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Senate confirms Obanikoro, others, as APC senators walk out


OBANIKORO-OKAMIDST serious protest and outcry from the All Progressives Congress (APC) members, the Senate Wednesday confirmed the ministerial nomination of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.

Also confirmed were Mrs. Hauwa’A Lawan (Jigawa), Mr. Kenneth Kobani (Rivers) and Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya (Taraba). Obanikoro’s confirmation was sequel to a series of drama as well as political game of wits between senators from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their APC counterparts.

Just at the commencement of proceedings, the APC senators, led by the Minority Leader, George Akume, citing the pending court case on Obanikoro’s alleged involvement in the alleged rigging of Ekiti State governorship election, asked that his screening and confirmation be stood down until the court case was determined.

However, the Senate President, David Mark, ruled that there was no such service by any court on the Senate or himself as Senate President, a position that was later complimented by Senate Spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe.

Abaribe told newsmen shortly after the confirmation that the Senate’s action was based on the principle that nobody could be found guilty until proven so by the court of law, and that all accused persons remain innocent until convicted by the court of law.

“The Senate at plenary session considered the request of Mr. President for the confirmation of the eight nominees for ministerial appointment,” he said. “The confirmation process, which started last week, was very successful and eight nominees were confirmed to be ministers of Nigeria.

“As a mater of fact, there are allegations against Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, but in our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation and not a court decision is nothing but a mere allegation.

“Everyone in Nigeria is deemed innocent until proven guilty and even the senators who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification or otherwise of Senator Obanikoro are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases.

“They are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty and so they cannot go to a press conference and try to convict somebody when the person has not been convicted by a court of law.

“They cannot enjoy that privilege themselves and sit in this Senate and then turn around to say that somebody else cannot enjoy it. And the law is very clear: you are innocent until proven guilty. So, that is what played out on the floor of the Senate.

“The Senate, having known that this is the law of Nigeria, and this is the Constitution of Nigeria that every Nigerian is entitled to this privilege, went ahead to do what it is supposed to by law.”

Clearing issues on the APC senators walkout and its implication on the authenticity of the confirmation based on the number of members that confirmed him, Abaribe said the mater of quorum is determined at the inception of every day’s business.

“If within the time of any day’s business a senator decides that he has some other place to go, we cannot stop that business because that person has determined he has something else to do,” he explained. “All that the opposition senators have done was to register their protest and we have duly noted their protest.”

APC senators’ walkout

In a bid to formally stop Obanikoro’s confirmation, the Deputy Minority Leader, Ganiyu Solomon, urged his colleagues to respect the Senate tradition, which stated that when two senators from the state of origin of a particular nominee objects to his nomination, the nomination should be stood down.

However, he admitted that the Senate was caught between two of its traditions since the nominee was a former senator while the Senate’s tradition should allow him to bow and go.

Solomon claimed that all three senators from Lagos State are against Obanikoro’s nomination because their constituents are opposed to his nomination due to his alleged role in the Ekiti State governorship election.

Ruling on the matter, nevertheless, Mark noted that since the Senate was caught between two of its traditions, the best way out was to put the question to vote. When he did, the outcome was an overwhelming “yes.”

However, as the nominee was about to take his bow, all APC senators suddenly walked out of the chamber in protest against being overruled. They quickly moved to Hearing Room 1, where they organised a press conference

For the Minority Leader, George Akume, Obanikoro’s confirmation was wrong, unconstitutional and against the rules of the Senate. According to him, “he is alleged to have participated in the rigging of elections in Ekiti; this in itself is a breach of the constitution.

“In a civilised world, his name would not have come up whatsoever, and we are all opposed to this because of his involvement in the Ekiti gate. The three senators from Lagos State raised objections; the tradition is very clear, ‘where two raise objection against a nominee, that nominee stands rejected.

“His matter is in court and one of the rules of the Senate is that when a matter is in court, the Senate should not deliberate on it. Of course, it is true that the Senate also has a tradition that a former senator coming in as a nominee should be allowed to just take a bow and leave, but this is subject to certain conditions.”

Group lauds Akobundu’s appointment

Meanwhile, an Abia State socio-cultural organisation, Mezie Abia, has lauded the confirmation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Vice Chairman, South East, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), as a boost for Jonathan’s popularity and re-electability.

In a statement in Umuahia yesterday, Mezie Abia described Akobundu’s clearance as timely and well deserved, and amounted to putting a round peg in a round hole.

According to the statement, “Col. Akobundu is a man of the people and his appointment is seen in every circle as being in the right direction. We commend Mr. President for his vision in transforming this great nation economically and defeating Boko Haram.

Fayose, NHRC chief react

Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, has said the allegations of rigging in the Ekiti election are too serious not to be investigated.

Reacting to Obanikoro’s confirmation yesterday, he said it does not seem right for a person against whom these allegations have been made to be nominated as minister. The right thing to do, Odinkalu said, is to stand down his nomination, do an investigation, and, if cleared, he should then be put up for ministerial nomination.

The NHRC chief, who insisted on his earlier support for the deployment of troops during the forthcoming elections, said his position was within the context of the nation’s security challenges at the moment. However, he warned that Obanikoro’s nomination and subsequent confirmation as a minister could amount to politicizing the security agencies.

In the contrary, however, Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, has commended the Senate for confirming Obanikoro as minister. In a statement in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, his Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, quoted the governor as saying that the senators had shown that national interest must come before party and parochial interests.

“The senators have shown the whole world that for our nation to progress, we must not allow ourselves to be misled by sentiments,” he said. “The APC goons who are engaged in needless propaganda about a none issue of an audio tape have been put to shame.

“The matter is in court, nobody has been indicted and yet some people are bent on sabotaging the chances of a former member of the Senate, who had been previously screened and cleared by them in the past.

“I rejoice with Senator Obanikoro, for in the end, truth has prevailed over sheer propaganda. I wish him the best in his service to our fatherland.”

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