Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, kicked off the weeklong confirmation hearing of ministerial nominees submitted to it on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The exercise was not without hiccups and protests. It kicked off at 11:11am, when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators led a protest, following the exclusion of FCT by President Buhari.
The protest was led by the Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda. He said based a 2005 Court of Appeal ruling, the FCT has the nomenclature of a state and should therefore be considered for a ministerial position.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who presided as chairman in the Committee of the Whole, said they lack the powers to effect any changes, but added that the executive arm will take note of their agitations.
As the confirmation hearing progressed, there was uproar in the Senate when the immediate-past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi took the stage.
Lawan, had while introducing Amaechi, urged members not to scrutinise former state and federal lawmakers. Lawan’s admonition was not in line with the provisions of the Senate Standing Rules.
Lawan’s position was challenged when the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe claimed that he didn’t have the permission of Rivers State caucus not to ask Amaechi questions.
Former Gombe State Governor, Danjuma Goje, raised a point of order. He relied on Order 3 of the Senate Standing Rules.
He insisted that the Senate Rules does not cover a former member of a state House of Assembly to benefit from the special privileges where nominees are not questioned.
Lawan, again, stepped in and insisted that the same privileges should be extended to Amaechi. He begged his colleagues to let Amaechi go.
Abaribe, while responding, urged Amaechi to sustain the peace in his home state of Rivers. He also urged him to see himself as a national minister and not a local champion.
He requested that if reappointed as the minister of Transportation, he should include the Eastern Corridor in the ongoing nationwide railway expansion programme.
Further attempts by Lawan to allow Amaechi respond to issues raised, were rebuffed by lawmakers. He was thereafter asked to take a bow and go.
As soon as Amaechi exited the stage, Thompson Sekibo raised a point of order to elaborate more on what transpired when Amaechi was in the chamber.
He was stopped by Lawan who claimed that he was unaware of the point of order. He declined the point of order. Attempts by other lawmakers to speak on the same issue were turned down by the President of the Senate.
Lawan had earlier in the day, explained the terms of reference. He said there will be two sessions every legislative day.
“We will have the first session that will elapse at 1pm. We will take a lunch break and resume at 2pm. We will close when the mood of the Senate says so,” he said.
Uche Samson Oga from Abia State was the first to take the podium. The exercise for the day was concluded at about 6:11pm. The entire exercise lasted for six hours. In all, 10 nominees were screened. Among them were three former senators and a serving member of the House of Representatives.
Those screened included Sen. George Akume (Benue), Sen. Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sen. Olurunimbe Mamora (Lagos), and Rep. Emeka Nwajuiba (Imo).
Also screened were Uchechukwu Ogah (Abia), Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Dr Ogbonaya Onu (Ebonyi), Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun), and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
Lawan told his colleagues that the exercise will continue today.
“We have done a wonderful job. Tomorrow (today), we will continue his exercise,” he said.
Eight nominees have been slated for screening today. They are Senator Tayo Alasoadura from Ondo, Sunday Dare from Oyo, Mohammed Abdullahi from Nasarawa State and Major General Salihi Magashi (retd) from Kano. Others are Richard Adeniyi Adebayo from Ekiti, Ramatu Tijjani from Kogi, Timipriye Sylva from Bayelsa and Mustapha Baba from Borno.