ABUJA—AS the Senate resumes its screening of ministerial nominees today, anxiety has gripped the senators and nominees. While nominees are bothered over the outcome of the exercise, the senators were unsettled by the decision of the court not to stop the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT from proceeding with its hearing of the false assets declaration suit against Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Those listed for screening: Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Khadijah Abba-Ibrahim (Yobe); Claudius Omoleye Daramola (Ondo); Anthony Anwuka Gozie (Imo); Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali, retd (Zamfara); James E. Ocholi (Kogi); Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed (Kaduna); Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno); Aisha Abubakar (Sokoto); Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa); Adamu Adamu (Bauchi); Pastor Usani Usani Uguru (Cross River) and Abubakar Bwari Bawa (Niger)
There are also fears that former Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, who was the director-general of President Muhammadu Buhari campaign organisation for the 2015 polls may not be screened today. Amaechi, whose screening had been postponed twice may be screened on Wednesday because he is the 15th nominee listed for the exercise. So far, the Senators have not screened more than nine nominees per day. Amaechi has been a source of division among senators on account of petitions against him.
However, Amaechi, yesterday dismissed report in a national newspaper (not Vanguard) that he stormed the residence of the Senate President to protest the postponement of his ministerial screening, saying the report was not only a fabrication, but also part of the organised campaign to rubbish his image.
In a statement by David Iyofor of his Media Office, Amaechi insisted the report was absolutely not true and a deliberate and carefully calibrated attempt to characterize Amaechi with a very bad and demeaning mannerism.
Ethics Committee clears Amaechi
This came as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions cleared Amaechi to be screened and cleared by the Senate.
A source told Vanguard that the committee took the decision to clear Amaechi because the case was in court and therefore it could not consider the petition by the Integrity Group. With the clean bill of health given to Amaechi, he would appear before the Senators today for screening.
To get a soft-landing, seven of the nominees billed to be screened today, visited the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara yesterday.
This is coming amid fears that the nominees from Oyo State, Barr Adebayo Shittu and his Zamfara State counterpart, General Dan Ali (retd) may be dropped. There were indications, yesterday that Shittu may be dropped for Adewole Isaac Folorunsho.
Meantime, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Sam Anyanwu, assured yesterday that reports on the petitions against Amaechi and Aisha Abubakar are ready and will be submitted today before the screening.
Nominees storm Dogara’s office
The seven ministerial nominees, who held a closed-door meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, included Ms Aisha Abubakar who had earlier faced the Senate Committee on Ethics and Petitions over alleged incompetence.
The meeting started at about 3.30pm.
A senior aide to the Speaker, who spoke to journalists on the condition of anonymity said that the visit was part of an ongoing intense lobby by the ministerial nominees, who are currently facing opposition from powerful forces from their respective states.
The ministerial nominees were led to the Speaker’s office by the Special assistants to the President on National Assembly matters for the Senate and House of Representatives, Senator Ita Enang and Hon. Suleiman Kawu, respectively.
Also at the meeting with Dogara were Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa), Hon. Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), Brig General Monsur Dan Ali, retd (Zamfara), Hajia Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna) and Suleiman Bello (Adamawa).
The speaker’s aide hinted that the ministerial nominees were trying to lobby some senators opposed to their nomination, through some powerful members of the lower chamber.
He claimed that about seven nominees were at the closed door meeting with Dogara, while more were expected to join later.
An aide to Dogara had earlier sent invitation to journalists to cover the meeting, but there was a change of mind and the newsmen were barred from gaining access to the venue of the meeting.
Apart from the Speaker, the House leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the Green Chamber were present.
According to the aide: “Some nominees who are yet to be screened and confirmed by the Senate are with the Speaker right now. I cannot authoritatively tell you why they are there but one of them said they came to see how Dogara can help them lobby his friends in the Senate to give them a soft landing during the exercise tomorrow (today).
“I saw the nominee from Bayelsa State. I also saw that woman (Aisha Abubakar) who is trying to get the support of her senators to get confirmed. The Professor from Yoruba land was there. In all, they were about seven in number. I did not see former governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Amaechi. I do not know if he will be part of those that will come later.”
