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Senate defers screening of Obanikoro, three others till next week



THE Senate Wednesday deferred the screening and confirmation of former Minister of State for Defence and one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent ministerial nominees, Mohammed Musiliu Obanikoro, and three others till next week Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

  No reason was however given for deferring the screening of the candidates other than that the Senate had exceeded its day’s plenary time.

  However, an opposition senator who confided in The Guardian said that the Chambers’ inability to screen the Lagos State nominee marked the end of that chapter, saying that the closed-door session observed at the beginning of the day was to iron out issues and tell themselves the naked truth.

  According to him, the opposition lawmakers had warned that effort should not be made at leading Obanikoro to the chambers because “we will throw questions that he will not be able to defend and that could be very embarrassing to the nominee.”

  “As far as we are concerned, it is all over with him. Mr. President should look for another appointment for him for now”, he said.

   But the Senate’s spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Babafemi Ojudu, had challenged the screening of Obanikoro on the ground that there were two petitions against him highlighting his role in the August 2014 Ekiti governorship poll and the use of armed soldiers to stop the Ilubirin Housing Project in Lagos and still pending in courts. 

  The petitions, he said, have been forwarded to Senate President David Mark.

  Ojudu said, among others: “There is a court case against Obanikoro in court in Lagos and that case is coming up for hearing on March 6.

   “Should the Senate go ahead to screen Obanikoro next Tuesday, it means the Senate has prejudiced the case. That would be illegal because the tradition and the rule is that if there’s a case before the court, the matter should not be entertained.

  “This case is already before the Judiciary and it has to be with whether he is a fit and proper person, whether he is qualified to hold public office. Even the case of whether he has dual citizenship is not for the Senate to determine. Besides, this case is not even about that. Whatever the matter is, there is a subsisting case against Obanikoro before the court.

  “There is a case before the law courts; until that case is dispensed with, nothing can be done in the Senate”, he added.

  But another lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, countered Ojudu’s position on the ground that the Senate had no reason to delve into the court cases against Obanikoro as that was not their concern.

  He said: “As far as we are concerned, Obanikoro was to take a bow and go, having served as a senator. The issue of court cases ought not to disturb his screening under normal circumstance. But we are playing politics with everything, which is not in the best interest of the people.”

  At the beginning of the screening exercise, nominees were expected to be led in one after the other as their names appeared on the list. While Senator Patricia Akwashiki was the first, Obanikoro was sixth on the list.

  Consequently, Akwashiki was ushered into the Chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms and in line with the tradition of the Senate, she was asked to take a bow and go. This, she did, without being subjected to the usual question and answer session.

  President of the Senate, David Mark, said that the essence of the tradition of ‘take a bow and go’ was to ensure the candidate continues to remember and consider the chamber in the discharge of his or her duties.

  After Akwashiki, who represents Nasarawa State, the Senate took Prof. Nicholas Akise Ada (Benue); Colonel Augustine Okwudiri Akobundu (Abia) as well as Mr. Fidelis Nwankwo, (Ebonyi) before adjourning sitting till next week.

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