Written by Taiwo Adisa and Idowu Samuel:
• 2 ex-ministers fail security tests
• Jonathan, lawmakers in crucial meeting
LOYALISTS of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua are said to have hired, at least, seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to fight the decision by the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to dissolve the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
It was gathered that the aggrieved kitchen cabinet members had resolved to fight the acting president for taking the decision without recourse to the sitting president.
A source said that members of the dislodged cabal were bitter over the dissolution of the cabinet, which meant that all of them had lost their plum positions.
The group is said to have raised N500 million to prosecute its legal challenge.
It was gathered that the group was also planning to embark on lobbying of members of the Senate to ensure that they delayed the screening and confirmation of ministerial nominees for, at least, two weeks.
A source said that the cabal leaders had hoped to undo the decision of the acting president within the next two weeks so as to return the nation to status quo.
At least two notable SANs were said to have been engaged while some other senior advocates numbering five were said to have joined the team.
A source said that no fewer than 25 companies which got major contracts from the leaders of the plot when they were in government had been mandated to raise the required funds to pay the legal fees and also lead the charge to lobby members of the National Assembly.
“Their plan is to ensure that the programmes of the acting president are truncated and they have decided to look for pliable judicial hands to help their cause.”
“But members of the National Interest Group in the Senate have also been alerted to this.
“They have all resolved to fast-track the screening process of the ministers to the extent that most of the returning ministers will not be made to pass through prolonged screening,” a source in the Senate said.
Meanwhile, at least two members of the recently dissolved cabinet of President Umaru Yar’Adua have failed security tests, following their screening by the security agencies.
Former Minister of Works, Dr. Hassan Lawal and his counterpart in the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. Tunde Omotoba, were facing security scares on Monday.
It was gathered that petitions on the ill-fated Abuja Airport runway had been piling against Omotoba at the headquarters of some of the security agencies, while the works minister was also said to have some petitions against him.
A source also said that some security agencies forwarded list of the ministers they were investigating to the acting president through the National Security Adviser immediately the cabinet dissolution was announced.
The information was aimed at guiding the acting president in the recomposition of the cabinet, sources said.
Sources said some other ministers in the dissolved cabinet were also facing security challenges and some of them were actually dropped as a result of that understanding in government circles.
It was learnt in Abuja, on Monday, that reports of the State Security Service (SSS) and other agencies indicated that petitions had been pouring in against some of the immediate past ministers and that their clearance for Senate confirmation might be a tall order.
The source said the reason behind Jonathan’s decision to drop some loyalists of President Yar’Adua was actually because of the security challenges and not as a result of the hatred between the camp of the ailing president and the acting president.
The acting president was said to still hold his boss in high esteem and he did not harbour ill feelings against him, despite his inability to see him in the past weeks.
The source said Jonathan had personally dissuaded members of the dissolved Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) from debating the issue of invocation of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution so as not to portray the council as anti-Yar’Adua.
The acting president had also dissuaded his supporters in the Senate from embarking on the impeachment option on the strength of the fact that the ailing president did not deserve to be disgraced from office.
The Senate is still expecting the ministerial list today amidst conflicting signals that the list was encountering problems at the hands of security operatives.
It was gathered that the presidency had resolved to send the names of the returning ministers to the Senate, such that the lawmakers could do something about the screening before they embarked on Easter break.
Meanwhile, Acting President Jonathan is not leaving anything to chance in re-constituting the EXCOF which he sacked a week ago, as he held a crucial meeting with some members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Jonathan’s meeting with National Assembly members, which was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday night, was able to resolve issues on who should constitute the new cabinet, with some of the shortlisted candidates being dropped due to negative reports against them.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives met with Jonathan under the aegis of Integrity Group. About 20 members of the group were said to have been invited to the meeting by the acting president.
Members of Nigerian First Forum, which emerged in the House of Representatives, were equally selected to look at the list of ministerial nominees.
The acting president had, at the close of last week, held a similar meeting with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau, during which those in attendance put a seal on the shortlisted candidates.
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