- As Senate suspends Plenary
Against the assurances by the Senate that the former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi would yesterday be screened among other remaining ministerial nominees, the session ended without his appearance and screening.
This was just as the upper chamber announced yesterday that it has rescheduled today’s sitting till tomorrow because of its President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who is expected to appear at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, today in continuation of his trial over 13-count charge on alleged falsification of assets declaration.
Acting Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, who announced the cancellation in a press release, however, did not give reasons for the action.
“This is to inform all distinguished senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the resumption of the senate in plenary has been rescheduled from Wednesday, 21st October, 2015 to Thursday, 22nd October 2015.
“All distinguished senators are by this notice requested to resume sitting in plenary on Thursday, 22nd October, 2015 by 10.00am prompt, please”, the acting clerk stated.
It was, however, gathered that the rescheduling of today’s sitting till tomorrow was because Saraki would be appearing before the Tribunal today along with many of the senators, in solidarity with him.
Amaechi’s screening by the senate yesterday morning suffered a setback for the second time like last week Wednesday, when his name which was on the Order Paper was stood down.
In the first order paper earlier circulated by the Senate’s Committee on Rules and Business, aside Amaechi being listed as the third nominee to be screened after Adebayo Shittu from Oyo State and Heineken Lokpobiri from Bayelsa State, reports on investigation over petition written against him by Integrity Group from Rivers state was also listed to be laid before the senate by its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition that handled the petition.
But the second order paper hurriedly circulated about 10:55 am when the plenary was about to begin, had no presentation of any report on petitions against nominees on it and presented three and not eight ministerial nominees for screening.
Although the Senate spokesman, Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) told journalists that Amaechi and five other nominees suddenly dropped from the list yesterday would be screened along with other nominees yet to be screened at subsequent legislative days, sources from the camp of senators however indicated otherwise.
A pointer to this direction was the caucus meeting immediately held by the PDP senators immediately after the session where only Adebayo Shittu from Oyo State and Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim from Yobe State were screened. Sources from the meeting held by the PDP senators informed newsmen that Amaechi’s issue was discussed with a resolution that since the Ethics and Privileges Committee is coming with a report aligning with rule 53(5) of the senate standing rules, that Amaechi’s nomination should not be treated by the senate.
The committee had on the strength of the rule, set aside petitions written against Amaechi on the grounds that issues raised in the petition are already being litigated upon in the court of law and the senate as stated by the rule, must not interfere on any matter pending in the court of law.
“If the Ethics Committee is recommending that petition written against Amaechi by the Integrity Group should be set aside by the senate on the grounds of being litigated upon in the court of law, then Amaechi’s nomination itself should not be considered by the senate to completely align with rule 53(5) which states that senate should not deliberate on any matter or issue being litigated upon in the court of law by interested parties”, said a source.
As at yesterday evening, lobbyists accelerated frantic efforts to find a political solution to the quagmire. It is not however known if these efforts will assuage senators to screen him tomorrow.
Meanwhile, of the two ministerial nominees screened, only Barrister Adebayo Shittu from Oyo state was subjected to thorough grilling by the senate while Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim from Yobe State, was given the special treatment of take a ‘bow and go’, being a former House of representatives member and wife of a serving Senator, Bukkar Abba Ibrahim (APC Yobe East).
Shittu in response to some of the critical questions fired at him, denied ever being indicted by any panel from Oyo State on religious intolerance or disturbance but posited that religious studies should be made compulsory subject in our schools.
As a lawyer, he supported the call for separation of office of Attorney General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice.
He said: “I am aware that there are agitations all over the country for a separation of the office of the Attorney General from that of Minister of Justice. It is unfortunate that Nigeria does not have these separate offices.
“I am aware that this Senate is already aware of its importance. If we didn’t know its importance, the fact that for four months, we have not had an Attorney General and jobs that are supposed to be done by the office of the Attorney General cannot be done will explain the fact that it is very important for us to have a separation in powers of the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
“The importance of having this is that once he is appointed, his tenure is fixed, he cannot be removed except with the approval of the Senate. To that extent, he will be able to move even against high government officials when the need arises”, he said.