Senate Majority Leader Gives Reasons The Upper Legislative Chamber Will Not Disappoint Former Governor Of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, As He Steps Forward To Be Screened For Appoinment As Minister
Following the public’s concern that the ongoing ministerial screening by the Senate is going on a rather slow pace, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, has said the upper legislative chamber will not disappoint former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi,
in his quest to be screened and approved for appointment as minister of the federal republic.
There has been some form of controversy over Amaechi’s clearance following a petition against his suitability presented by the three senators representing his state.
The petition followed senate position that at least two senators from a nominee’s state must back a nomination. But Ndume expressed confidence that Amaechi would scale the ongoing screening exercise, despite the hiccups, just as he disclosed that the senate could hold screening for up to 49 days.
So far, the Red Chamber has screened 20 of the nominees, and confirmed 18 of them.
This has got the worried public thinking that the Senate may not be able to meet up with the constitutional requirement of the exercise with the way it is going about it.
The 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that a ministerial nominee of the President shall assume the appointment, if no communication about such nominee is received by the President from the Senate within three weeks.
Section 147(6) states that: “An appointment to any of the office aforesaid shall be deemed to have been made where no return has been received from the Senate within twenty- one (21) working days of the receipt of nomination by the Senate.”
But Ndume, however, reckons that the federal legislators have got ample opportunity to complete the exercise in record time.
“If the President (Buhari) takes his discretion to take his time to submit the (ministerial) list, which Nigerians patiently waited (for), why are Nigerians not patient with the Senate to wait for its conclusion? And why don’t you take us on issues other than these trivialities? Supposing we said let’s take it off till next week, we have that right to do that.
“But the Constitution is guiding us that we have to do this within 21 working days. And we are still within the 21 working days. It is not 21 days, it is 21 working days. And our working days in the Senate plenary is three days in a week.
“So, if you are talking about 21 working days, (it means) that the Senate will do this within seven weeks (49) because we sit for (plenaries) Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. That is three working days. It means that logically, we can do this up to seven weeks,” he argued.
Ndume, who explained why yesterday’s Plenary was shifted till today, said: “The Senate President has to be in court (by) 10.00 a.m. He is the presiding officer. And this is an extraordinary time because we are screening ministers that are predominantly APC. So, that was why we said this screening should continue under the Senate President presiding. So, we are continuing tomorrow (today) by God’s grace”.
He further explained why the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was not allowed to direct the affairs of the Senate in the absence of Saraki, as prescribed by the Constitution.
“This is not a normal day because we are screening APC nominees of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And there are issues surrounding it that we don’t want any other issue out of it again. The Presiding Officer is the Senate President who started the screening and we said we would continue taking a day off and continue tomorrow (today).
“If you look at the Constitution, it is not ‘must’. It is just like when the President is off, the Vice President does not automatically become the President of Nigeria. He remains the Vice President until a letter is transmitted as such. That is what the Constitution says.
“We thought that the court would not even sit today (yesterday). But when we discovered that the court would sit today, and the Senate President is presiding, and we have an issue at hand that the Senate President, and that is the screening of ministers. We said, let us shift it by one day to enable the Senate President attend the court session. And then we continue tomorrow (today).
“So, I don’t even see what is the big deal in it. Let me even tell you, we have 36 ministers being screened. The ministries have not been streamlined yet to know where they are going. I don’t even see an issue out of it. I was thinking that by now, we will be talking about ideas not about people and events. It won’t move this country forward. We are supposed to be talking about the screening details.
“We screened 10 last time, the public started saying you are screening 10 in one day? In America, they screen one senator in two weeks. We said which one is the reasonable number? We have six weeks going. So, let’s take three (ministerial nominees) so that we will take it for six days. And that will be six weeks by our calendar and we will still be within the 21 days.
So, we started yesterday, taking three, one was not ready for certain issues. And they said we only screened two. And the constitution does not provide that every Nigerian is a senator,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ndume has expressed confidence that Amaechi would scale through the ministerial screening.
“I don’t know. It is the Ethics and Privileges (Committee). But let me add that the Ethics and Privileges report is not the determinant of Amaechi. It is the Senate. Even if they write their report, it has to be laid before the Senate, which will decide on the report. It is not the report that will decide the fate of Amaechi. Whatever the Committee recommends to the Senate, it is the Senate that will decide.
“And I have told Nigerians several times that this Senate belongs to APC. We have PDP senators that are in the minority. We are practising democracy in a changed environment. That is to allow the minorities to have their say. But you know that the majority will always have its way. We have 58 senators, the Senate President excluded, and they have 48 senators. And Amaechi is an APC candidate, and the Constitution is very clear. Until there is conviction, you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a competent court of law. Unfortunately, you cannot confirm or disqualify Amaechi. We are the only ones that can do that. And PDP cannot disqualify Amaechi based on triviality. It must be based on constitutionality,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the last may have not have been heard of the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the National Assembly since Tuesday, June 9, as the new twist may have set the stage for the current holders of the majority leadership positions to be replaced by new ones any moment from now.
The UNION reports that the plan may see the trio of the current Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume; his deputy, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah; and the Deputy Majority Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena; vacate their positions for new occupants.
It was gathered that the APC has already projected Senator Ahmad La- wan to take over from Ndume as the new Majority Leader.
Sources at the National Assembly Complex said that the political solution being worked on by the duo of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, is about to be implemented.
Dogara and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Senate were locked in a meeting at the new wing of the Senate complex late yesterday evening.
Sources hinted that the Senate President has been under pressure to communicate his allies in the Senate, including the current Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, his deputy, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, and the Deputy Majority Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, on the need to toe the party’s line as regards the composition of the Senate majority leadership.
– Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja