Friday, 30 October 2015

Breaking News: PDP Senators Walk Out As Amaechi Is Confirmed

PDP Senators Walk Out As Amaechi Is Confirmed...
WALK-OUT - The intrigues that shadowed the confirmation hearing of the 36 ministerial nominees reached an anti-climax 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.

PDP Senators, led by Senate Minority Leader and ex-Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio (left), walking out of the Senate Chamber to register their opposition to confirmation of ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi as minister by the Senate, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

In their absence, Amaechi was unanimously confirmed after the Senate had summarily dismissed the report of its Committee on Ethics and Privileges that had recommended that the nomination be put on hold.

Besides Amaechi, 17 other ministerial nominees were also confirmed by the Senate in a session that was dramatically sketched in partisan political hues.

Responding to the spirit of unanimity APC senators brought to bear in the confirmation of Amaechi, one of the drivers of the party’s victorious presidential campaign, the APC, yesterday said it was indicative of the fact that all internal crises in the party were now in the past.

The Rivers State chapter of the party was equally effusive yesterday, saying it was a victory over the forces of darkness. While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for nominating Amaechi, the party urged Muslims in the state to use today for thanksgiving and Christians to use Sunday to thank God for the power to overcome the forces of darkness.

The signpost to the drama that unfolded was indicated by the caucuses before sitting, and the decision of the Senate to first screen and confirm the President’s nominees for chairman and commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Following that, the Senate retired into a closed-door session that lasted nearly two hours during which issues about the nominees were articulated. It was learned that the Senate President had prevailed on the PDP caucus that he would allow them express themselves before a vote on Amaechi’s confirmation.

No consensus

However, indications that a consensus was not forthcoming were indicated by the trenchant stance of the PDP senators and the APC senators once the vote on the confirmation of the ministerial nominees got underway.

Remarkably, Amaechi was listed last on the list of nominees to be confirmed, indicative of the fact that the Senate leadership had envisaged trouble.

While the preceding 17 senators were almost all confirmed without disapproval, 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 prior to the consideration of Amaechi’s nomination.

Upon that, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki signalled the chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu to present his report.

Senator Anyanwu in his report read the findings of the committee in which he noted among others that a petition was presented to the committee alongside the report and the White Paper on the report was endorsed by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
WALK-OUT—PDP Senators, led by Senate Minority Leader and ex-Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio (left), walking out of the Senate Chamber to register their opposition to confirmation of ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi as minister by the Senate, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

WALK-OUT—PDP Senators walking out of the Senate Chamber to register their opposition to confirmation of ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi as minister by the Senate, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

In his findings, he said that Amaechi was represented by his counsel who submitted that the constitution of the panel by the Wike administration was the subject of a judicial process and thus, that Amaechi had decided not to appear in order not to pre-empt the ruling of the court.

In his conclusion, Anyanwu said 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.

Brickbats over committee report

Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume responding to the submission moved to amend the report to the effect that the Senate should adopt the finding of the committee in 2 (b) (II) to wit:

“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 disarray as their  puzzled leaders looked at one another to the intent of the new submission.

Akpabio who ordinarily should second the motions brought forward by the Senate Leader, Ndume, 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 import of 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. While Senator Joshua Lidani, Gombe State contended against his submission, 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.

PDP senators walk out

With the APC senators increasingly taking a position in favour of Amaechi, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti), said the PDP senators were resigned to their fate that they could only have their say while the APC would have its way on the issue. As she spoke, PDP senators as if on a prompting, began to signal to one another and led by Senator Akpabio they walked out of the Senate chambers.sen5

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.

PDP senators denounce confirmation

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.”

The APC, however, welcomed the process. Praising the sense of unity among the APC senators, outgoing party spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said yesterday:

“The cohesion and unity exhibited by the APC Senators on Thursday have shown that our legislators are ready to work with the executive and the party to ensure that the agenda of the party is implemented for the benefit of all Nigerians. We commend all our members and leaders in the Senate and indeed the leadership of the APC for this show of unity,” the party said.

Saying that the confirmation of Amaechi despite the walkout by the PDP caucus was reflective of democracy in action, the party said:

“It is part of democracy that while the minority can have their say, the majority will have their way. Therefore, the decision of the PDP Senators to walk out is nothing but democracy in action,’’ the party said.

APC lauds Senate

Welcoming the confirmation of Amaechi yesterday, the spokesman of the APC in Rivers State, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze said:

“The Eighth Senate has by this action proved that they are not only patriotic and nationalist but also that they cannot allow petty politics to becloud their sense of reasoning as they seek to accomplish the onerous task of building a virile, vibrant, united and strong Nigeria.”

Other nominees who were confirmed before Amaechi were Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Khadijah Abba Ibrahim, Heineken Lokpobiri , Cladius Omoleye Daramola, Baba Shehuri Mustapha, Ocholi E. James and Adewole Isaac Folorunso. The rest are Honourable Bawa Bwari, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, Zainab S. Ahmed, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru, Mr. Okechukwu Enyinma Enelamah, Professor Anwukah Anthony Gozie, Mohammed Musa Bello, Adamu Adamu and Aisha Abubakar.