…….. vow to stop his confirmation as a minister
The battle is not yet over for former Rivers State governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi as the Senators from the People’s Democratic Party are prepared to put up a stiff fight and stop his final confirmation as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It will be recalled that Amaechi was screened last Thursday amidst uproar from the senators.
However, the PDP senators are feeling betrayed by the actions of the APC senators with whom they had a secret agreement not to screen Amaechi.
The ethics committee of the Senate headed by a PDP man was said to have advised that Amaechi screening be left till the end of the cases of alleged corruption he has in court.
One PDP senator, who asked not to be named, said, “We had opened Thursday’ssitting with a closed session, which lasted for 50 minutes to sort out knotty issues relating to the screening of Amaechi.
“During the closed session, Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, briefed us on the report and indicated that the committee reported that the issue regarding Amaechi’s petition was in court and that the Senate should suspend action on his screening, pending the resolution of the court issues.”
Another senator, who said a similar thing, said the PDP senators were surprised when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the other APC senators started asking Amaechi questions.
The two and others alleged that all the senators at the closed session had agreed that the PDP senators would insist on not having anything to do with Amaechi, while their APC colleagues also agreed that they would only ask the nominee to only “take a bow and go.”
They said they were surprised seeing Saraki and other APC members asking Amaechi questions.
At the screening, which lasted for about 55 minutes, the PDP senators did not ask the nominee any question with the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, saying his members would not participate in the screening of Amaechi until the outcome of his court case.
Akpabio also raised a point of order that no controversial matter be brought before the Senate.
He said, “My point of order is under Order 43. The PDP senators seated here will not have any question for the nominee because we have just received the report of the ethics committee bordering on corruption and all sorts of things from the Senator Anyanwu committee and we have not debated that report at all. So, we have little or nothing to ask the nominee.”
Akpabio then asked his PDP colleagues whether he had spoken their minds and the opposition senators responded in the affirmative.
Amaechi had arrived on the premises of the National Assembly around 10.30am, dressed in Rivers attire. His name was Number One on the order paper
During his screening, Amaechi explained details of his achievements as Rivers State governor for eight years and pledged to improve on the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
In a reply to Akpabio’s earlier order, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, had raised a point of order under Order 53 (9).
Ndume said, “My position and by the grace of God, as a Senate Leader, I want to guide the Senate properly. The committee report has been laid by the committee that we assigned to do the job of ethics and privileges and the procedure is that after laying the report, we will make copies of that report.
“This is a confirmation hearing, it does not stop the confirmation hearing but we are glad that you have said that you are not asking the nominee questions. We must as well, as a former speaker and as a former governor, ask the nominee to take a bow and go.”
Amaechi was two-term Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly before becoming governor in 2007.
The drama of the ex- governor’s screening continued with Akpabio interrupting Ndume and telling Amaechi, “Mr Nominee, the leader has spoken and by implication, the leader is saying that today, the Senate should have a rule that every nominee should bow and go. Maybe the leader did not hear me well, what you (APC senators) are now saying is that you can’t ask questions?”
Ndume also stood up again and said, “Mr chairman, as I said, I raised two orders. One: It is my responsibility as the Majority Leader. Two, on the other order that I raised, the gentleman you see here as a nominee, it’s my responsibility to market him here before the Senate.
“It is you people that are given the privilege to ask questions and you said….”
Calling his colleagues “you people” led to an uproar and Saraki had to apologise on behalf of Ndume and asked the PDP senators to accord Amaechi the usual courtesies of former lawmakers who had appeared before the Senate.
Amaechi was thereafter asked questions on the challenges in the Niger Delta; his alleged indictment by the Rivers State Government Commission of Inquiry and his view on corruption.
At this point, Akpabio left the chamber.
Amaechi was asked further questions by APC senators before he was asked to take a bow and go.
As part of his answers, he said, “Corruption is very difficult to define. If you are a public officer and you don’t take a bribe, I have never taken a bribe in my life but if they send a girl to you and you sleep with the girl and do her favour, you are corrupt.
“Corruption is a very wide concept. If people are contesting a position and you offer your son, brother or sister an opportunity to hold that position, probably the person is not qualified, you are corrupt. So, it is difficult for me to define corruption.”
Amaechi continued, “I thought that as good as the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) might have been, I don’t think he was suitable enough for the growth and development of Nigeria. So, we needed to offer an opportunity to somebody we believe is better than the former President.”