By Emmanuel Aziken, Shuabu Inalegwu & Chris Ochayi:
* 5 new ministerial nominees emerge
* Jonathan plans special court to try indicted politicians
* Senate refers allegation of $.1m bribe for probe
SENATE President David Mark had to step in, yesterday, to stem the uproar generated in the upper house when Prof. Dora Akunyili was being screened by the Senate.
This was even as a fresh list of five ministerial nominees was forwarded to the Senate by Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan.
Among the five named in a letter to the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, and read out on the floor of the Senate were four former members of the immediate past federal cabinet.
The names were read out at the commencement of the screening of the 35 nominees earlier proposed by Dr. Jonathan, just as the Senate referred to its Committee on Ethics and Privileges, the allegation of inducement of some senators to the tune of $100,000 for the purpose of scuttling the screening process.
One of the nominees screened, Mr. Kayode Adetokunbo, SAN, the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation at his confirmatory hearing disclosed plans by the Federal Government to establish special courts for the purpose of trying indicted political office holders.
Adetokunbo also endorsed the Doctrine of Necessity used in empowering Dr. Jonathan as valid in law as he said it was applicable where a vacuum was established in law.
The former ministers proposed by Dr. Jonathan are: Mr. Humphrey Abbah, Kogi, Mr. John Odey, Cross River, Aderemi Babalola, Oyo, and Hon. Isah Bio, Kwara. The fresh nominee is Mr. Sam Odeh, presently serving as Special Adviser to the Governor of Benue State on Special Duties. He is nominated to represent Benue State.
As exclusively reported in Vanguard, yesterday, former ministers in the immediate past cabinet were lined up to be screened first and received tough questions from senators. Prof. Dora Akunyili was especially challenged on her outburst against members of the purported kitchen cabinet of President Umaru Yar‘Adua.
The three screened were Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, Enugu; Adetokunbo, Ondo, and Akunyili representing Anambra whose screening ended in an uproar.
The screening commenced in the afternoon despite attempts by Senator Julius Ucha, PDP, Ebonyi Central, to compel the abolition of the office of Minister of State which he claimed was against the provision of Section 147 of the Constitution which recognized only the office of minister and not minister of state.
President of the Senate, Senator Mark, who presided, was quick to stop Senator Ucha by noting that the Constitutional Point of Order he raised on the issue was anticipatory.
Allegation of $100,000 inducement
Just as the screening got on, Senator Garba Lado, PDP, Katsina South, raised a point of order with respect to the publication by a newspaper of the inducement of senators to the tune of $100,000 each to frustrate the screening exercise.
Senator Lado who is well known for his opposition to the enthronement of Dr. Jonathan as Acting President, said the news publication was an act of blackmail directed against him and other Katsina senators who were fingered as conduits for the distribution of the alleged bribe.
Senator Mark referred the issue to Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions saying that neither he nor any other senator received the reported amount. He described the report as an act of blackmail.
As the Senate screening commenced, Senate President, David Mark gave the procedure that the immediate past ministers nominated for another term would be screened first.
Mrs. Njeze was the first to be screened and she took questions arising from her stewardship as Minister of State, Agriculture, and notably on the availability of fertilizer to farmers.
Senator Lado erupted again when Adetokunbo was being screened. He asked Adetokunbo to cite constitutional basis for the proclamation of the doctrine of necessity, which was used by the Senate to empower Dr. Jonathan as Acting President.
Replying Adetokunbo said: “It speaks for itself. It is when you must do something that is necessary for things to move on. This doctrine is not our creation it is an international convention. If there appears to be a vacuum within the law you can just jump over that breach to ensure that you do the right thing. Many of us who study the doctrine of necessity believe that it was the right thing that was done and it was rightly applied and that many of us are grateful to this Senate for what it did.”
Adetokunbo also dismissed allegations to unnecessary delay in the trial of Major Hamza Mustapha and some others indicted in some unjudicial killings during the administration of erstwhile Head of State, late Gen. Sanni Abacha.
He said: “There are two criminal jurisdictions, federal and state. The persons you have mentioned fall under the state jurisdiction. Many of the delays were caused by counsel.”
Adetokunbo also disclosed plans by the Federal Government to establish special courts to try indicted politicians accused of corruption.
Uproar over Akunyili
Following Adetokunbo, Prof. Akunyili came in. After her brief introduction, she was immediately tackled by Senator Kanti Bello, the Senate Majority Whip who asked her to buttress her outbursts against the alleged cabal she said was against constitutional provisions on public officers to seek the unity and the promotion of the culture of the country.
Senator Bello also challenged her on the viability of her nomination against the background of claims of the lopsidedness of appointments from Anambra Central Senatorial district against other senatorial zones in the State.
Replying, Akunyili said: “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 problems…,” Mrs. Akunyili said as she was interrupted by clamour from several senators. The situation forced the President of the Senate to rise up from his chair.
It was the first time that Senator Mark would rise up in an open session to calm an uproar in the Senate since the inauguration of the Senate in 2007.
Senator Mark took almost two minutes to bring senators to order with a sharp rebuke on them to comport themselves.
Akunyili then continued: “When he became ill, I organized 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. Leo Parish, Ikeja when he went to the hospital. It can be cross-checked. 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 amidst an uproar from several senators.
Lawyers reject ministerial nominees
Despite the ongoing screening of the ministerial nominees by the Senate, Lawyers of Conscience, LC, a civil society organization, has rejected the list of nominees submitted to the National Assembly by the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, saying the nominees were incompetent and funny characters.
The group’s National Co-ordinator, Barrister Benedict Ezeagu, Secretary General, Princewill Akpakpan and the PRO, Sadiq Mohammed, who made this position known at a news briefing in Abuja, said the list of nominees was the worst in the history of the country.
The group also accused the Acting President of recycling spent forces into the new FEC, regretting that Dr. Jonathan still believed in business as usual because nothing has really changed.
The lawyers said: “the team Jonathan is assembling to run the government of this country is even worse than those of Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua. Our ship in this nation seems to be heading for the rock with his recycling of the likes of Aliyu Gusau, Theophilus Danjuma and the funny names and characters in his ministerial list – a clear backward stride it has been so far.”
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