The All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the Senate will meet on (Monday) (today to salvage the ministerial nomination of the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, whose nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari has been dogged by controversy in the last two weeks.
APC senators, according to reliable sources have agreed to form a united front to ensure that the former governor scales the screening this week, and if need be, use their slim majority to outvote senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the event of a division in the Senate.
Although it could not be ascertained if the PDP Senate caucus was also going to meet on Amaechi’s nomination, but it is likely that the opposition party’s senators will vote against the former governor who has been engaged in a war of attrition with his successor in Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, also a member of the PDP.
Amaechi’s screening could not take place last week following a petition against his screening and confirmation by a non-governmental organisation in Rivers State, The Integrity Group.
The group had alleged that Amaechi sold four independent power plants belonging to the state for N70 billion and diverted the money into his private account, thereby asserting that the former governor was not fit to occupy a ministerial position.
Amaechi’s case was made more precarious when the white paper issued by the Rivers State Government on the report of Justice George Omereji’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which probed his administration was circulated to senators in Abuja, a copy of which is believed to have been sent to President Buhari.
Among others, the white paper approved the recommendation of the commission for the prosecution of Amaechi for the alleged illegal lodgement of $1 million of the state’s money in an unauthorised account.
The white paper, which said the amount were the proceeds from the concession of Olympia Hotel, an asset of the Rivers State Government to Centropsaroten Hotel Management Limited for a period of 40 years, added that the transaction was done in violation of best global practices.
The white paper also accepted the recommendation of the commission for the recovery of $53.9 billion said to have been withdrawn by Amaechi from the Rivers State Reserve Fund after he allegedly made the Rivers State House of Assembly to amend Section 4 of the Rivers State Reserve Fund Law of 2008 which prohibits withdrawal from the fund except during emergencies.
According to the document, having succeeded in amending the section prohibiting the withdrawal through the House of Assembly on February 13, 2014, Amaechi allegedly withdrew N53.9 billion from the reserve fund between February 2014 and January 2015, leaving a paltry balance of N1.2 billion from N55 billion previously in the reserve account.
The circulation of the white paper among senators compelled the former governor to write a letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki last week, urging him to discard the white paper as well as the petition submitted against his confirmation, describing them as spurious and a calculated attempt to tarnish his image.
“In the circumstance therefore, we urge you with utmost respect to discard the malicious petition intended to disparage and malign our client’s reputation and misrepresent him before the distinguished senators and the nation and create the wrong impression that our client is not a fit and proper person to occupy public office.
“He is a fit a proper person to occupy any position in this country. He is capable mentally and physically,” the letter read in part.
The meeting of the APC caucus, according to sources, is to arrive at a common position to ensure that the former Rivers governor is screened and confirmed this week by the Senate.
The former governor’s non-appearance before the Senate for screening last Wednesday, as slated on the order paper, was hinged on the non-submission of the report of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges, Human Rights and Public Petitions.
The committee, which had been saddled with the responsibility of investigating the petition of The Integrity Group against Amaechi, put off the investigation last Monday when the former governor told the panel that the matter was already sub-judice.
According to the committee’s chairman, Senator Sam Anyanwu, the rules of the Senate prohibit it from dabbling into any matter before a law court. However, despite calling off the investigation, the committee was still duty bound to report the outcome of its meeting with Amaechi to the Senate.
The report was not ready last week and thus put Amaechi’s screening on hold, but Anyanwu said Sunday that the report, along with the petition against Aisha Abubakar, the ministerial nominee from Sokoto State, would be tidied up today and made available for presentation tomorrow for the Senate’s consideration.
He denied reports that the committee was divided over Amaechi’s matter along party lines, saying instead that the non-submission of the report on Thursday was caused by his obligation to leave Abuja to attend the session by the election tribunal, which upheld his election that day in Imo State.
“All the reports will be ready tomorrow (today). We’ll finalise everything tomorrow (today) and submit it on Tuesday. We will take it together with the petition on Aisha Abubakar.
“We have already done that of Amaechi. We’ll submit the reports tomorrow (today). The committee is not divided. There is nothing like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), APC or All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the committee.
“It is one committee. There is nothing like that. I was not around on Thursday. That was the reason the report was not ready.”