The Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group has urged the Senate to without any further delay screen ministerial nominee and former Rivers State governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and not give in to the present attempts at blackmail by some individuals.
It said it is now common knowledge that these individuals and their paymasters have perfected plans to damage Amaechi’s reputation as part of an on-going tussle in Rivers State politics but that they must not be allowed to distort the national consensus for change.
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that a letter by Amaechi urging the Senate to disregard a government white paper indicting him is an attempt to undermine the crusade against corruption.
But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday said the party would not join issues with both the Rivers State government and the opposition PDP over the decision by a judicial panel in the state to indict Amaechi.
Mohammed, who spoke with The Guardian on telephone in reaction to calls by the PDP urging the Senate to act on the decision of the probe panel, said: “Amaechi is in court challenging the legality of the probe panel. It is a matter that is in court and we do not comment on a matter like that because it will be subjudice to do so. The APC is a law abiding one.”
In an electronic statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the monitoring group noted that the Senate has screened former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola; his Ekiti State counterpart, Kayode Fayemi and others who had held public offices relying on conventions.
The statement, signed by Mr. Philip Agbese, said that applying different sets of rules for the screening of candidates could amount to re-writing Nigeria’s laws to selectively suit one group while leaving another disadvantaged, saying this is unacceptable.
It said: “Amaechi as a former legislator and one-time Rivers State House of Assembly Speaker should have ordinarily been allowed to take a bow and go as the Senate had done to many of the other nominees.
“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a parliament that has increasingly allowed itself to be arm-twisted by individuals with vested interests to prolong what should have been the straightforward screening of the nominee.
“This will amount to selective justice and will negate the principle of fair trial if the Senate decides to constitute itself into a court of law by passing a guilty verdict on Amaechi on account of the internal politics of Rivers State.
“The nation’s constituted courts have not convicted him of any offence and the reports that some people seek to act upon would still have to be tested at the law courts before they will amount to convictions that could bar him from holding public office.
“The Senate would thus be playing to the gallery if it fails to understand the fundamental rights of a citizen to remain innocent until proven otherwise by a court law. To many well-meaning Nigerians, it amounts to the highest level of double standard and abuse of the concept of separation of powers clearly defined in our constitution.
“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must, therefore, not give her ears to the voices of anti-democratic elements in Nigeria to deliberately cause a stampede to the expected changes and reforms which Nigerians are yearning for on daily basis.”
It said the Senate must also realise that it neither has the capacity nor the resources to dabble into the local affairs of each of the nation’s 36 states and must not use Rivers State to set a precedence that could come back to haunt Nigeria in future.
The state PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, said that the letter written by Amaechi urging the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to disregard the Rivers State government white paper on the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry for the investigation of his administration on the sale of valued assets and other related matters, which indicted him, lacks merit and logic.
He said the letter to the Senate President is an attempt to ignore the white paper report and undermine the crusade against corruption and expose President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption as partisan targeted at only members of the opposition and perceived enemies.