Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
There was a rowdy session in the Senate yesterday, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators unanimously boycotted the screening of the former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi 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 Order, which deals with Personal Explanation, reads: “By the indulgence of the Senate and the leave of the President of the Senate, a senator may make a personal explanation although there be no question before the Senate; but no controversial matter may be brought forward nor may debate arise upon the explanation. The terms of the proposed statement shall be submitted in detail to the President of the Senate when his leave to make it is sought”.
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.
The Order states that: “A senator desiring to speak shall raise his hand in his place and if called upon, shall rise and address his observations to the President of the Senate or the Chairman”.
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”.
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.
While answering questions from only APC senators, Amaechi advocated that no state should receive less that N5 billion allocation from the Federation Account.
Amaechi, who argued that there must be a line between compensating the oil producers and revenue sharing, said that it was in his former view that the Niger Delta region be duly compensated for being the oil producers. He, however, added that such view had long changed.
“In my former view, I believe that the resources are in the Niger Delta, and their fair share is necessary; that is why there is militancy. I believe that, if you don’t address social justice, the country will not be the same.
“When we moved to Germany, and we saw how they raised their fund, I felt, therefore, that our dependence on this natural resource is unnecessary. I believe that we should draw a poverty line that no state should collect anything less than N5 billion from the national revenue. If any state goes below five billion, then, all of us should contribute to ensure that that state gets up to five billion,” he said.
Amaechi said that, if appointed to serve in the Niger Delta ministry, completion of the East-West road would be one of his first assignments because of its economic importance.
Reacting to the problems in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Amaechi said that the government then did not want him to run for a second term because of his radical believes.
He said that he believed that the forum should check the recklessness of the executive in spending from the Federation Accounts.
On the appointment of ministers without portfolios, Amaechi said that the work lied with the legislature to amend the constitution and mandate the President by law to attach portfolios when appointing.
“I will be glad, if I see a list with portfolios; that way, everybody knows where he is going. Now, you don’t know where I am going, and you don’t know, if to ask me about my expertise in education or health or Niger Delta,” he said.
The UNION reports that the Upper Legislative Chamber screened five out of the six nominees that were listed on the Order Paper on the fourth allotted day.
The other four include: Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Claudius Omoleye Daramola, Baba Shehuri Mustapha and Ocholi Enojo James.
PDP Senators Boycott Amaechi’s Screening
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja