• Senate receives list of 5 more nominated ministers
• FG creates special courts to try corrupt public officers
THE Senate went up in a rowdy session on Monday following the appearance of the former Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, for the day’s screening of ministers.
She was the third person to be screened on the day after the former Minister of State for Agriculture, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze and former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode.
The Senate had listed 14 names for screening on Monday but started at 2 p.m. The sitting on Monday was a specially arranged one, as senators usually sit between Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Senate President, Mr. David Mark, asked his colleagues to allow the former ministers to come first into the chamber after the items on the Order Paper had been suspended to allow for the screening of nominated ministers.
The screening had gone on smoothly for Njeze and Kayode until it got to the turn of Akunyili.
The senators were only able to ask the former minister two questions, leading to several points of order.
Senate Chief Whip, Senator Kanti Bello, had raised his voice in an emotional tone while asking Akunyili to clarify her role in the government of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Senator Lee Maeba immediately raised a point of order to challenge the use of language by Bello.
But he was ruled out of order by the Senate president, because the order he referred to had to do with senators.
Akunyili, who appeared before the Senate as one of the nominated ministers for screening ran into bad weather when the Chief Whip, Senator Bello, asked her to clarify the insinuation she made on the existence of a cabal in government in her recent interviews.
Senator Bello had also accused the former minister of being a member of the cabal because she was reported to have cooked for the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, on a number of occasions.
The former minister, who insisted that she remained a loyalist and admirer of ailing President Yar’Adua, said, however, that she never cooked for Hajia Yar’Adua and that she had served Nigeria as a nationalist.
She said: “I have always tried my best to be a nationalist, even in NAFDAC, I served Nigeria, not myself, even when those involved and I had to deal with them were my people, I didn’t spare them.”
Akunyili insisted that she was not a member of the cabal surrounding the ailing President Yar’Adua.
“The distinguished Senator said that I was supposed to be part of the cabal. I was not in any way part of the cabal. I want to state here very clearly that President Umaru Yar’Adua is my boss, my big brother and he remains my brother and everybody knows that he is a fine gentleman and with beautiful spirit. When we started having problem, I …I decided…(noise),” she said.
The former minister said she had declared a fasting period in her ministry for the ailing president and that she went to St. Leo Catholic Church in Ikeja, Lagos, to ask for a 90-day Novena prayer for the good health of the ailing leader.
She stated that her actions were to show love for the president, adding, however, that she remained loyal to Nigeria.
“Then coming to the cabal, Senator Kanti Bello, he mentioned that … distinguished Senator said I was supposed to be part of the cabal and he went on to say that I was cooking dishes for Madam. Sir, I never cooked for madam.
“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 prayers for him at St. Louis Parish, Ikeja. It can be cross checked when he went to the hospital and 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,” she said.
After the statement by Akunyili, a rowdy session ensued thereafter.
Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, raised a point of order to enable the Senate to extend the sitting time beyond 6.00 p.m.
Though the motion was supported by the Minority Leader, Senator Mana Maaji Lawan, the senators rejected the bid by a voice vote.
The Senate President put the question two more times, but a majority of the senators insisted on terminating the session.
It cut short Akunyili’s appearance as she was made to only respond to the question by Senator Kanti Bello.
Earlier, the former Minister of Justice, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, had said Acting President Jonathan had approved the creation of special courts to try corrupt public officials shortly before the dissolution of the former cabinet.
He said to move faster on the trial of some issues, there must be dedicated courts taking some cases.
“Actually there was an approval from the acting president, especially in terms of politically exposed persons (PEF). We should not put them in the same court that is trying libel,” he said.
Kayode said he was in support of special courts to try matters such as corruption and election matters.
Senator Garba Lado had attempted to throw the chamber into confusion when he asked Kayode to throw light on the doctrine of necessity and whether the doctrine was constitutional.
Senators Ayogu Eze and Joel Danlami attempted to stop the nominee from answering the question, when they declared that the matter was already settled by the Senate, but were overruled by Senator Mark.
Mark said they should allow the nominee to educate Lado on the matter.
Kayode, in answering the question on doctrine of necessity, said it was legal and that whenever there was lacuna in law, the doctrine was relied upon to move on.
The Senate, on Monday, received the names of five more people nominated as ministers from Acting President Jonathan.
The acting president, in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Mark, said the nominations were in line with Section 147 of the constitution of Nigeria.
The list of the nominees was sent to the Senate after they were cleared by the State Security Services (SSS).
The nominees are four former ministers and a new nominee.
According to the letter from the acting president, those re-nominated were the former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Isa Bio; former Minister of Environment, Mr John Odey; former Minister of State for Finance, Mr Aderemi Babalola and a former Minister of State for Commerce, Mr Humphrey Abbah.
The new nominee is Mr Samuel Ode from Benue State.
The nominees will join the 33 earlier sent by the acting president to the Senate for screening.
The acting president had, on March 17, dissolved the cabinet constituted by ailing President Yar’Adua.
The decision to send the new names to the Senate followed clearance by the security agencies.
It was gathered that senators met on Monday night and certain agreements were reached.
Sources said senators from Taraba State were able to make a strong case against the nomination of Mr Umaru Aliyu.
It was gathered that the lawmakers decided to defer the screening of the nominees from Taraba and Ebonyi states as a result of the hot contest for the slots from the two states.
While the presidency had sent the nominee from Taraba, the nominee from Ebonyi State was yet to be forwarded to the Senate.
It was gathered that the Senate resolved to allow a peaceful resolution of the power game in the states before taking the matters on the floor.
“We learnt that the hot contest in Ebonyi and Taraba has not been resolved and it has become dangerous to take the matter to the floor in the current state.
“We are still expecting the nomination from Ebonyi, even at that, we have decided to defer the screening of the nominees from Taraba and Ebonyi, pending the resolution of the power play there,” a source in the Senate said.
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