- The immediate past governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi has been a subject of controversy following his ministerial nomination. In this piece, DOZIE EMMANUEL asks whether he can scale the hurdle well laid down for him when he appears before the Senate today
As the Senate continues its ministerial screening today, all eyes will no doubt be on the former governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi because of the dust his nomination has raised. It is obvious that since the governor failed to impose his anointed son, Hon. Peterside Dakuku, as the governor of the rich oil state, it has been a running battle with the incumbent governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike.
Even the probe panel set up by the Rivers state government under the chairmanship of Justice George Omereji to investigate the immediate past administration of Amaechi has indicted it of selling off some of the assets without remitting the proceeds into the state coffers. This corruption allegation against Amaechi was coming at the time President Muhammadu Buhari had forwarded his name along with other 20 names for screening and confirmation as ministers.
Amaechi has argued that the probe panel set up by Wike was illegal and would not be fair to him. He pointed out that the governor has not complied with the law setting up a probe panel.
According to him, “there is a law on how to set up a panel and Wike has not complied with that law, meaning that I cannot appear before an illegal panel which never followed due process.”
But watchers of political events in the state are quick to point out that it was the same manner Amaechi set up a probe panel to investigate the administration of Dr. Peter Odili that Wike followed to set up this probe panel as well. They recalled that Odili humbled himself, appeared before the panel and absolved himself of any corrupt charges and wondered why Amaechi could not appear before it to clear himself of all the allegations leveled against him.
Curiously, no other ministerial nomination has generated so much controversy and criticism like that of Amaechi. His screening has been deferred on two occasions because of the petition brought against him.
Already, there is uncertainty whether Amaechi will scale today’s ministerial screening having stepped on some powerful toes within and outside the state.
The Senator representing Rivers East in the Senate, Senator George Sekibo, has submitted a petition against the nomination of Amaechi. The petition has since been referred to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu for further action.
Last Tuesday, the Senate commenced the screening and has already confirmed 18 ministerial nominees sent by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Senate is expected to continue with the ministerial screening today.
Those already confirmed and awaiting to be assigned portfolios are: Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, (Akwa Ibom); Dr. Kayode Fayemi, (Ekiti); Chief Audu Ogbeh, (Benue); Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, (Ebonyi); Dr. Osagie Ehanire, (Edo); Lieutenant General Abduulrahman Dambazau, (Kano); Alhaji Lai Mohammed, (Kwara); Amina Ibrahim Mohammed, (Gombe); Engr. Suleiman Hussaini Adamu, (Jigawa); Ibrahim Usman Jibril, (Nasarawa); Babatunde Raji Fashola, (Lagos); Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, (Delta); Abubakar Malami, (Kebbi); Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, (Anambra); Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, (Taraba); Barrister Solomon Lalong, (Plateau); Mrs Kemi Adeosun, (Ogun) and Senator Hadi Sirika, (Katsina).
While those yet to be screened and confirmed include: Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Khadijah Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, Claudius Omoleye Daramola, Professor Anthony Anwuka, Geoffrey Onyema, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), Barrister James Ocholi, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Okechukwu Enelemah, Muhammadu Bello, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Miss Aisha Abubakar, Heneiken Lokpobiri, Adamu Adamu, Professor Isaac Adewole, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru and Abubakar Bwari Bawa.
The focal point ahead of today’s screening is whether the former governor of Rivers State will scale through the hurdle stacked on his way well laid on his path by his perceived political enemies. Political analysts have called on Amaechi to thread with caution in view that he has not enjoyed the support of the three senators from the state.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senators and members of the House of Representatives from the state have been holding meetings on how to prevail on the President to drop Amaechi because of many corruption allegations currently hanging on his neck.
In fact, having been told in clear terms that a number of issues have been working against his screening, especially with a court case and petitions before the committee, Amaechi knows that he is indeed running against time.
Moreover, there are indications that the Amaechi’s saga may have caused division within the members of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. While PDP senators and some members of the committee are said to be moving against the screening of Amaechi, other APC senators are pushing for the former governor to be screened dismissing all the allegations and petitions against him as political.
As Nigerians look forward for today’s ministerial screening, it is expected that the senators will keep its word that “it will not be business as usual”.
Although, no portfolio was attached to any of the nominees, it is hoped that they should be asked questions ranging from politics, economy, security, youth and women empowerment, foreign and domestic policies, among others.
It is unfortunate that the country’s constitution did not stipulate that a portfolio must be attached to the nominees before sending them to the Senate for confirmation. However, given the new administration’s stance on change, many had expected President Buhari to depart from that norm and attach the portfolios to the nominees. This will not only guarantee transparent screening process, but also ensure that nominees are asked specific questions related to their ministries.
As Buhari’s administration marks its five months in office next week, the high point will surely be the caliber of people he has nominated to drive the change Nigerians have been yearning for. Many are still disappointed and frustrated by the calibre of people currently being screened to be ministers. To say that a good number of them fall below expectation is just stating the obvious.
After about four months of waiting patiently to see Buhari’s so-called ‘saints’ and ‘technocrats’ that will join forces with him in turning around the dwindling economy, what we have seen thus far are the same faces, the same characters in another political party.
This so-called ‘compensation list’ of the President has no doubt dampened the spirit of most Nigerians, who thought that change has indeed come. Even some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC are not only frustrated but disappointed that certain members have been appointed as ministerial nominees by the president. In fact, the supposed nominees have generated heated discussion among top party members.
As Amaechi appears before the senators today for screening, Nigerians are only anxious to know if he can scale the hurdle just like other ministerial nominees. In the coming days and weeks, the criticism and bickering surrounding the calibre of people being screened and confirmed to be ministers today will definitely dominate the country’s political discourse.
“No other ministerial nominee has generated so much controversy and criticism like that of Amaechi. His screening has been deferred on two occasions because of the petition brought against him.”