After weeks of high-wired politics, the National Assembly (white house) Senate finally screened former Rivers state Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, at resumption of plenary on Thursday.
However, PDP senators refused to ask Ameachi a single question claiming that the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions which was laid on the floor must be considered.
Amaechi was led into the chamber at about 1.38pm by Chairman of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Odigie Oyegun and Speacial Adviser to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang.
This came, following the formal receipt by the Senate of report of the Sen Samuel Anyanwu-led Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition, over a petition bordering on allegations of fraudulent practices during his tenure as the governor of the state.
The petition against Amaechi was sent to the Senate by an anti-corruption group, Integrity Group.
The National Assembly was thrown into wild jubilation as Amaechi was screened
Drama, however, ensued when Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Sen. Godswill Akpabio raised a point of order, stating that content of the report of the Senator Anyanwu-led committee should have been made known to the Senate, before Amaechi’s screening.
Akpabio noted that the PDP-caucus in the Senate had reached a resolution not to ask Amaechi questions.
By this statement, the Senate was thrown into a frenzy of sort. The drama heightened with fierce opposition from PDP Senators, when Senate Leader, Ali Ndume pointed that that the report on Amaechi had already been laid before the Senate by Senator Anyanwu, adding that copies will be handed to senators shortly.
Ndume, however noted that being a former lawmaker, Amaechi should be allowed to take bow.
In his introductory remarks, the former Governor said he was humbled to have been nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari to serve as a minister if confirmed.
He also said it was a rare privilege to address the Senators whether or not he becomes Minister.
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, had yesterday, lampooned senators elected on the platform of his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, saying that the 8th Senate belongs to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Chairman, Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) submited the reports of his committee on petitions against the nominees including Amaechi.
According to a PDP Senator, who is a member of the committee, the report should be up for discussion and votes will be taken in support or against Amaechi being screened and cleared and vowed that if the voting favours that Amaechi be screened as opposed to their collective decision, they would as a caucus stage a walk out and allow the APC senators do what they want to do.
But according to Ndume [PICTURED], the PDP should note that it has become a minority, a situation where the majority would always have its way, warning that PDP cannot disqualify Amaechi based on what he described as triviality instead of the constitution. He added that Amaechi has not been convicted by any court of law.
Ali Ndume boasted yesterday that the Senators will determine the fate of Amaechi and not the report of Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
According to a Senator, the PDP senators were standing on Section 66(h) which stipulates that when indicted by a panel, the person cannot occupy any public office.
Section 66(h) says: “No person shall be qualified for Membership of National Assembly and Right of attendance if he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act…”
The PDP senators are also citing section 53(5) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as Amended on why they will work against the clearance of Amaechi.
Section 53(5) of Senate Standing Orders 2015 As Amended reads: “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a Judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of parties thereto.”
The PDP Senator are now saying that the PDP Senators who formed an alliance with Senate President Bukola Saraki prior to his election and which led to his emergence were planning to review the unwritten agreement.
Amaechi’s screening could not take place on Tuesday, as the Senate suspended sitting to allow senators accompany Senate President, Bukola Saraki to the Code of Conduct Tribunal where he is facing trial over alleged false declaration of assets.
For the third time since it began the screening of ministerial nominees, the Senate on Tuesday, postponed the screening of Amaechi.
A member of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions, Obinna Ogba, has however denied allegation that the committee was against Amaechi’s confirmation.
Speaking to Newsmen, Ogba equally debunked insinuation that the delay in releasing the report of investigation on Amaechi, which resulted in the delay in his screening was as a result of sharp division among members of the committee on the report.
Senator Ogba, who represents Ebonyi Central in the National Assembly, under PDP, insisted that there was no disagreement among members of the committee.
Answering questions from Journalists, yesterday, on the issue, Ndume said Amaechi would be cleared.
His words: ‘’The Ethics and Privileges report is not the determinant of Amaechi’s fate. It is the Senate. Even if they write their report, it has to be laid before the Senate which will decide on the report. It is not the report that will decide the fate of Amaechi.
“Whatever the Committee recommends to the Senate, it is the Senate that will decide. And I have told Nigerians several times that this Senate belongs to APC. We have PDP senators that are in the minority. We are practising democracy in a changed environment. That is to allow the minorities to have their say. But you know that the majority will always have its way. We have 58 senators, the Senate President excluded, and they have 48 Senators.
“And Amaechi is an APC candidate and the constitution is very clear. Until there is conviction, you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a competent court of law. Unfortunately, you cannot confirm or disqualify Amaechi, we are the only ones that can do that. And PDP cannot disqualify Amaechi based on triviality. It must be based on constitutionality.”