Ahead of the resumption today of screening of ministerial nominees by the Senate, some of the would-be ministers yesterday met behind closed doors with House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, to facilitate their clearance.
The ministerial nominees, it was gathered, visited the speaker to lobby him talk to Senate President Bukola Saraki to ensure their confirmation after screening.
Among the nominees who visited the speaker was the embattled Sokoto State representative, Miss Aisha Abubakar who has been rejected by the state Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, all the senators from the state and the state chapter of the All Peoples Congress (APC).
Also at the meeting with Dogara were Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa), Hon. Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), retired Brig Gen. Monsur Dan Ali
The nominees were led to the speaker’s office by the Senior Special Assistants to the president on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang (Senate) and Hon. Abdulrahman Suleiman Kawu (House). None of the nominees, however, agreed to talk to the press after the meeting that lasted for about an hour.
Although, the nominee arrived at the House wing of the National Assembly around 3pm, the meeting could not start until about 3.30pm as the speaker was presiding over the Selection Committee meeting.
An aide of the speaker who spoke with New Telegraph on condition of anonymity, said: “It is a private meeting and that is why we were told to ask the media to stay out. I do not know what they are discussing as you can see we were not allowed into the office.”
Asked whether the ministerial nominees were at the speaker’s office to seek assistance in their screening, he said: “Well, this is politics and you cannot rule out any possibility of lobbying the speaker to speak to the Senate president on their nominations.
“At least, the speaker is close to Saraki and should be able to speaker on their behalf to him (Saraki) if that is why they are here. But I’m not saying that is why they are here. All I can say is that it is a private visit.”
The visit of the nominees to Dogara came just as New Telegraph gathered yesterday that former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, would be screened today. It was learnt that the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, whose non-submission of the report into the allegations levelled against the nominee delayed his screening, would do so today.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, told reporters yesterday in Abuja, at the end of the committee’s meeting, that the report would be submitted at plenary today.
Amaechi was on the list of nominees to be screened last Wednesday but because the report of the Ethics Committee was not submitted to the Senate for consideration, the former governor’s vetting was deferred.
The committee report was also expected last Thursday but the Senate did not go on with screening of the nominees because the last batch sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari had not submitted their curriculum vitae for Senate’s consideration. This made the Senate to defer further screening until today.
Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), also said the report on petition against Abubakar would be submitted at plenary today. He said: “We have considered Amaechi’s petition and all these reports will be ready tomorrow; and if it comes out tomorrow (today), the press will have it. Except there are further petitions, the reports on all the petitions so far received will be submitted tomorrow (today). “For now, what we have is that of Aisha Abubakar and that of Rotimi Amaechi, which will be submitted to the Senate tomorrow.”
In addition, APC met yesterday in Abuja to brainstorm on how to ensure that Amaechi is screened. The meeting, which commenced around 7:45 pm at the Conference Hearing Room 1 of the House of Representatives, was attended by members of the party from different geo-political zones.
Some of those sighted at the venue of the meeting included Senators Gbenga Ashafa, Ahmad Lawan, Sabi Abdullahi, Isiaka Adeleke and Babajide Omoworare. Ashafa (APC, Lagos East), who addressed the gathering, told his colleagues that the single agenda of the meeting was the issue of the nomination of Amaechi.
He said the meeting became imperative because of the opposition Amaechi’s nomination attracted from the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He urged them to unite to make sure that their PDP counterparts did not embarrass Buhari, saying that if the appointment of Amaechi failed, it would amount to an embarrassment to the president and APC.
According to him, Amaechi’s “sin” is his dogged support for Buhari and the APC, stressing that it is time to reward him for his contributions to the success of the party.
However, the Senate committee has thrown out the petition brought against Abubakar for procedural error.
The committee, which summoned the petitioners and the nominee during the consideration of the petition, discovered that the document was flawed with procedural errors, which if entertained, would amount to a violation of some of the provisions of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 (as amended).
The petition, which was written by the ‘Concerned Women Group’ from Sokoto, under the leadership of Mrs. Bararaba Abdullahi, was addressed to Buhari while Saraki and other people were copied.
According to the committee, it cannot consider the petition because based on the Senate rules, all petitions to be sent to the Senate must be addressed to the President of the Senate.
Order 41(5a) of the Senate Standing Rules 2015, specifically stipulates that, “every petition must be properly addressed to the Senate, respectful, decorous and temperate in its language, and must conclude with a prayer, setting forth the relief sought by the petitioner.”
But Anyanwu told the petitioners to properly address the petition and represent it if they still wished to pursue the matter. Although the petitioners said they had submitted a properly addressed letter to the Senate, Anyanwu said the new petition must be referred to the committee before it could entertain it.
The petitioners were aggrieved that the nominee was not a member of the APC or any other political party and therefore, questioned her competence in holding such an important public office.
In her defence, Abubakar said she was a public servant and would remain one until she was confirmed by the Senate.