By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi:
• Sends Five More Names To Senate
• Fireworks, Uproar In Senate Over Akunyili
FIVE additional Ministerial nominees scaled the twin hurdles of security agencies and intrigues from their homesteads on Monday, and their names were forwarded to the Senate, which on the same day began the screening of all the 38 job applicants.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the Senate to conclude the screening by Wednesday to enable him swear them in on Thursday.
The exercise began on Monday, and of the only three persons screened, that of former Information and Communications Minister, Dora Akunyili, produced all the fireworks – as well as uproar.
Everything went smoothly when Fidelia Njeze and Adetokunbo Kayode were interviewed.
But the Chamber became rowdy after Senate Whip Kanti Bello asked Akunyili to clarify why she parted ways with the “cabal” of President Umaru Yar’Adua after he fell ill in last November.
“I was made to understand that you were very close to the cabal which is against Section 21 of the Constitution which preaches unity. I also learnt that you were very close to the wife of the President (Turai) to the extent that you deployed your skills as a chemist by cooking for her,” Bello began.
Senate President David Mark told him to ask a direct question, and tried to help him out, saying: “I think what Kanti wanted to ask is: ‘Did you think your actions helped to unite or divide the country?’”
However, Bello insisted that Akunyili must explain why she ditched the cabal and why she chose to refer to some of her colleagues on the dissolved EXCOF as members of cabals.
Akunyili answered: “I’ve always tried my best to be a nationalist. Even in NAFDAC (National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control), I served Nigeria, not myself. Even when those whom we had to deal with were my people, I didn’t spare them.
“I never cooked for (Turai). Again, I was never a part of the cabal. I want to state here very clearly that (Yar’Adua) is my boss, my big brother, and he remains my brother; and everybody knows that he is a fine gentleman with a beautiful spirit.
“When he became ill, I organised a fast with my staff and my household and the DG of the FRCN was part of the fast. I also booked 90 days novena masses for him at St. Leo’s Parish, Ikeja. That shows you that I have nothing against our President.
“I am loyal to him, I am loyal to the Constitution, and I am very loyal to the country.”
By this time, the chamber erupted in uproar. Some Senators started shouting that her response was enough, and should be allowed to bow and go.
Shouts of enough, enough, o ti to (Yoruba for enough), rent the Chamber. Agitated voices of “she has done enough, she has said she is loyal” gained ground.
Thereafter, Akunyili took her bow and left on the instructions of Mark.
At exactly 5:56 p.m., seeing the mood among his colleagues, Mark stood up, banging the gavel repeatedly – the second time he would do so since he became Senate President on June 5, 2007.
Order 63 of the Senate Standing Rules stipulates that whenever the Senate President stands up in the Chamber, the floor must listen to him in silence.
Mark urged his colleagues to “stop talking. Whatever your views, you have the opportunity to state them. Whatever our views, we should know that there is a nominee here that we should listen to.
Before the screening began, Transport Committee Chairman, Garba Lado, had drawn attention to allegations of a $10.9 million bribe reportedly given to Senators.
His words: “I was approached by newsmen on my way to the Chamber and my attention was drawn to a news item in Sunday Sun over how Ministerial nominees flooded Abuja with $100, 000 to bribe each Senator.
“They mentioned Katsina and Kebbi Senators as those distributing the foreign currency. This newspaper publication is intimidation and blackmail of myself and my colleagues from Kebbi and the Senate. My privilege has also been breached by this publication…”
Mark cut him short, but admitted that the publication is “sensational,” adding: “I have not received $100,000 and no Senator has either received or distributed $100,000.
“The media should please assist us in building this democracy. The blackmail is unnecessary.”
Mark referred the matter to the Ethics and Public Petitions Committee, chaired by Omar Hambagda.
The screening continues today.
Among the five additional nominees are returnees to the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) Jonathan dissolved on March 17: John Odey (Cross River); Isah Ibrahim Bio (Kwara); Aderemi Babalola (Oyo); and Humphrey Abah (Kogi).
Jonathan has already nominated Mohammed Bello Adoke from Kogi, so Abah represents the North Central.
While Babalola’s candidacy was settled at the weekend, with a principal officer in the Senate backing his nomination, that of Abah came late because of the delay in his clearance by the security agencies.
Abah is the favoured candidate of Governor Ibrahim Idris.
Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, reportedly battled to ensure Odey’s return to the cabinet, in the face of several petitions against him.
Part of the complaint of the petitioners is that Odey’s Senatorial District is the most favoured for federal appointments, to the detriment of others.
Lawmakers met at the residence of Mark on Sunday evening to ensure a smooth screening on Monday.
The meeting lasted till the wee hours of Monday, and one of the highlights was the rejection of Umaru Aliyu (Taraba).
Dependable sources said, “Taraba Senators expressed dissatisfaction with the Ministerial nominee sent by (Jonathan).
“They impressed it upon other Senators to support their position, and it was decided that the Chamber would be silent on Aliyu’s nomination.”
Ebonyi State also has serious intra-state problems to tackle before its nominee is sent to the Senate.
Former Education Minister, Sam Egwu, who was once Governor of the state, desires to return to the federal cabinet but is believed to be in a running battle with Governor Martins Elechi.
A Senator from the South East disclosed that, “The frosty relationship between Egwu and Elechi has stalled Egwu’s return to the cabinet.
“In fact, so serious is the quarrel between them that it has even affected the party in the state. Last week, the Secretary of the state PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) was removed from office.”
The man was Egwu’s protégé.
The return of Idi Hong as Adamawa State representative may not be feasible, with the nomination of former Lagos State Military Administrator, Buba Marwa.
Marwa became the consensus candidate because of the allegation that Hong bought a N350 mansion in the Maitama District of Abuja.
Mark and Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, settled for the nomination of Sam Ode, currently Suswam’s Local Government Affairs Adviser.
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