•As PDP Senators Stage Walkout
•8 Out Of 11 Committee Members Sign Report On Amaechi
The fragile peace that had pervaded the Senate since the controversial election of Senator Bukola Saraki as President finally collapsed yesterday as senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a walkout from the Red Chamber in protest over the confirmation of the former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, as a minister.
The walkout did not deter the senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), led by the Senate President, Senator Abuba- kar Bukola Saraki, from going ahead to confirm Amaechi whose nomination, screening has been mired in controversy following allegation of massive corruption during his tenure as governor of River State. For that reason the Senate had directed its Committee on Ethics Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the allegations
The Upper Legislative Chamber had gone into a closed-door session, which lasted for nearly one and half-hours, and resumed Plenary for the confirmation of the remaining 18 ministerial nominees that had been screened.
Confirmation of the nominees had gone smoothly until it got to the turn of Amaechi, who was the last on the list.
It was at this juncture that Saraki called on the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, to present the Committee’s report on Amaechi.
Entitled: Report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions in Respect of a Petition from Mr. Livingstone Wechie Against the Presentation of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as a Ministerial Nominee for Rivers State on Grounds of Corruption, Criminal Breach of Trust, Unlawful Enrichment and Conversion of over N7« billion of Rivers Peoples’ Monies by Former Governor, the report had been eagerly awaited by Senators of both the rilling APC and the opposition PDP in what the public had come to identify as a test case for the Federal Government’s anti-corruption drive.
The Committee made two observations in the seven-page report, properly prefaced thus; “Neither the Senate nor the presenter knew that the matter being presented on the floor of the Senate was already a subject of litigation in an Appeal Court in Port Harcourt. Since the matter is already a subject of litigation in a competent court of law, and since the Senate could not work contrary to its own rules (Order 41(7)), it is constrained in taking further action,”
Following the discovery that the matter before the Senate is actually before a competent court of law, the Committee
submitted its recommendation.
“That since the ministerial nominee had gone to the Court of .Appeal to challenge the content of the petition and the White Paper of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the Senate is unable to recommend the consideration of his confirmation,” It, therefore, urged the Senate to consider and adopt the recommendation as proposed by the Committee.
It was at this point that the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, took the floor, and moved a motion that the Senate do go ahead to confirm the nominee, since the matter was already in a competent court of law.
But the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio refused to second the motion. He, however, demanded that the report be discussed and debated upon before any further action would be taken.
‘T want us to follow our rules, and not our sentiments. The Senate Rule allows for proper discussion of the report presented. I, therefore, refuse to second. The Leader is moving a motion to shut down the debate,” the former Governor of Akwa Ibom said.
Senator George Sekibo rose, and advised that the report of the Committee be accepted and implemented. They failed
in their bid to make the Senate adhere to the submission of its Committee as Saraki agreed to the majority APC to go ahead and confirmed Amaechi, forcing the PDP Senators to stage a walk-out
Outside the Upper Chamber, the PDP senators, led by Akpabio, immediately addressed the National Assembly correspondent on their grievances.
He said: “We were shut out when we wanted to react to the report when it was laid. There was a little bit of something we don’t think is in conformity with morality there. Once a case is before a competent court of law, any action on that matter is sub judice.
“And the Committee was able to establish that the issues that were brought against the nominee are already issues that were adjudicated upon by the Court of .Appeal and other courts of competent jurisdiction. So, the issue of taking further action on his nomination, whether by way of appointment or otherwise, did not exist. We tried to make this point, but they felt, as a majority party, there was no need to comply with the law.
“The law is very clear that once a matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, you can take no further action. So, there was nothing wrong with sus
pending the issue of confirmation until
those cases are disposed of ;and in this case. I understand it is the nominee that went to the court.
“It could have been a good idea for the nominee to withdraw his cases from court to allow the Senate to go into the matter. But when that did not happen, we felt that, as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to Nigerians not to partake in that kind of charade,” he said. Tangentially, Akpabio also spoke on issue of loyalty to Saraki.
“The Senate President was returned unopposed. There was no voting; so, you cannot say that anybody supported the (Senate) President. He was a sole nominee nobody contested against, and there was non of us here that indicated interest in contesting for the position of Senate President.
“So, when the CNA (Clerk of the National .Assembly) invited people to bring nomination for the post of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki was the sole candidate. So, he was returned unopposed. So, you cannot say anybody supported him,” he explained.
Akpabio, however, hinted that walking out from the Senate would not be a constant action in the future.
‘Tt is not normal for PDP senators to stage a walk out. This is the first time, and it is because we feel very strongly that there is a total breech of the law in this case that where a matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction that any action you take will be sub judice . Our colleagues did not allow ns to air our view. They were bent on what they had already discussed and performing an illegality, and we will not be part of illegality. Walking out will not be constant in the Senate, but this was very clear,” he added.
The UNION has learned that eight out of the 11 members signed the report of the Committee.
Those, who signed include: Anyanwu, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Senator Omogunwa Yele, Senator Peter Nwao- boshi, Senator Jeremiah Useni, Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Omotayo Alasoadura.
The senators, whose signatures were not appended on the report, are: Muhammed Shittu (who was said to have traveled outside the country as the time of preparing the report), Olaka Nwogu (who is from Rivers State) and Binta Garba, who refused to sign because she is from the APC’.
– Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja