OrderPaperToday –Five months after inauguration, the 8th senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has seen its first open division along partisan lines as senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a walk-out from the chambers over the confirmation of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as minister.

The senate though had been engrossed in a leadership crisis following the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as senate president, senators have managed to portray a united front with the PDP caucus throwing its weight strongly behind him after helping to thwart the preferred candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the top office.

But the inclusion of ex-governor Amaechi’s name on the ministerial list changed all that as the PDP vehemently opposed his nomination on the grounds that he has been indicted by a commission of inquiry over allegations of fraud and mismanagement of state funds to the tune of N70billion. All three senators from Rivers state had led the opposition to Amaechi with Sen. George Sekibo laying a petition which was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. The ex-governor’s screening was twice deferred and when he was eventually grilled, PDP senators by choice refrained from asking him questions.

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Trouble however started today during the confirmation of ministerial nominees. When it got to Amaechi’s name after 17 others had already been confirmed, Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio rose to demand consideration of the report of the committee on the petition against Amaechi.

Senate President Saraki accordingly called for the presentation of the report in which a major recommendation as read out by the committee’s chairman, Senator Sam Anyanwu, was that due to subsisting litigations on the petition Senate should keep off from considering Amaechi’s nomination as minister. “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 consideration of his confirmation,” the report concluded.

A debate on the report led to a rowdy exchange between APC and PDP senators as Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Ali Ndume and his minority counterpart, Sen. Akpabio led their troops in the verbal battle for Amaechi’s confirmation. While Ndume moved a motion that Amaechi should be confirmed, Akpabio drew attention to Order 53(5) of the Senate Standing Orders which stipulates that the Senate shall not consider any matter before the court if in the opinion of the Senate president it is considered to be sub-judice.

When recognised to speak on the matter, Sen. Sekibo said thus: “I have a reason to speak on this matter. As a member of Rivers State caucus, we represent our people. And Nigerian people are in the majority and not APC. The majority of the Nigerian people are the true judges. Those that will evaluate us are Nigerian people. The report contains weighty allegations of corruption: a series of asset mismanagement and fraud. The matter was referred to the ethics committee. The committee did its work and submitted the report. There is a moral burden on all of us here. Whatever we do today will be recounted in future. We are encouraging corruption when Mr. President said he is fighting corruption. The majority may have their way but we will have our say.”

Chairman, senate committee on Rules and Business, Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun East) cited Order 41 rule 7 of the Senate Standing Rules which stipulate that the Senate should not receive petitions on any matter that has a judicial remedy.

Senator Abiodun Olujinmi (PDP, Ekiti South) who also contributed to the debate, said it was apparent that the APC would use its numerical strength to confirm the nominee but warned that “there is a moral burden not only on us but also on this government that is riding on the crest of anti-corruption. There is a moral burden on anyone that is riding on the crest of anticorruption. We need to ensure that the court absolves him before we can confirm him in this Senate. I’m insisting, Mr. President, that the majority will have their way but Nigerians know that this government is not ready to fight corruption.”

At this point Sen. Akpabio led PDP senators on a walk-out from the chamber. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu however stayed put as a voice vote to confirm Amaechi was taken by only the APC senators present.
The 17 other ministerial nominees confirmed were Khadijah Abba-Ibrahim, Aisha Abubakar, Zainab Ahmed, Mansur Dan-Ali, Osani Uguru, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, Mohammed Bello, Adamu Adamu, Bawa Bwari, Adebayo Shittu, Heineken Lokpobiri, Baba Mustapha, Claudius Omoleye Daramola, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Ocholi James, and Geoffrey Onyeama.

Reported on Oct. 28, 2015

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