Senate screen El-rufai amidst alleged N32biliion fraud

Senators from Kaduna State, who are all members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Tuesday expressed their support for nomination of the former Governor of the State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai during his screening on the floor of the Senate.
El-Rufai was listed as number three to be screened by the lawmakers alongside his colleagues amidst tension and uncertainty as a result of a petition which trailed his nomination on Thursday last week, when the Ministerial list was unveiled by the Senate President, Godswill Obot Akpabio.
What further deepened agitation was the protest against the nomination of El-Rufai at the National Assembly main gate by some citizens of the State alleging that the nominee who is the immediate past governor and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, had a pending suit against him at the Federal High Court, Abuja, over alleged fraud to the tune of N32 billion.
They also averred that he was being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, particularly as a ruling was given by the Hon. Justice Binta Nyako in a suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/60/09 dated November 30, 2019 permitting the anti-graft agency to investigate him.
This, notwithstanding, Tuesday’s screening of El-Rufai could be considered a ‘fair deal’ for him as Senators from his home state supported him despite their political differences.
Senator Khalid Ibrahim Mustapha representing Kaduna North Senatorial District who spoke in favour of El-Rufai lauded him over his past performances in office, stressed that he needed not be screened if his pedigree was to be considered.
According to him, his support for the nominee was as a result of the fact that he is a citizen of Kaduna State.
He urged Senators to allow El-Rufai to take a bow and go like the Chamber did to some of his colleagues previously.
He said: “Thank you Mr. President, distinguished colleagues. My name is Khalid Ibrahim representing Kaduna North Senatorial District. I want to congratulate the nominee for his nomination as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Mr Senate President, Distinguished colleagues, I rise to support this very distinguished nominee. The nominee is from Kaduna State and is a bona fide citizen of Kaduna State. Secondly, he appeared before this hallowed Chamber sometime in 2003 and he was screened and cleared and precisely, he is a person that is well known nationally and internationally.
“He has the capacity to continue to do good as a Minister. In this regard, I want to urge the Senate to consider this and also in respect of precedence that was established yesterday for two of his colleagues, that is the two former governors who appeared before us, nobody asked them questions because of their pedigree and they were asked to take a bow and go.
“I therefore, ask the Senate even with the questions that were asked, to tell the nominee to take a bow and go because we all know he is capable.”
In Nigeria’s parliamentary setting, three Senators from the State of the nominee are usually offered an opportunity by the Senate President or anyone presiding to enable them speak for or against before other Senators from other States make their contributions.
But Senator Sunday Karimi representing Kogi West Senatorial District, however, punctured the flow of commendations from Senators who made contributions and revealed that there was a petition against the nominee which he sought the leave of the Senate to deal with. The development triggered uproar in the chamber.
Karimi said: “Thank you Mr President, my name is Senator Sunday Karimi, I represent Kogi West Senatorial District. His Excellency, former governor Nasir El-Rufai, your performance in any of the offices you found yourself was outstanding. In BPE, your record is there, in FCT as a Minister, your record is there and in your two terms as governor of Kaduna State, your record is there, but I have a strong petition against you that bothers on security, unity and cohesiveness of the nation.
“And I think that petition has to be considered along with this screening exercise.”
Amid the uproar, Deputy Senate President, Senator Jibrin Barau called for calm and urged the nominee to address the chamber before taking a bow and go.
Accordingly ,our findings on Wednesday revealed that Senator Lawal Usman representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District who maintained sealed lips throughout El-Rufai’s screening on Tuesday was in alliance with the position of Senator Khalid.
Speaking with an aide who pleaded anonymity, he revealed that the three Senators agreed to support the nominee despite their political differences, saying that it was in the best interest of the State.
Senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Sunday Katung was unavailable to speak with Our Reporter after several visits to his office, but one of aides stated that he may not wish to speak on the screening issues as confirmation exercise was still pending.
The Senate on Wednesday concluded the screening of the first batch of ministerial nominees a week after the list was forwarded to them by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while the last batch of fresh nominees has been forwarded for screening and confirmation.

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