As the Senate begins the screening of the first batch of 21 ministerial nominees today, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sent the second list to the upper legislative chamber for its approval.
This is even as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, yesterday suspended investigation into the petitions against former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi and also cleared another nominee and former Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs to the United Nations Secretary General, Amina Mohammed for the screening.
President Buhari had on September 30 sent the list of 21 nominees to the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, confirmed the receipt of the additional list of ministerial nominees by the Senate yesterday.
According to him, the list was jointly presented to the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukoka Saraki together with his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari respectively about 4.24pm.
Similarly, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, also confirmed receipt of the list by his boss at the stated time.
Enang and Olaniyonu, however, refused to disclose the content of the list as they said it was contained in a sealed envelope, which according to them, would only be opened by the Senate President when presenting it before the senate today at the plenary.
Meanwhile, strong indications emerged yesterday that in spite of petitions against them, Amaechi and Amina Ibrahim would be among the nominees for the screening that commences today in Abuja.
This was as a result of subtle clearance given to them by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions after going through petitions against them yesterday.
Specifically, the Committee chaired by Senator Sam Anyanwu (PDP Imo East) ruled that since issues raised in the petition against Amaechi by the Integrity Group from Rivers State on alleged N72billion fraud are already subjects of litigation in court, the committee in line with the senate rule cannot treat the petition.
Anyanwu said, “Having considered the written submission of Amaechi’s lawyers to this committee in respect of petitions against him by Integrity Group from Rivers State and in line with senate rule 41(7), which states that the senate shall not deliberate on any matter in which there is judicial remedy in court, this committee hereby suspend further deliberation on the petition.”
For Ibrahim, it was an outright clearance by the committee since the petition against her by the Southern Kaduna Coalition was predicated on assumption that her nomination by the President was for Kaduna state and not Gombe, her natural state of origin.
Ibrahim, while facing the committee said she was from Gombe State and wondered why the petitioners from Kaduna State are alleging that her ministerial slot was for Kaduna State.
Responding to questions from the committee members, the chief petitioner, James Kanyip admitted that their petition against Ibrahim was solely driven by their assumption that she was nominated to fill the slot of Kaduna State and not her state of origin, Gombe.
This submission made the committee members to further ask him about the source of his information confirming that Ibrahim was a nominee from Kaduna and not Gombe, her state of origin.
Kanyip’s disclosure that the social media was his source of information further drew more embarrassment to him, especially from the Deputy Chairman of the committee, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), who said he was very worried that a lawyer could rely on information from social media upon which he predicated such a weighty petition.
Speaking with newsmen after the committee sitting, its chairman, Senator Sam Anyanwu clarified that the suspension of investigation into the petitions against Amaechi, did not mean express clearance for the former governor to become minister after facing the Senate’s screening today.
According to him, his screening along with that of Amina Ibrahim would be based on the committee report to the senate, but assured in a veiled language that they would be paratroopers of the screening that would last for three days.