By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Joseph Erunke & Grace Udofia
ABUJA—THE Senate has, for the second time this week, deferred the screening of former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi. Also deffered is that of the nominee from Oyo state, Mr. Adebayo Shittu.
They will be screened next Tuesday alongside seven other nominees. The remaining nine nominees will be screened next Wednesday and thereafter, the 18 of them are expected to be approved and confirmed for appointment.
On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed 18 of the 36 nominees, for which Senate President Bukola Saraki wrote President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, to officially inform him of the outcome of the exercise.
Meanwhile, the Senate received a petition against a nominee from Sokoto State, Aisha Abubakar.
Senator Ibrahim Gobir, APC, Sokoto East, who presented the petition, demanded replacement with a more competent person, saying the people of Sokoto State were yearning for a more competent person.
Saraki writes Buhari
Formally communicating President Buhari on the confirmation of 18 nominees for ministerial appointments, Senator Saraki, according to a statement by Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), sent an official letter through Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legislative Matters (Senate).
He informed the President that the Senate had found the 18 nominees, who have gone through its confirmation hearing, suitable to occupy the office of ministers as provided for in Section 147 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The nominees, whose appointment by the President have been confirmed are Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Lt. Gen. Bello Danbazau (retd), Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Hajiya Amina Mohammed, Engr. Suleiman Adamu and Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril.
Others are Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Dr. Chris Ngige, Senator Aishat Al-Hassan, Mr. Solomon Dalong, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and Senator Hadi Sirika.
… on Amaechi
Amaechi, who was among the first batch of 21 ministerial nominees President Buhari sent to the Red Chamber could not face the exercise on Tuesday and Wednesday due largely to non-submission of the report on petitions against him by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Petitions.
Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Dino Melaye, told newsmen, yesterday that the former Director-General of Buhari Presidential Campaign Organization, would be screened with eight other nominees on Tuesday, when the Senate reconvenes.
He said:”Further screening and confirmation of the remaining ministerial nominees has been slated for Tuesday, next week.
“We are going to screen nine of them on Tuesday and the remaining nine would be taken on Wednesday. The confirmation of all the nominees would be taken on Wednesday.”
Speaking on Amaechi’s case, Senator Melaye said: “The committee has a one-line report that the matter is in court and that in compliance with our laid down rules and regulations, any case that is undergoing judicial remedy cannot be discussed.
“We have distanced ourselves from it and the report will be presented on Tuesday by the grace of God. I assure Nigerians that former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, by the grace of God, will be screened on Tuesday.”
The Order Paper of yesterday, which ought to have contained the names of Amaechi, Shittu and the remaining ministerial nominees, did not have them.
At the close of plenary on Wednesday, it was announced that Mr. Amaechi and Mr. Shittu would be screened yesterday but on resumption yesterday, the Senate postponed further screening of ministerial nominees to next week.
It would be recalled that the petition against Amaechi, bordering on corruption was not attended to by the Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges because the case was still in court.
Amaechi divides c’ttee
Strong indications emerged yesterday that members of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions are divided over the screening of Amaechi.
Vanguard gathered, yesterday, that some senators elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and members of the committee were moving against the screening of the former Rivers State governor.
Amaechi had, on Monday, appeared before the Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
The panel told him that it was subjudice to discuss the petition over alleged corruption against him by the Integrity Group because the case was in court.
According to Senator Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East, it was not feasible for the Committee to still look at the petition or still probe Amaechi as the issues raised in the petition before the committee were already in court, adding that in line with the Senate Standing Orders, senators will not attend to it.
Section 41(7) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015, as amended, reads: “The Senate shall not receive any petition on any matter for which there is a judicial remedy.”
Amaechi’s name was later slated on the Order Paper on Wednesday as one of those to be screened by the senate, but was dropped because of non-submission of the report by the committee.
With assurances from Senator Anyanwu that the report will be ready yesterday, hopes were high that senators would screen Amaechi.
A source told Vanguard that soon after Amaechi appeared before the entire committee, some PDP members of the committee met with the petitioner, the Integrity Group, following which it became very difficult for Senator Anyanwu to call his colleagues to a meeting.
The source noted that the Senators do not want to be seen as a rubber stamp.
Members of the committee are Senators Bala Ibn-Na’ Allah, Omotayo Alasoadura, Binta Garba, Olaka Nwogu, Muhammad Shitu, Dino Melaye, Peter Nwaoboshi, Jeremiah Useni; Ogba Obinna and Omogunwa Yele.
Rivers APC reacts
Meanwhile, Rivers State All Progressives Congress, APC, has insisted that there was no court order from any part of Nigeria compelling the Senate not to screen Amaechi.
The party came out with the position in a statement following rumours that a member of PDP in Rivers State had secured an injunction stopping the Senate from screening him.
In the statement by the State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, Rivers APC said: “We have search at the Federal High Court across the country and did not find any such proceedings pending or order, the Federal High Court being the only court that has jurisdiction to determine any matter in which the Senate is made a party and its duties and functions are the subject matter, in view of Section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”