same Senatorial District with the Head of Service.
He stressed that “sometimes people give information to destroy others’’.