The Senate seems to be finding ministerial nominee Rotimi Amaechi’s case a hard nut to crack. For the umpteenth time, its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions could not sit to consider the petition against him, it was learnt yesterday. But the panel chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said there was no cause for alarm, dismissing allegations of a crack in their rank.
The panel, sources said, has been unable to write its report because it could not form a quorum. It has not been able to sit in the past three days despite being asked to hasten action on the petition by Senate President Bukola Saraki.
On Tuesday, Saraki mandated the committee to ensure that its report was ready for consideration on Wednesday. He asked the committee to speed up after Anyanwu told the Senate that the report was not ready.
But the panel submitted its report on another nominee, Amina Mohammed, who was among the 18 cleared on Wednesday. The panel could still not submit its report on Amaechi on Wednesday, leading to the dropping of the former Rivers State governor from the list of those screened. The panel consequently scheduled a meeting for 2pm on Wednesday but only Anyanwu and Senator Obinna Ogba (Ebonyi Central) turned up.
The development has increased talks of a division among members. Sources said there was a plot to sabotage Amaechi’s screening by some interested parties to orchestrate his withdrawal by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A member of the committee, who did not want his name mentioned, said: “It seems all is not well in our committee. Some of us are not happy about certain things. We cannot just go to a meeting for going sake. But what is happening is not for the media please, I beg you.”
Another member said: “No comment. I am not the spokesman of the committee. Go and meet the chairman if you want any information about the Ethics Committee.” But Anyanwu, who is worried about the panel’s inability to submit its report, said he had carried every member along.
The Imo State-born lawmaker said he had demonstrated “a high level of openness and transparency in the affairs of the committee”. He insisted that the committee is not facing a crisis.
There was no indication of when the committee will meet to write its report when the Senate adjourned plenary yesterday.
Saraki also did not mention the petition against Amaechi at the session.
When Amaechi appeared before the committee on October 12, the petition against him could not be considered because of his disclosure that it was a subject of litigation.
The Port Harcourt-based “The Integrity Group” petitioned the Senate asking that Amaechi should not be confirmed as a minister. The group claimed that Amaechi mismanaged N70 billion of Rivers State funds when he was in office. Amaechi has long dismissed the claim as part of the orchestrated campaign to smear him.
But the Chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Dino Melaye, yesterday raised hope of Amaechi’s screening. He 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.
So, we have distanced ourselves from it. 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.” According to him, the screening and confirmation of the remaining 18 ministerial nominees will hold on Tuesday and Wednesday. Melaye said: “We are going to screen nine of them on Tuesday and the remaining nine on Wednesday. “The confirmation of all the nominees will be taken on Wednesday.”
There is another petition against another nominee – Mrs Aisha Abubakar from Sokoto State.
Senator Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) laid the petition against Mrs. Abubakar on the table for consideration. The petitioner’s demanding her replacement with “a more competent person.” The nominee, according to him, hails from the same local government with Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. The Senate referred the petition to its Ethics Committee. Also yesterday, Saraki wrote President Muhammadu Buhari on the Senate’s confirmation of 18 nominees who were on the list sent to the upper chamber on September 30.
In a letter sent through Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on legislative matters (Senate), Saraki told the President that the Senate found the 18 nominees worthy to be ministers as provided for in Section 147 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The ministers-designate are Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Danbazzau, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Hajiya Amina Ibrahim Mohammed, Suleiman Adamu, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, Senator Aishat Jummai Al-Hassan, Mr. Solomon Dalong, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Senator Hadi Sirika.