SENATORS of the ruling All Progressives Party met at the National Assembly complex on Monday night to rally support for the former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, scheduled to appear before the Senate for screening on Tuesday (today).
The APC caucus meeting, which commenced at about 8:00 pm at the Conference Hearing Room 1 of the House of Representatives, was attended by senators from across different geopolitical zones, including Gbenga Ashafa, Ahmad Lawan, Sabi Abdullahi, Isiaka Adeleke, and Babajide Omoworare, among others.
Ashafa, who addressed the gathering, told his colleagues that the single agenda of the meeting was the issue of the nomination of Amaechi.
He said that the meeting became imperative because of the opposition to Amaechi’s ministerial nomination from the Rivers State people and members of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The senator urged his colleagues to unite behind Amaechi and make sure that their PDP counterparts did not embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari.
He told the APC senators that if the appointment of Amaechi failed, it would amount to a big embarrassment to the President and the APC as a party, noting that the ex-Rivers governor’s “sin” had been his dogged support for Buhari and the APC.
The APC senators’ meeting was sequel to indications on Monday that the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, might not recommend Amaechi for screening.
However, the screening of Amaechi scheduled for Tuesday (today) may not hold, sources told one of our correspondents early on Monday.
This paper learnt that since Amaechi had told the Senate committee there is a case in court over opposition to his nomination, the panel might not want to recommend his screening in line with Senate convention not to act on matters before the courts.
A member of the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the Peoples Democratic Party members in the committee were of the opinion that the decision to either clear Amaechi for screening or reject him would be left for the entire house to decide.
He said, “We are not in support of Amaechi’s clearance for screening because doing so will make us go against the rules and regulations of the Senate and we would not want to contravene it.
“We are of the opinion that Amaechi’s screening should be postponed to a later date when his case at the appeal court would have been dispensed with.”
Further findings by one of our correspondents revealed that the Senate would resolve issues surrounding the Amaechi’s petition at a closed session before the screening exercise today.
The 13-member public petitions committee, however, on Monday, dismissed the petition filed by a women group against the President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominee from Sokoto State, Ms. Aisha Abubakar.
The women in a petition signed by Hajia Balaraba Abdullahi, and submitted by the senator representing Sokoto East, Ibrahim Gobir, said Abubakar’s nomination should be rejected by the Senate because she was not known to the people of the state.
Meanwhile, some of the ministerial nominees met behind closed doors with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday.
This reporter learnt that the meeting, which started at about 3.45pm in the speaker’s office, lasted for about 25 minutes.
The nominees are among those yet to be screened by the Senate.
Those who met with Dogara included Aisha Abubakar (Sokoto State); Brig. Gen Munsur Dan-Ali (Zamfara State); Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna State); Heinekan Lokpobiri (Bayelsa State); Mohammed Suleiman-Bello (Adamawa State); and Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim (Yobe State).
Dogara, who was at first presiding over the meeting of the House Selection Committee, was seen hurrying out of the Room 301 venue to his office when the nominees arrived.
They were led by Buhari’s two Senior Special Assistants on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang and Mr. Abdulrahman Suleiman.
The nominees hurried out of Dogara’s office as the meeting ended, slowing down just to take the elevator to the Third Floor of the House of Representatives Building (New Wing).
They shunned requests for interview by journalists who wanted to find out what was behind their mission to the House.
Enang also avoided reporters after the visit though he later called one of our correspondents to explain that the nominees visited Dogara for the “purposes of familiarisation.”
He added that they came to greet the speaker and to seek “support for smooth sailing of their screening” by the Senate.
Enang said since the National Assembly “is seen as one,” the nominees could seek support from “both those on the floor and outside the floor.”
One of the nominees, Dan-Ali, declined to make any comment when he was approached, as he hopped into the elevator.
An official of the National Assembly, who did not want to be named, told one of our correspondents that the meeting could be linked to the “issues surrounding some of the nominees.”
The source said, “You will recall that in the case of the nominee from Sokoto State, there were protests; the All Progressives Congress in that state said they did not know her.
“There were complaints in Kaduna too, among others.
“So, when you see this type of meeting holding while screening is going on, it is not unlikely that these categories of nominees are seeking support.”