Posted by News Express | 12 March 2015 | 3,830 times
The Senate, yesterday, confirmed the nomination of a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, and seven other nominees as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The confirmation process was, however, rowdy, as senators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) kicked against the bid to screen the former Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana.
It was a tug of war between the Senate President, David Mark and the APC lawmakers, who raised several motions in an attempt to frustrate Obanikoro’s screening.
Others confirmed alongside Obanikoro were Hajia Hauwa Lawan, (Jigawa); Mr Kenneth Kobani (Rivers); Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya (Taraba); Senator Patricia Akwashiki (Nasarawa); Professor Nicholas Akise Ada (Benue); Colonel Augustine Akobundu (retd) (Abia) and Mr Fidelis Nwankwo (Ebonyi).
Three nominees who appeared before the Senate on Thursday, including Lawan, Kobani and Ikenya were given the bow and go treatment, but the opposition senators had resisted the attempt to screen Obanikoro.
Senators of the APC, including Senators Bukola Saraki, Olugbenga Ashafa, Babajide Omoworare, George Akume, Olubunmi Adetunmbi and Ganiyu Solomon, attempted several times to frustrate Obanikoro’s entrance into the chamber, but were rebuffed by Senator Mark, who ruled against their several points of order.
The APC senators cited constitutional points of order and Senate rules to block Obanikoro. They claimed that Obanikoro was not eligible to be appointed a minister, as according to them, he had committed some serious infractions against the laws of the land.
They also argued that there were some suits hanging on the neck of Obanikoro, including an originating summons of a Lagos High Court instituted by someone said to be a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kemi Lawal, which they claimed restrained the Senate from confirming Obanikoro as minister.
Senator Mark, however, ruled against their position, saying that no court had served him with any restraining order.
At that point, the APC senators decided to stage a walk out of the chamber, after which they addressed a press conference.
Inside the chamber, the remaining PDP senators went ahead to confirm Obanikoro and other nominees earlier screened.
With an overwhelming voice votes from the remaining PDP lawmakers, the Senate confirmed the nominees as ministers.
Addressing newsmen in the Senate, spokesperson of the APC senators, Babafemi Ojudu, said the lawmakers were disappointed that Mark went ahead to clear Obanikoro.
He said: “We found it incumbent on us to let Nigerians know what our opinions are on this matter, but the Senate president would not listen.”
Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, also noted that APC members were disappointed because they had in the past joined their colleagues to confirm Obanikoro, adding that the Senate needed to respect their objection this time.
Akume stated: “The Senate, in its sitting today, was rancorous and acrimonious, which is most unfortunate and unusual with the Senate all because of one nominee, who has been a senator before and had also been passed as a minister and ambassador.
“Senators from Lagos had never raised objection to his earlier nomination and confirmation in the past, but something happened after he became the Minister of State for Defence. He was alleged to have participated in the massive rigging of the Ekiti governorship election in June, last year.
“The alleged action is a breach of the constitution. In a civilised world, his name should not have come up for screening in the first instance. Hence, we are all opposed to him.”
He further said that the Senate president had, by his action, altered the Senate’s tradition of ensuring that at least two senators from a state supported the nomination of a candidate before he was screened by the Senate.
He added: “The three senators from Lagos opposed to the nomination of Obanikoro, but the Senate president and his PDP colleagues decided to take the advantage of their number to override what is supposed to be basically a very straightforward issue.
“We wonder whether we want to grow democracy in this country or whether we want to destroy it. Rule of the Senate forbids it not to act on any issue in court, but the Senate leadership had ignored this.
“Nigerians are being deceived by the behaviour of the Senate. They do not want to listen to us and this is highly unfortunate and we are very disappointed with the action of our leadership.
While briefing Senate correspondents, however, Senate spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe, declared that the allegations made by his APC colleagues were baseless.
He stated that Nigerian laws recognised that one was not guilty of an offence until proven otherwise in a competent court of law.
Abaribe said: “In our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation, that is not a court decision is nothing, but a mere allegation.
“Everyone in Nigeria is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty and even the senators who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification or otherwise of Obanikoro are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases.
“They are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty and so, they cannot go to a press conference and try to convict somebody when the person has not been convicted by a court of law.”
He insisted that the Senate formed a quorum when it confirmed the nominees, adding that the matter had been laid to rest.
•Adapted from Nigerian Tribune. Photo shows Obanikoro.
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