Apart from Adebayo Shittu, the nominee from Oyo state, and Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Rivers state, all the nominees in the first batch of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list have been screened while all but one have been confirmed as ministers.
After series of postponements, expectations were very high that Amaechi – now the most popular ministerial candidate – will be screened on Tuesday.
“I assure Nigerians that Amaechi, by the grace of God, will be screened on Tuesday … Rotimi Amaechi has no problem,” Dino Melaye, spokesman of the 8th senate, had said last week.
To corroborate Melaye’s statement, Amaechi’s name was listed in the order paper containing the names of nominees to be screened on Tuesday but surprisingly, his name was struck out while Shittu and Khadijah Abba Ibrahim – who is among the second batch of nominees – were the only ones who appeared before the upper chamber for the exercise on Tuesday.
Amaechi’s travails at the senate began when all the senators from his state opposed his nomination on the grounds of corruption allegations and fraud.
On the day that Senate President Bukola Saraki read out the ministerial nominees, George Sekibo, representative of Rivers east senatorial district, moved to stop the confirmation of Amaechi.
Speaking on behalf of all the senators from the state, Sekibo said the ministerial appointment will prevent anti-graft agencies from investigating Amaechi.
According to Sekibo, ‘The Integrity Group’, a non-governmental organisation, had petitioned the president over fraud and corruption allegedly committed by Amaechi while he was governor.
The former governor was alleged to have looted N70billion of Rivers state funds – an allegation Amaechi has denied, maintaining that he is being witch-hunted by his successor, Nyesom Wike.
“I’m informed that this petition reached the EFCC two months ago. And soon they will begin investigation,” he said.
“As a serving minister how can Amaechi be investigated for corruption?”
However, the senate referred the issue to its ethics committee, which subsequently invited Amaechi.
Defending himself, Amaechi said the matter was in court, forcing the committee to suspend the petition, with the hope that the nominee will be screened but the dilly-dallying has continued since then.
Supporters of the lion of the Niger Delta, as his admirers call him, believe that the delay is politically motivated and that Amaechi has no skeleton in his cupboard.
Events in this regard have proven that the lawmakers know something which they do not want to tell Nigerians and it is getting more interesting.
The man in the eye of the storm is not new to controversy. As a matter of fact, a strong case can be made that Amaechi built his name on controversy – from the days of altercation with former first lady, Patience Jonathan, to the days when his aircraft was grounded, to the days when his convoy were prevented from entering the state and even when security personnel were used to hound him in his state.
How this particular matter will end is of big interest to all.