Asked whether the ministerial nominees were at the speaker’s office to seek assistance in their screening he answered: “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 the Senate President and should be able to speak on their behalf to him 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.”
Senate to get new nominee for Oyo
Strong indications emerged yesterday that Senate President Bukola Saraki will today read a letter from President Buhari on a new ministerial nominee from Oyo State.
Vanguard gathered that the initial nominee from Oyo State, Barrister Adebayo Shittu may be replaced with Adewole Isaac Folorunsho.
The nominee from Oyo State, Barrister Adebayo Shittu was one of the 21 nominees sent to the Senate, September 30 and on Wednesday, October 14, his name was number nine on the Order Paper, but was however not called probably for lack of time, just as Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye had said on Thursday that Shittu would be screened today.
Reports on Amaechi, others’ petitions are ready – Anyanwu
Speaking on whether or not Amaechi would be screened today in view of his committee’s inability to submit its report, which led to the postponement of Amaechi’s screening twice, Senator Anyanwu assured that his panel will submit the report today.
Anyanwu also disclosed that the report on the petition against Aisha Abubakar, another ministerial nominee, would equally be submitted at the plenary.
“We have heard Amaechi’s petition and all these reports will be ready tomorrow. Except there are further petitions, the reports on all the petitions so far received, will be submitted tomorrow. For now, what we have is that of Aisha Abubakar and that of Rotimi Amaechi, which will be submitted to the Senate tomorrow (today),” he said.
Answering questions from Journalists yesterday, Anyanwu who noted that the reports will be very straight forward and ready for submission on the floor of the Senate today, said, “Our reports on petitions against Amaechi and Aisha Abubakar are ready and will be laid before the senate tomorrow( today), to pave way for their screening.”
Outside the petition against Amaechi, there was a petition from some women from Sokoto State against the nominee from Sokoto state.
The Committee had set aside the petitions written against Amaechi by Port Harcourt based Integrity Group, in its report on the grounds of issues raised therein were already in the court of law.
The Committee yesterday threw out the petition against Aisha Abubakar by concerned Sokoto women on the grounds of being routed through wrong channels.
Aisha who appeared before the senate committee yesterday to answer to the petition against her, got a clean bill of health from all the committee members who all said the petition should not be treated for only being copied to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and not addressed to him directly.
First to raise the issue was senator Obinna Ogba Joshua ( PDP Ebonyi Central) who noted that the petition was addressed directly to President Muhammadu Buhari and not the Senate President which according to him, contravenes rule 41(5a) of the senate standing order.
Other members of the committee like Senators Dino Melaye ( APC Kogi West), Jerry Useni ( PDP Plateau South), Binta Garba Mashi ( APC Adamawa North) and Wale Omogunwa ( PDP Ondo South), agreed with Senator Obinna’s submission by urging the committee chairman to disregard the petition in its entirety for being wrongly addressed.
Speaking, Senator Melaye noted that the petition was dead on arrival because it was addressed to President Buhari and not the Senate President, adding that the committee should not consider it.
Melaye who observed another procedural defect in the petition said the petitioners did not follow the rules of letter writing adding that a petition ought to be signed by petitioners before copying other interested parties and not copying before signing.
He said: “Going by all these identified blunders, the petition is more or less, a wishy washy one which should not be treated in anyway by the committee but rather dumped into the trash can.”
The petition is addressed to the President not the Senate President, the Senate President was merely copied just like the Sokoto State governor.’’
On her part, Senator Bintu Masi,said, “I am glad that the nominee is a woman.” While decrying the petition brought against her, she sought for her clearance, saying the representation of few women in the yet to be formed federal cabinet was poor.
She noted that the petition,as read on the floor was in abeyance, adding, “Go back and bring a petition that is addressed to the Senate president.”
But the Chairman of the committee, Sam Anyanwu (PDP Imo East) before giving Aisha Abubakar clean bill of health, asked her two questions on fundamental issues raised against her in the petition.
He asked whether she was an indigene of Sokoto state and she answered yes adding that she hails from Dogondaji town in Tambuwal Local Council.
On whether she belongs to any political party, she said no because she is a serving public officer.