Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed happiness that former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was eventually screened by the Senate, after three postponements.
The UNION reports that the Upper Legislative Chamber went ahead to screen the former Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), despite the report of a petition against him by its Ad hoc Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions last Thursday, which was yet to be considered.
It would be recalled that a Port Harcourt-based organisation known as the Integrity Group had petitioned the Red Chamber, alleging cases of fraud to a tune of N70 billion against Amaechi, while he was in office.
The report of the petition, which was not considered by the Senate, angered the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators, who decided to boycott Amaechi’s screening exercise on the floor of the Upper Chamber.
But speaking to Senate correspondents yesterday in Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, however, maintained that there was nothing wrong in the screening process of Amaechi.
Enang, a former member of the PDP, noted that the Constitution allows the legislative arm of government to regulate its own proceedings.
“They (senators) are within their constitutional rights to regulate their own proceedings. The Constitution authorises the Senate and the House of Representatives, and every legislative house to regulate its own proceedings, including managing matters that are brought before them.
“Therefore, what the Senate did is domestic to the Senate, and I am not in a position to speak about it; but they are within their constitutional rights. What they do is domestic to it, internal to it, and it is within their powers. So, I am not in a position to speak in one way or the other about it,” he said.
Enang, who would be conferred with the honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (L.LD) by the University of Uyo on October 31, also commended all and sundry for the matured manner the screening process has been conducted so far.
“Let me appreciate the National Assembly Press Corps, the Nigerian press, the robust assessment and coverage of the nomination, and the screening process by the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let me also, through you, express our very sincere appreciation to His Excellency, the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, the leadership of the APC and the PDP in the Senate for the painstaking nature and process of screening the nominees for ministerial appointment.
“They have shown in the handling of the matter on the floor of the Senate, their personal interaction, the reception of the senators in the course of the consultation, even outside the floor of the Senate. They have shown the candour and the real characteristics nature of matured Senate.
“I want to thank them in words that I cannot describe, in words that I cannot really utter. We are very grateful to them, and we are confident that the few (nominees) that are remaining, we will be able in a not distant future conclude it, and then get done with it.
“I want to really appreciate them because Nigerians thought that the process will be very tumultuous, the process will be very rancorous, the questions to the nominees will be very personal and attacking; but the senators, in the course of their questions, showed their intellect, their candour, their appreciation of national issues, the issues that relate to governance, the international perspective to the quality of candidates.
“I also want to appreciate the candidates, who have appeared so far for the matured way they answered all questions put to them. I think they are what Nigerians are waiting for and a good team of Mr. President. I cannot fail to appreciate His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mubammadu Buhari, for the painstaking steps he took in searching for men of this standing and status across all divides of the country and assembled them for the future cabinet of this country,” the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business said.
The UNION reports that a total of 25 of the 36 nominees have been screened, while 18 of them have been confirmed by the Senate, leaving 11 to be screened.
The UNION further reports that the screening exercise of the remaining ministerial nominees continues today (Tuesday).
It would be recalled that there was a rowdy session in the Senate last Thursday, as the PDP senators unanimously boycotted the screening of Amaechi.
Trouble started when the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, told a stunned Senate that the PDP senators had decided not to participate in Amaechi’s screening in keeping with the petition against his nomination as a minister.
After Amaechi’s remarks, Akpabio, who raised a point of order, cited Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules.
The former Governor of Akwa Ibom State told his colleagues from the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the PDP senators had resolved not to ask Amaechi any question during the screening since the Senate has decided to screen the nominee without debating the report of the Ad hoc Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which investigated the petition submitted against the nominee.
The UNION reports that Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, was directed by the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to lay the report on the table without a debate.
The Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, promptly moved for a point of order, citing Order 53(9) of the same rule, which deals with Rules of Debate.
Ndume, who challenged Akpabio and his PDP colleagues’ decision, stressed that the meaning of the decision of their decision was that the nominee could as well be asked to bow and go.
“As a majority leader, it is my responsibility to market this nominee for the confirmation of the Senate. If these people (PDP senators) have decided not to ask any question, my job is made easier,” Ndume said.
There was a shout of protest, as Ndume’s choice of words did not go down well with his colleagues from the PDP as he referred to them as ‘these people’.
They insisted that Ndume not only tenders an apology, but also retracts the statement.
It took Saraki’s intervention, who explained to the opposition senators that Ndume had already retracted his language, to douse the near-rowdy session on the floor.