The Senate on Monday stepped down the screening of Festus Keyamo, a ministerial nominee, sent by President Bola Tinubu for confirmation.
Keyamo, one of the nominees from Delta State, appeared as the last nominee to be screened.
Keyamo had served as a Minister of State for Niger Delta, Labour and Employment under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and served as the campaign spokesman for the Tinubu campaign organisation.
No sooner had Keyamo appeared and introduced himself than Darlington Nwokocha (Abia Central, Labour Party) asked why he ignored Senate summon over the controversial Special Public Works Programme for the employment of 774,000 citizens in 2020.
The Senate had approved N52 billion for the scheme.
But when summoned, Keyamo appeared before the House but refused to appear before the Senate.
When he appeared before the House of Representatives, it led to a shouting match.
Keyamo then accused the House that it wanted “to hijack the entire programme, taking over the power of the president in the process.”
He further said, “Meanwhile they are comfortable with the eight which are clearly stated like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Jammatu Nasir Islam (JNI) and others. The others are youth organisations and we cannot list youth organisations because from state to state there are different youths organisations depending on the peculiarity of the state.
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago, they started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1000 persons from all the local government to them for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state.
“The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this programme will be across the country. I said ‘no’ that would be sharing the powers of the President and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution.
“They can only investigate the programme, they cannot direct it,” he had said.
Senator Nwokocha then recalled the episode which he described as unpleasant when Keyamo walked out on the House and refused to provide details of the scheme.
The senator was a House Member at the time.
After making the case, he raised a prayer that “the nominee must be made to explain who benefited from the scheme, even if at an executive session.”
Curiously, Akpabio responded to the motion saying, “Your motion has no seconder.”
That degenerated into an uproar before Enyinnaya Abaribe, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA, Abia South) seconded the prayer, but amended the prayer that “the nominee screening be stepped down.”
The presiding officer put the prayer to a vote but it led to a sharply divided house.
The ensuing chaos lasted for minutes forcing Akpabio to summon the leaders of the Senate to approach him for private discussion.
Akpabio expressed dissatisfaction with the uproar and referred the senators to Order 62 of the Senate Standing Rule which states that “Whenever the president of the Senate or the chairman rises during a debate, any senator then speaking or offering to speak shall immediately sit down.
“And the Senate or the committee shall be silent so that the president of the Senate or the chairman may hear without any interruption.
Akpabio said, “I am of the view that we are not the people that nominated the nominees that we have been screening from the president.
“A lot of indices must have been taken into consideration. Under a rowdy situation, we cannot arrive at anything.
“And I have noticed that even here, that you are prepared to even stretch the rule to even ask for a revision but we would not go that route.”
He called on the Leader of the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti) to “lead us right.”
Bamidele rose to say, “May I at this time move that we dissolve into an executive session to be able to iron out some issues.”
The motion was seconded by Senate Minority Leader, Simon Mwadwon (PDP -Plateau).
Akpabio put the motion into vote and the Senate dissolved into the executive session afterwards after extending their time of sitting.