Nigeria’s Senate President, David Mark, has rebuffed criticisms over his decision to apparently orchestrate a Senate confirmation for Musiliu Obanikoro, who was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan for a ministerial post despite being at the centre of an election rigging scandal.
Mr. Obanikoro was named in a leaked tape as a key actor in the rigging of Ekiti State governorship election in 2014.
His nomination as minister came after Mr. Jonathan dismissed the allegation as a fabrication, and refused to order an investigation.
After repeated deferments, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Mr. Obanikoro’s appointment, brushing aside opposition from many Nigerians and some of its members.
In his first response after the clearance, Mr. Mark said Monday that he followed the rules of the Senate and will not bend them to please Nigerians no matter how “vociferous or violent” their complaints may be.
“The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, will not trample on the rules to satisfy the yearnings of any interest, no matter how vociferous and violent,” Mr. Mark’s office said in statement Monday.
Mr. Mark said the Senate treated Mr. Obanikoro as an accused who remained innocent without a proof of guilt.
He said criticisms from Nigerians over the Senate process were “needless and misplaced”.
“We will like to state without any form of ambiguity that the President of the Senate complied with all the legislative practices and procedures in the confirmation of all the ministerial nominees that appeared before the Senate,” the statement signed by Mr. Mark’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said.
“It is important to state that the Senate found herself in a situation where two of its traditions were in conflict. There exists a tradition of permitting nominees that had served as Senators or member of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic to take a bow and go without being questioned.
“The Senate also has a tradition of stopping any nominee that fails to secure at least two of the three Senators.
“Where the Senate was faced with this conflict, the option available to the President of the Senate, as the presiding officer was to put the question to the floor and rule applicably.
“The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, did just that. He put the question through voice vote, and ayes won resoundingly and he so ruled.
“On the issue of courts, Rules 53 (5) of the Senate Standing Rules did state; ‘if in the opinion of the President of the Senate, the matter will be subjudice.’ Senator Mark made it clear that he has not been served any court order neither has he received any injunction restraining him from processing the confirmation of the ministerial nominees.
“Besides, it is a known fact that an accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“The processes and decisions reached on the screening and confirmation of the ministerial nominees were in line with the rules guiding the activities of the Senate.”