Friday, October 9

Senate Ministerial Screening Conditions Threaten Amaechi, Others

The Senate Thursday rose from a two-hour executive session with a set of conditions that would guide its ministerial screening which begins on Tuesday.


One of the conditions which the Senate arrived at was the retention of its convention which made it mandatory for a nominee to secure the support of two senators from his home state to get the approval of the Senate.

The condition requiring a nominee to secure two senators’ support is perceived to have the possibility of dimming the confirmation of former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, and other nominees who are being opposed by their senators.

The three senators from Rivers State, George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East), Osinakachukwu Ideozu (Rivers West) and Olaka Nwogu (Rivers South-east) had on Wednesday submitted a petition against Ameachi’s confirmation, alleging that he misappropriated N70 billion belonging to Rivers State when he was governor.

Although the decision to uphold the convention of the Senate taken at the executive session was made public by Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Information Chairman, Senator Dino Melaiye, after the two-hour executive session, but one of the senators who participated in the session confided in THISDAY that some All Progressives Congress (APC) senators rejected the decision to sustain Senate’s convention to drop any nominee whose appointment is opposed by at least two senators from the home state.

According to the senator, Senators Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central) and Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-east), among others, told the advocates of the convention to forget its application during the screening, citing precedents in the 7th Senate when the David Mark-led parliament went ahead to confirm Senator Musiliu Obanikoro despite the opposition to his nomination by three senators from his home state (Lagos).

Also, Senate President Bukola Saraki mandated the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Human Rights and Privileges, Senator Sam Anyanwu, to ensure that all petitions against ministerial nominees were thoroughly investigated and concluded before the commencement of the screening on Tuesday.

“Chairman, please, ensure that all these petitions are treated by the committee before screening on Tuesday,” Saraki said.

A plethora of petitions have flooded the Senate against the appointments of some nominees whose names were submitted to the Senate on September 30.
The latest among the deluge of petitions was submitted by Senator Danuma Laah (Kaduna South) yesterday against the nomination of Amina Mohammed.
Presenting the petition, Senator Laah said he had read in the newspapers that Mohammed was nominated to represent Kaduna State in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet despite common knowledge that she hails from Gombe State, stressing that such an appointment violates Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution that a nominee must be an indigene of the state he/she will represent.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday said the forthcoming screening exercise would be guided by the provisions of Order 120 of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 as well as Sections 147, 14(3), 65 and 5 of 1999 Constitution as amended.

Briefing newsmen on the procedures for the screening, Melaye said the Senate would insist on the presentation of assets’ declaration certificates, among other necessities, particularly from nominees that are former public office holders before they can be cleared.

Melaye, who said this was part of Senate’s resolve during their executive session, also revealed that the old practice of allowing former members to bow and go has been modified.

According to him, only former National Assembly members would not be grilled by the senators, having automatically satisfied the basic condition for being a minister as contained in Section 147(5) of the constitution that, “no person shall be appointed as a minister of the government of the federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representative.”

However, Melaye disclosed that this privilege will no longer be automatic, maintaining that in spite being former National Assembly members, such nominees would still be made to face the screening panel adding that the Senate President will also be free to ask them few questions before they could be allowed to bow and go.
He added that the only privilege they would enjoy would be the opportunity of being invited ahead of other nominees for screening.

Some of the nominees were sighted at the National Assembly yesterday submitting their credentials and lobbying senators ahead of their confirmation processes. Among those seen by journalists yesterday were Chief Audu Ogbeh, Ogbonaya Onu, Senators Chris Ngige and Hadi Sirika.

Also, yesterday, some of the ministerial nominees began profiling at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, as part of their confirmation processes.

The nominees who were received by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase and led to the Force Headquarters ICT profiling room include Ogbeh and Ngige.

Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, yesterday directed the three senators from the state to support the confirmation of the former governor of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, whenever he appeared before the Senate.

The governor disclosed that the Ekiti project belongs to all and that everything must be done to support it and urged the lawmakers representing the state to play their parts towards ensuring that the former governor gets a hitch-free screening exercise on the floor of the Senate whenever the screening of the ministerial nominees would come up.

“Ekiti is my priority. I call on all the House of Representatives members and senators that went to Abuja from here, some people petitioned the National Assembly stating how Fayemi sunk Ekiti into heavy debts, I have told the members not to do that.

“It is God that judges people, not us. You must support him there. They should not go to the Senate and oppose Kayode Fayemi; no, they must never do that. An Ekiti man is an Ekiti man. I appeal to everybody, you must support him,” a statement by Fayose”s Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, quoted him as saying.
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Olakiitan Victor in Ado-Ekiti

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