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PDP Senators Silence on Ameachi 'A Protest'

THE polarisation in the Senate over former Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi deepened yesterday as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of the Upper Chamber protested the decision to go ahead with his screening.

Unlike the screening of other nominees during which senators irrespective of their parties took part in questioning the nominees, the PDP senators refrained from asking Amaechi any questions as a sign of their protest.

Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, citing the Standing Order 43 of the Senate Rules told his colleagues from the All Progressives Congress (APC) that since the Senate has decided to screen Amaechi without debating the report of the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee, which investigated the petition submitted against the nominee, PDP senators had resolved not to ask the nominee any question.

Reacting, the Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume who capitalised on the PDP’s strange refusal to ask questions, challenged Akpabio and PDP senators’ decision, stressing that what it meant was that the nominee could as well be asked to bow and go.

He said: “As a majority leader, it is my responsibility to market this nominee for the confirmation of the Senate. If these people have decided not to ask any question, my job is made easier.”

There were loud protests at Ndume’s choice of words did not go down well with his colleagues in PDP as he referred to them as ‘these people.’
They insisted that he tenders apology and retract the statement.

It took the intervention of the Senate President Bukola Saraki, who explained to the opposition senators that Ndume has retracted his language, to douse the near-rowdy session on the floor.

The Senate had met in closed-door session before opening the plenary when the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Sam Anyanwu, laid the report of his committee regarding the nomination of Amaechi on the mace table.

The report was, however, not debated as the Senate simply went ahead to screen Amaechi, who took advantage of the exercise to list some of the achievements he said he had recorded for Nigeria.

He claimed his administration in Rivers State was the first to institutionalise the system of due process in public procurement, giving the impression to the Senate that his appointment as minister would be a credit to the war against corruption for which he said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was voted into power.

He also declared that he had neither ever taken nor offered a bribe to anyone in his life.
A significantly interesting aspect of the exercise came up when Amaechi’s declaration that former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out because he was not suitable enough to lead the efforts to ensure the growth and development of Nigeria was greeted with near-absolute silence in the chamber.

And there was the need to fight corruption and the only way to fight that corruption is to put a new government. And we had to get a signpost candidate. The signpost candidate is a man who the Nigerian public has seen as an incorruptible president.
“And that was why the party had to put President Buhari forward. And we thought that there was a need to do things differently. I thought that as good as the former President may have been, I don’t think he was suitable enough for the growth and development of Nigeria. So, we need to offer opportunity to somebody we believe is better than the former President,” he said.

Amaechi canvassed the principle of fairness in the distribution of national wealth particularly to the benefit of the oil producing states, noting that it would help in reducing militancy in the Niger Delta.

He said: “In my former view, I believed that the resources are in the Niger Delta and their fair share is necessary, that is why there is militancy. I believe that if you do not address social justice the country will not be the same.
“On the East-West road, it is not just for the Niger Delta, it will lead to economic prosperity for Nigeria. If I become the minister of Niger Delta, that will be first road that I will address,” Amaechi said.

Giving his views on employment generation, the nominee said:” When you deal with the issue of massive unemployment, you deal with the change in the economic mantra. The mono-economic situation that we have cannot survive.
“For me, I agree with the President that there is the need to invest in agriculture. If we invest in agriculture and technology, you will hire as many workers as possible.

In the course of campaign, I discovered that in Borno, we saw water melon that grew naturally. If you plant just 100,000 hectares of water melon in Borno, you can be sure to engage more than 30,000 workers.

We must diversify the economy. Mining is another area that God has blessed us. And we need to invest hugely on Education. We did that in Rivers State. For four, five, six years, our budget was highest in Education. So, if this happens, we will employ quite a number of workers.
“We must also improve on the social rights of the people. If you improve on the social rights of the people there will be peace.

“You must have power and we do not need rocket science to solve the power supply challenge.

We should just look at what the problems are, remove corruption and invest in power. The reason why most people don’t invest in Nigeria is that the cost of production by far outweighs the benefits you will make from your business.
“So, I usually say that a Nigerian is a government of his own. He hires his own security, digs his own borehole, hires his own generator. So, what is government providing? Amaechi asked.
Amaechi also told the Senate that though he has never taken bribe, corruption goes beyond monetary gratification.

His words: “Corruption is very difficult to define. I have never taken bribe in my life but if they send a girl to you and you sleep with the girl and do her favour, you are corrupt.
“Corruption is a very wide concept. If people are contesting for a position and you offer your son, brother or sister an opportunity to hold that position, probably the person is not qualified, you are corrupt. So, it is difficult for me to define corruption.”
Other nominees screened include Heineken Lokpobiri, Cladius Omoleye Daramola, Baba Shehuri Mustapha and Ocholi E. James.
Source: The Guardian