Ministerial List: Senators Divided Over Amaechi | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ministerial List: Senators Divided Over Amaechi

Posted: Oct 8, 2015 at 1:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rotimi Akinwumi, Abuja.

Attempt by antagonists of Rotimi Amaechi to submit a petition against his candidature as a ministerial nominee caused an uproar in the Senate on Wednesday as lawmakers engaged one another in a shouting match over the issue.

Amaechi, the former River State Governor was one of the 21 ministerial nominees forwarded to the Senate for clearance by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The list was read out on Tuesday at plenary by the Senate President, Olusola Saraki.

The senate had on Tuesday reiterated its resolve to accommodate petitions against any of the nominees should any crop up before or during the screening exercise which is slated to commence next Tuesday.

Trouble started on the floor of the Senate Wednesday when Senator George Sekibo from River State announced his decision to submit a petition before the Senate, allegedly on the orders of the people of Rivers State against Rotimi Amaechi with a view to denying him the opportunity of being a Minister on the bill of Rivers State.

Citing Order 41 of the Senate Standing ?rule, Sekibo informed the Senate that his constituents asked him to submit a petition against the nomination of Amaechi.

But he was not allowed to finish his presentation before loud shouts of No! No!! No!!! e?merged from the section of the chamber occupied by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators in the chamber.

They were immediately countered by People Democratic Party (PDP) Senators who shouted Yes! Yes!!? Yes!!!.

The situation became so rowdy that senate president Abubakar ?Bukola Saraki had to hit his gravel severally  to restore sanity.

When Sekibo was recognised again to conclude his submissions, he told his colleagues that the petition deserved prompt attention by the Senate because the issues it raised ?were very significant in determining the anti-corruption stance of the government.

Bukola then asked the law maker to lay the petition on the mace table.

It was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for consideration.

In his explanations, Sekibi explained that the petition was equally sent to the President even as he said that Buhari might not have read it.

“There is the group that is called the Integrity Group and they believe in transparency, fighting against corruption, they believe in good governance and effective utilisation of every fund that is allocated to any state government. They are based in Port Harcourt. They went into a research and discovered that over N70billion was transferred from hard currency account to places outside the country.

“And a petition on this note was written to Mr President. I believe the President has not read it. If he has read it, he may not hurriedly nominate Rotimi Amaechi to be a minister.

“Amaechi is qualified to be a minister but when issues of corruption and fraud are openly x-rayed by people, it is necessary for Mr President to take a critical look and examine the allegations from these people whether they are true or not.

“Mr President is preaching about corruption, we applaud him for the corruption fight he is waging against whoever. So, if you are fighting against corruption, then there must not be any sacred cow. No matter how close a person is to you, if there are allegations about him, you must spend time to critically look at them whether there are truth about the allegations that have been so submitted. I am informed that this petition was forwarded to EFCC a month or two ago and I am also informed that the EFCC is also commencing to carry out investigation.

“So, why not allow this period to go over and allow them to do their investigation and come out with the result? It may be mere allegation but assuming they are true, now as a serving minister with a very big portfolio and EFCC is investigating you, can they get the result of what they are looking for? They will not get it.

“We are not stopping Mr President from appointing a Rivers man to be a minister; we will welcome it. There are many APC members who were not indicted or accused of such similar issues.

“So, we have not seen the haste in pushing Amaechi to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“On the other hand, the Rivers State Government set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate on the sales of state government-owned properties. Former Governor Amaechi refused to appear to defend himself. Now, what does it mean? If you are accused of something and then you refused to appear, it means you know something about it.

“Maybe the letters that were sent to the presidency were not delivered. We are sure that through this process, he would be able to hear some of the allegations in the petition and perhaps,  have a rethink,

“The Rivers people will be very happy. We are not victimizing anybody. We will not victimize any other nominee from Rivers State apart from Amaechi,  who had been so indicted by this tag on him should not be presented. The people of the state are crying and its like there is no help from anywhere. It should not be so.

I presented the petition on behalf of the senators from Rivers State. Also included with the petition to the president was a documentary of how proceeds from Rivers State Government-owned account were disbursed from one source to another. It  was also communicated to Mr . President.

“The integrity group had gone a step further by publishing the contents of the petition in some national dailies.  As a state,  if our funds are mismanaged,  it’s our duty to recover those funds and bring them back to the coffers.

“If the president founds out that a minister had mismanaged funds domiciled under his ministry, and then, he is being called to account for the money but refused to cone, what will happen?  Perhaps the president have higher powers,  the minister could be arrested. It is not the case with a former governor. Some people will see it as a case of witchunt. So the only one who can intervene in the matter is the president and perhaps, the anti fraud related agencies” Sekibo said in defending his reasons for submitting the petition.

The petition so submitted by Sekibo was  signed by director of Media and Publicity  of the group, Livingston Wechie.

Wechie in the petition warned that failure by the Senate to disqualify Amaechi will amount to a mockery of the anti-corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

?Wechie further claimed that with series of corruption allegations levied against Amaechi and alleged ongoing investigation into his tenure by anti-graft agencies, it will be a great disservice to Rivers people whose commonwealth has been brazenly squandered.

“We strongly protest the nomination of Amaechi, particularly on the grounds of the various allegations of patent fraud and corruption perpetuated by him as governor of Rivers state with documents to prove and giving that he is being investigated by the various anti-graft agencies.

“For further emphasis, may we reaffirm that this advocacy from The Integrity Group is without prejudice and not with any form of political motivation as alluded to by mischief makers. We shall not relent. We stop at nothing to support Buhari and indeed the federal government in the fight against corruption particularly in ensuring that anyone, no matter how highly placed is brought to justice,” the petition read in part.