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Senate In Rowdy Session As Obanikoro Is Cleared As Minister

Spirited efforts by Senators elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, to stop the screening and confirmation of re-appointment of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as Minister ended in failure on Wednesday.

Senator David Mark, the President of the Senate stoutly resisted all wiles, appeal to sentiments and all arguments put up by the opposition lawmakers against Obanikoro’s confirmation.

Obanikoro, who was also a former Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana, was the last ministerial nominee out of the four nominees screened by the Senate on Wednesday. Before him, the Senate had cleared Hajia Hauwa Lawan (Jigawa) Kenneth Kobani (Rivers) and Joel Ikanya (Taraba).

The drama began when Senator Mark called on Senator Abdul Ningi, the leader of the Senate to kick off the screening by reading the names of the four ministerial nominees scheduled for screening. The mention of the name of Obanikoro was met with shouts of “No, no, no” by APC Senators.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro

This threw the Senate chambers into a rowdy session for some minutes. However, after order was restored, APC Senators tried to stop the screening of Obanikoro. Amidst shouting match between PDP and APC Senators, Senator Gbenga Ashafa representing Lagos called attention of the Senate President to a report of a suit against the confirmation of Obanikoro as a minister in a Lagos High Court by one Kemi Lawal.

But the Senate President said he has not been served and he cannot act on a newspaper report. Senator Babajide Omoworare of Osun State also quoted various sections of the Constitution and orders guiding proceedings of the National Assembly to argue that the screening of Obanikoro should be suspended.

He also argued that the former Senator was not qualified to be appointed as a Minister because he has taken the citizenship of another country.

Senator Ganiyu Solomon representing Lagos State also reminded the Senate President that he had, based on a newspaper report, stopped him from raising the issue of leaked Ekiti election audio tapes in which Obanikoro was a major player on the floor of the chamber.

However, Senator Mark argued that the situations are different. The Senate then proceeded to screen the four nominees.

While the three other nominees were asked to ‘take a bow and go’, a last minute effort to stop the screening of Obanikoro by APC Senators led by Senator Solomon ended in failure.

Solomon had appealed to the Senate President to respect the tradition of the Senate in which screening of nominees opposed by at least two Senators from their state are usually stopped or not to allow Obanikoro to enjoy the privilege of taking a bow and and asked go usually enjoyed by former lawmakers who are before the Chamber for screening.

But the majority of the Senators overwhelmingly approved that Obanikoro should be allowed to ‘bow and go’ in the tradition of the Senate when Mark put the question to them, thus ratifying the return of the former Ambassador to the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Two previous attempts to screen Obanikoro had failed as a result of opposition by APC Senators. The opposition Senators opposed Obanikoro, who was a former Minister of State for Defence over the alleged roles he played in the rigging of Ekiti State gubernatorial election as revealed in an audio tape leaked by a military officer.

The three Senators elected on the platform of PDP had petitioned the Senate President to indicate their opposition to the confirmation of Obanikoro.

Obanikoro resigned last late year to contest the Lagos State gubernatorial ticket of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he lost to Jimi Agbaje in controversial circumstances.

Obanikoro had challenged the result of the gubernatorial primary in court.

However, the move to re-appoint him as a Minister was part of the deal he reached with the Presidency to withdraw the suit he filed against the outcome of the gubernatorial primary in Lagos State and to support Agbaje.

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