Out of the 21 ministerial nominees submitted to the Senate for screening and clearance, the former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi is undoubtedly facing more opposition to his nomination from his people in Rivers State than any other nominee. Though about 10 petitions were reported to have been submitted to the Senate against the ministerial nominees, none is generating as much heat as that of the embattled former governor.
The angst against Amaechi getting into the Federal Executive Council to represent Rivers State started long ago after the All Progressives Party, APC, won the presidential election. After Amaechi failed to clinch the position of Chief of Staff to the President and even Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, which some people tipped him to pick, tongues started wagging that President Buhari may have dumped him because of the various petitions over alleged graft against him. But loyalists of Amaechi remained confident that President Buhari would compensate him for the huge resources he committed to his campaign.
The Rivers State chapter of the APC stoked the anger of anti-Amaechi elements when they told Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to go and commit suicide when Amaechi’s name was eventually listed on the ministerial list. A statement signed by the Rivers APC Chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, issued Tuesday in Port Harcourt said, “With the listing of Hon. Amaechi as a ministerial nominee despite all the manipulations, witch-hunting and other evil plots by Chief Nyesom Wike and his cohorts. We are elated that, once more, good has prevailed over evil, God over devil, Amaechi over wicked Wike, light over darkness, patriotism over nepotism.
“Wike, the Caretaker Governor of Rivers State, was so sure that Amaechi would not be so appointed when he boasted to his inner caucus that based on his groundwork Amaechi would never be on the ministerial list. So sure was Wike that he vowed that if for any reason Amaechi was appointed a minister he (Wike) would commit suicide. We expect him to act according to his vow but before he commits suicide let him first refund all the Rivers State billions of naira wasted in the persecution of a man who brought him into political limelight and whom he is hounding for no sane reason,” Rivers APC said.
The anti-Amechi group led by a Non Governmental Organisation, NGO, the Integrity Group based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital took the battle to the National Assembly where they not only addressed journalist but also submitted a loaded petition against Amaechi. Ministers from Rivers state went a step further by ensuring that the petition was brought to the floor of the Senate and was eventually referred petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges for consideration despite protest by some pro-Amaechi senators.
Since Amaechi left office has been facing criticism from the incumbent Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, with series of allegations of corruption hanging over his head. Most of the allegations against Amaechi are contained in the petition submitted to the Senate by the Rivers Integrity Group.
The petition which was brought to the floor of the Senate by Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East), entitled, ‘Petition Against Ministerial Nominee: Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Demand to Withdraw and Reject His Nomination and Appointment on Corruption, Criminal Breach of Trust, Unlawful Enrichment and Conversion of over N70 billion Rivers Peoples Monies by the former Governor of Rivers State’, the nongovernmental organisation operating in Rivers State, said its goal was to fight corruption and ensure that corrupt persons are brought to justice and stolen monies recovered.
Breaking down the figures, the petitioners alleged the fraudulent sale of state power projects secretly without advertising it in accordance with the policy of public procurement as well as the conversion of $302 million proceeds of the sales to N60.480 billion without remitting it to the state coffers.
According to them, Amaechi secretly sold the four power plants belonging to the state, Onne, Afam, Eleme and Trans-Amadi – to his choice buyer whom they said made the payment in dollars into the state assets sales account.
They added that Amaechi later ordered the payment made in dollars to be diverted to some of his choice bureau de change companies’ accounts.
“It is important to note that some of these companies are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC and none was a licenced Bureau de Change agent on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, list of licenced Bureau de Change agents as at the time of the transactions,” the group said.
The petitioners added that as contained in the document earlier sent to the EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Amaechi and his aides did not return the converted monies in naira to the state coffers.
“Suffice it to say that from our findings, incontrovertible facts and evidence, with documents to show, those companies were used as conduits to siphon Rivers State commonwealth with impunity,” the group added.
The petitioner also alleged that Amaechi did not only divert state money to his account but also boasted of doing so in a public statement where he was quoted as saying: “If we go and change it (dollars) in a bank, it will be N150 to a dollar but if we go to black market, it will be N175 to a dollar, l said change it in black market.”
They therefore alleged that it was no longer an allegation judging from the former governor’s public statement about how he got the money converted to naira in the black market.
The group also alleged unlawful fraudulent conversion and payment of N4.6 billion to Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and Leisure Limited whereas “the mystery hospital cannot be found anywhere or even a stone laid on the proposed site.”
The group also alleged that Amaechi gave N12.5 per cent interest to Messrs Collect Nigeria Limited instead of five per cent usually given to revenue services companies, saying the company was used as a platform to divert Rivers State’s money.
The group decried Amaechi’s perceived disregard to a constituted authority following his failure to appear before the judicial panel of inquiry set up by Rivers State Government to prove his administration, concluding that Amaechi’s nomination for a ministerial position should not only be withdrawn and rejected but “the Senate should rather ensure his committal to investigation and prosecution so he can rightly defend himself and clear his name to avoid this impending betrayal of trust against the people of Rivers State.”
It is believed in several quarters that the protest against Amaechi’s nomination would have been nipped in the bud if he had respected the ruling of the High Court that ordered him to defend allegations against him at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Rivers State government. When Governor Wike inaugurated the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to probe the sale of state Assets by his immediate past administration, Amaechi had approached the Rivers State High Court in suit number PHC/187/15 asking the court to stop his appearance before the panel.
But the High Court refused to grant Amaechi’s request and ordered him to go to the panel to defend allegations against him. The presiding judge, Justice Simeon Amadi of the Rivers State High Court, told Amaechi in very clear and unambiguous words told him to face the Justice Odedeji- led Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Justice Amadi declared that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was not interested in investigating Amaechi’s personal activities, but set up to investigate previous actions of government as they affect the people of Rivers State. He also ruled that Governor Nyesom Wike by the provisions of the law is empowered to establish the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate previous actions of government.
Justice Amadi declared, “The Judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man, but it is also the last hope of the mighty and movers and shakers of democracy. Those who by the benevolence of the Judiciary got to power should resist the temptation to emasculate the Judiciary”.
As the nation awaits the commencement of the screening of ministerial nominees next week, political observers are of the opinion that Amaechi may have no option now than to go before the Senate committee to clear himself of the myriad of allegations against him if he hopes to be given clean bill of health. There is strong possibility that the investigation by the Senate may delay his final screening as the committee is expected to complete its assignment and submit its report to the Senate. That notwithstanding, Amaechi’s appearance before the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges will also be a damage control measure as some Nigerians believe Amaechi’s name on the ministerial list, ab initio, has dented and rubbished all claims by the Buhari administration that it will fight corruption to a standstill in the country.

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