UPDATED: Senate Confirms Obanikoro As Minister, APC Senators Staged A Walk-Out

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By Nuel Suji, Abuja.

Amid protest by minority party members, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed the nomination of Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro as minister designate.

Obanikoro’s nomination has been controversial especially among senators of the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), prompting the senate to shelve deliberation on it twice.

But the Senate President David Mark disregarded the point of order raise by some of members of opposition to approve Obanikoro as a minister, insisting that the argument that there is a pending court case on the Obanikoro issue can not hold him back since he has not been served.

Other nominees include of Sen.Patricia Akwashiki from Nasarawa State, Prof. Nicholas Ada from Benue State, Col. Augustine Akobundu (rtd) from Abia State and Engr Fidelis Nwankwo from Ebonyi State.

Also cleared are  Mrs  Hauwa’u  Lawan of Jigawa State, Sen. Joel  Ikenya of  Taraba  State and Mr Kenneth Kobani  of  Rivers State.

From the commencement of sitting Wednesday, it was a supremacy battle between the People Democratic Party(PDP) Senators and its minority All Progressive Congress(APC) counterpart over the eligibility of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro whose name is before the senate for screening and confirmation as minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

At least seven Point of Orders were raised by different APC senators including Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Senator Babajide Omoware, aimed to stop the senate from going ahead with the screening.

Sen. Ganiyu Solomon (APC-Lagos) argued that Sen. Obanikoro’s screening should be postponed based on some pending cases against him in court.

“We should not forget the tradition of the senate. The senate is held in high esteem particularly this seventh senate. We must not be seen to have condoned anything that will cast doubt on our democracy at any point in time.

“Our request is, yes we have a tradition here and part of the tradition is that whoever has gone through the House of Representatives or the Senate should come here and bow.

“We also have the tradition that in a situation where three or two of the senators representing a particular state objects to a certain nomination, we must uphold such nomination.

“We are caught between the two traditions and they are both valid  and they are also aware of what this tradition is and they said that the best the senate can do in its wisdom is to defer this screening  until such a time when the public feel that enough justice has been done to the issue at hand,” he argued.

Also, Sen. Babajide Omorurare, cited”Order 53  rule 5  rule 5, which provides that reference shall  not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending in such a way that might the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of the parties.

“Two matters are pending to my knowledge and as a senator I am informing this senate that there is a case pending that the number four person mentioned. He is not fit and proper to hold any public office,” Omorurare added, referring to the newspaper report of the case.

But the Senate President, David Mark, said the Senate would uphold its own rule which requires that it be served if there is such case pending, saying, “the President of the Senate cannot be served on the pages of newspapers.

When it was clear to the APC senators that their Point of Orders cannot considered stop the senate, they staged a walkout of chamber.

Briefing newsmen, APC senators said the senate’s confirmation of Obanikoro is against senate rules and tradition, arguing that the senate leadership consisting of PDP are using senate rules arbitrarily against the yearning of Nigerians.

They also argued that there was no quorum as at the time the nominees were cleared.

But, Senate spokesman, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, while addressing newsmen said,”clearing the issue of the staged walkout of the APC senators, the matter of quorum is determined at the inception of every day’s business. If within the time of any day’s business a senator decides that he has some other place to go, we cannot stop that business because that person has determined he has something else to do.

“All that the opposition senators have done is to register their protest and we have duly noted their protest.

Last week, Senate leadership session became rowdy as Senators debated whether Obanikoro should be allowed to enjoy the traditional “take a bow and go”, privilege enjoyed by a former member of the upper legislative Chamber.

His appearance today generated another rowdy session as the opposition Senators, especially of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Lagos and Ekiti States, raised point of order, which was declined by the Senate President, David Mark.

Eventually, when Obanikoro was asked to observe the take a bow and go, the APC legislators in the Chambers protested and staged a walk out.

Obanikoro’s travails with the APC lawmakers bothered on his alleged involvement in the rigging plot of Saturday, June 21, 2014 (recorded on tape) of the Ekiti State Governorship election, which earned the incumbent Mr. Ayodele Fayose victory. He equally has a suit against him over dual citizenship.

President Goodluck Jonathan has declared the audiotape was fabricated, therefore would not call for its investigation, hence nominated him as a Minister in the midst of the ripples.

In the meantime, the opposition Senators have condemned the development and accused Senator Mark of partisanship.

At a press conference organized by them shortly after walking out and addressed by the Senate Minority Leader, Akume George, the protesting lawmakers, held there were laid down precedents in the case of a Taraba State Ministerial nominee, whose nomination was declined due to pending court case.

Senator Akume contended that Obanikoro’s case who was accused of power abuse and other misconducts was not in any way different from Taraba’s instance.