The drama and intrigues that has followed the confirmation hearing of the 36 ministerial nominees reached continued yesterday when all but one senator in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP caucus walked out to protest the confirmation of former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, as minister.
The Nigerian Senate confirmed former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but PDP senators staged a walk out in protest of the confirmation
The Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, led the walk-out.
Things came to a head after the Chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu presented the report on the petition against the former governor.
The PDP Senators at the Senate had asked the Senate not to confirm Mr Amaechi until the allegations against him are cleared by the relevant judicial process, in line with recommendations of the report of its Committee on Ethics and Privileges that had recommended that the nomination be put on hold.
But The Senate instantly dismissed this, triggering the walk out.
In their absence, Amaechi was unanimously confirmed.
Responding to the spirit of unity APC senators showed in the confirmation of Amaechi, one of the drivers of APC’s victorious presidential campaign, told the Vanguard that it was indicative of the fact that all internal crises in the party were now in the past.
Before the sitting began, there were meetings of the caucuses where it was decided that the Senate would first screen and confirm the President’s nominees for chairman and commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. After that, the Senate retired into a closed-door session that lasted nearly two hours during which issues about the nominees were again brought up. It was learned that the Senate President had told the PDP caucus that he would allow them express themselves before a vote on Amaechi’s confirmation.
However, he could not secure a consensus and there were sharp divisions between the position of the PDP senators and the APC senators once the vote on the confirmation of the ministerial nominee got underway.
Amaechi was listed last on the list of nominees to be confirmed, probably because the leadership of the Senate anticipated trouble.
The other 17 senators were almost all confirmed without disapproval but when it got to Amaechi’s turn, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio reminded the Senate of the earlier agreement that the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges would be considered the consideration of Amaechi’s confirmation.
Then, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki asked the chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu to present his report.
Senator Anyanwu read the findings of the committee in which he noted that a petition was presented to the committee alongside the report and the White Paper endorsed by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
He said that Amaechi was represented by his counsel who pointed out that the constitution of the panel by the Wike administration was the subject of a court process and therefore, that Amaechi had decided not to appear before the committee in order not to pre-empt the ruling of the court.
Anyanwu concluded by saying that the committee recommended that in line with the fact that the issues against Amaechi were still pending in court that the Senate should hold the nomination at bay.
The report of the Committee was signed by eight of the 11 members including three APC members, the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Dino Melaye and Omotayo Alasoadura.
Others who signed were Senators Samuel Anyanwu, PDP; Omogunwa Yele, PDP, Ondo South; Peter Nwaoboshi, PDP, Delta North; Jeremiah Useni, PDP, Plateau South; and Obinna Ogba, PDP Ebonyi Central.
Those who did not sign were Senators Binta Garba, APC, Adamawa; Muhammed Shitu, APC, and Olaka Nwogu, PDP, Rivers, who the nominee, Amaechi had told the Senate was his roommate in the university.
Disagreement over committee report
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume responded to the submission
He said“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 any further action.”
Ndume’s submission immediately put the PDP senators in confusion as their puzzled leaders looked at one another wondering where this was going.
Minority leader, Akpabio drew back and after recovering himself, cited Order 43 of Senate Standing Rule, to the effect that the Senate had earlier resolved to first consider the report of its Ethics Committee before confirming the nominee.
Responding to Akpabio, Saraki said his point was noted following which he pointed to Senator Babajide Omoworare, APC, Osun East, who through a number of constitutional orders and standing orders of the Senate sought to dismiss the report submitted by Senator Anyanwu.
He observed that the intent of the petition submitted against Amaechi barring those indicted by administrative panels of inquiry had been amended by the Constitution and was as such inconsequential to the confirmation hearing.
But Senator George Sekibo from Rivers State charged the Senate to side with the administration’s anti-corruption stance by upholding the report of the committee on ethics.
With the APC senators solidly behind Amaechi, the PDP senators realising that they would not have their way on the issue, began to signal to one another and they walked out of the Senate chambers, led by Senator Akpabio .
The only PDP senator that was left behind was Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Following their exit, Senator Saraki raised the question as to whether the Senate should endorse the report of the Committee on Ethics and the Senate with unanimity rejected it. Following that, Saraki threw the question on whether the Senate should endorse Amaechi as a minister and he was unanimously endorsed.
The Senate also confirmed 17 other nominees who had gone through a process of scrutiny during the screening process.
They are Adebayo Shittu, Khadija Ibrahim, Heineken Lokpobiri, Cladius Daramola, Baba Mustapha, Ocholi James, Adewole Folorunso, and Bawa Bwari.
Others are Geoffrey Onyeama, Zainab Ahmed, Mohammed Dan Ali, Usani Uguru, Okechukwu Enelamah, Anwuka Gozie, Mohammed Bello, Adamu Adamu and Aisha Abubakar.
Outside the chambers, Senator Akpabio led other PDP Senators to denounce the process that led to the confirmation.
“The reality is that once a case is before the law, anything about the case is dropped. The issue of taking further action should be stayed, but APC is not willing to abide by the law. We have no option than to stage a walk out. We have a responsibility to Nigerians not to partake in that kind of action. It was not normal for PDP Senators to walk out. This is the first time, and we feel strongly there was a breach of the Nigerian Constitution.”
Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, has said that the decision of PDP senator to stage a walkout to protest the confirmation of former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi does not render the confirmation illegal.
He explained that the Senate session had a full attendance in the morning and formed a quorum when the meeting started, adding that the PDP senators decision was voluntary and would not affect the attendance on record.
He also added that the number of senators required to form a quorum was 33 while the APC senators had 48 members in the Senate. Therefore, despite the walk-out the Senate maintained a quorum