SENATORS yesterday called off the consideration of the petitions against the nomination of former Rivers State Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Mrs Amina Ibrahim Mohammed as ministers.
The Port Harcourt-based The Integrity Group petitioned the Senate alleging financial impropriety against Amaechi and requesting that he should not be confirmed as minister.
The petition, sent to the Senate through Senator George Thompson Sekibo and two other senators, claimed that Amaechi mismanaged N70 billion Rivers’ State funds. The former governor debunked the claim as a lie.
The Senate Committee, after a brief meeting with Amaechi at the National Assembly, said the subject matter of the petition, which is related to the white paper on a report of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry is already a subject of court case.
Amaechi who appeared before the committee with former Commissioner for Information Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, and two members of the House of Representatives, told the panelists that the matter upon which the committee invited him was pending before a court.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, had wanted to know from Amaechi if the matter was awaiting a court pronouncement.
Anyanwu, after hearing from Amaechi. noted that in line with Section 7 of the Senate Standing Rules, it would amount to sub-judice to continue to consider the petition.
Mrs Mohammed, who until her nomination, was a Special Adviser to United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, asked the committee to disregard the petition against her nomination because she is not from Kaduna State as claimed by the petitioners.
The nominee said she is from Gombe State.
She said: “I was brought up in Kaduna. My father lived there, but I have no connection with Kaduna State. I am an indigene of Gombe State and the assumption is that I would be representing Gombe in the cabinet.”
The attention of Mr. James Kanyip, a lawyer, who sent the petition to the Senate, was drawn to Mrs. Mohammed’s submission.
Kanyip said that he would withdraw his petition if it is confirmed that Mrs. Mohammed was not nominated to represent Kaduna State.
Anyanwu later told reporters that his committee would continue its investigation on other aspects of the petition against Amaechi.
Anyanwu said: “What we are saying is that we have a petition against Amaechi and there is a letter from his lawyer that they have a pending case in the court.
“We also received a White Paper indicting him and we also received a Federal High Court judgment that says that Amaechi cannot stop the judicial commission from investigating him.
“He went to Appeal Court and the matter is pending in Appeal Court. And in our Senate Rule, once a matter is in court, we will not dwell into it.
“But what we are going to do is to package the documents, look at their nature and be able to do our report and send to the Senate by tomorrow or next. ý”
He went on: “Nobody has been cleared. It is our report because whatever report that we turn in, it is the entire Senate that will dwell on that report and clear whoever that the report recommends for clearance or otherwise.
“We have not turned in our report. We only said that the matter we have before us is in court and there are other conflicting issues which we are yet to resolve and that is why we are trying to put down our report together.
“The fact that the screening commences tomorrow (today) is not withstanding. It doesn’t matter. We have two, three days to do our screening. Anybody that is not screened tomorrow (today) could be screened the other day.
“If the reports are ready for any of them, the person will be taken tomorrow. And of course, the Senate is going to take them batch by batch. So, it doesn’t mean that everybody will be screened tomorrow (today).
On the number of petitions received so far, Anyanwu said: “No, we have not received 10 petitions. We have only received two petitions. The petition doesn’t come to us directly. It must be made at the floor of the chamber and they have not received anything of such.
“Nothing is cast on iron. We don’t need to be in a hurry to put up a report that may not find its place in the Senate.
“If we are ready tomorrow, of course, we will submit our report tomorrow. The only thing is that between Tuesday and Thursday, we are supposed to finish with the screening of the ministers, the reports will be ready. “