Screening: Senate set to clear Amaechi today

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The controversies surrounding his nomination notwithstanding, the Senate is set to clear the former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, today.

The Senate, all things being equal, will also clear the nominee from Sokoto State, Ms Aisha Abubakar, contrary to the wish of petitioners from her state who were bent on preventing her screening by the Senate.

Checks by the Daily Times are indicating that save for a pocket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators, majority of Senators had agreed to clear Amaechi when he appears for screening today.

The Senate shelved Amaechi’s screening last week on the basis of failure by the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition to present a report on probe of a petition filed by a group, which named itself Integrity Group from Rivers State against Amaechi.

The Committee had sited litigation on Amaechi’s case already filed in court as reason it could not sit on the petition, just as it said it was constitutionally barred to do so.

Members of the Committee were earlier in disarray on whether or not to approve the clearance of Amaechi, while many of them, mostly from Rivers State and PDP stayed away from subsequent meeting of the Committee to write the report on the probe of petition against the former governor.

A Senator representing Oyo State, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, in a chat with the Daily Times on the issue, said the Senate today will treat the issue of Amaechi without sentiment.

He said there has never been any court order or special case file against the former governor likely to stop his clearance by the Senate.

He said the White Paper reportedly issued on Amaechi by the government of Rivers State, detailing his alleged infamy while in Office is not binding on the Senate.

Senator Buhari said specifically that Senate was never concerned about the local politics of PDP in Rivers State, stating also that anyone who has personal grudge against Amaechi should settle with him and not begin to use the Senate to do that.

He said the timing of the probe of Amaechi by Rivers State government as well as the issuance of a White Paper on the probe of his past administration was suspect and hence would not be looked into by the Senate because it was a Rivers State matter.

Also the Senate Ad Hoc Committee Chairman on Media and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, said the Senate has no restriction not to clear Amaechi, affirming that so far the Senate has not received any injunction from the court purportedly aiming to stop his screening.

However, the Senate indicated earlier in the day that the screening of the nominee from Sokoto State will not get a hitch since the petition filed against her was flawed.

The Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition Committee, which opened debate on the petition against Ms Aisha Abubakar, noted that the petitioner did not route the protest against the nominee properly as they erred by addressing it to President Muhammadu Buhari and not directly to the Senate President as demanded by the Senate Rule.

The Committee Chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, had pointed the flaw to the petitioners, stating that since they failed to address it to the Senate President directly, the petition, by implication was not meant to be treated by the Senate.

The Committee, however concluded that the petition which was handwritten and not even typed was ‘dead on arrival’.

Although signatories to the petition against the Sokoto nominee, Hajiya Balarabe Abdul, Hadiza Zabobo, Hajiya Kulu, Hajiya Fati and Rabe Jonah, made attempt to impress it on the committee that they had a new petition properly addressed to the Senate, the Committee failed to entertain their new move.

The Chairman quoted sections 147, 14 (3), 66 of the constitution which state the qualification for appointment as a minister, stating that Ms Aisha Abubakar had met the criteria for her to become a minister, notwithstanding the petition against her.

The Committee said since she was a an indigene of Sokoto State and that having fit into the idea of gender balance as canvassed by President Muhammadu Buhari during his presidential campaign, the nominee should enjoy the privilege of being screened for appointment as a minister.

The Senate has scheduled another 10 set of nominees to be screened during today’s plenary, while it screened 18 nominees who it confirmed for ministerial jobs through a memo it officially sent to President Buhari at the close of work last week.

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