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Marwa no threat!

Posted by By Linus Obogo on 2008/02/19 | Views: 337 |

Marwa no threat!


As the dust raised over the reported refusal of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to clear some ambassadorial nominees now settles, the chairman of the 12-member body, Senator Jibril Aminu has blamed the noise generated by the screening impasse on members who glibly rendered themselves as vents for lobbyists, interest seekers and ethnic jingoists, despite obvious security reports on their credentials.

* Else, I’d have been excited at his being sent away for ambassadorial posting –Aminu

As the dust raised over the reported refusal of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to clear some ambassadorial nominees now settles, the chairman of the 12-member body, Senator Jibril Aminu has blamed the noise generated by the screening impasse on members who glibly rendered themselves as vents for lobbyists, interest seekers and ethnic jingoists, despite obvious security reports on their credentials.

Professor Aminu had come under intense pressure following the non-clearance of Dr. Kema Chikwe, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (retd), and Senator Polycarp Nwite, based on unfavourable security reports.

But absolving himself of any complicity in the protracted scrutiny of the affected persons, in an interview with Saturday Sun, the former Petroleum Resources minister, described as gratuitous and uncharitable, insinuations that he personalized the issues involved in the screening process.

According to the one-time ambassador to the U.S, while deflating claims of politics of victimization against three of the 62 ambassadorial nominees, said the committee’s action was based purely on the intelligence reports sent to it by the State Security Service.
“But my position has been completely misunderstood because of self-interest or ethnic sentiments and lobbying. It might not be proper for the security reports to be read on the floor of the House or made available to all senators. If this is done, I can bet, it will become a public document. I was trying to avoid this scenario. I don’t understand the attitude of those concerned and what have been conveyed to the public that they were victimized. May be all the nominees must, as a matter of nomination, pass the screening, irrespective of the security reports. Otherwise, something is wrong.”

In apparent leadership indiscretion and insolence to the security organization and its pejorative reports, the upper legislative chamber January 29, caved in to primordial and sundry sentiments and swiftly cleared the embattled nominees, thus bringing to an end the long running drama surrounding the screening exercise.

Maintaining that he has no political or personal animosity against general Marwa, the former Education minister explained that “if Marwa were a political torn in my flesh in the state or nationally, it would have been a great political wisdom on my path to influence his successful screening so that he would be sent out of the country and pave way for my political and personal respite,” adding that “I tried my best to represent his good name.”

In what could pass for a hatchet job and an editorial rascality, a national daily had in its editorial, taken a swipe at Aminu, for refusing to clear Marwa.
For deliberately sweeping under the carpet the sneering security reports on the three nominees by the senate, Aminu, waxing philosophically, said: “I don’t think that we should be the people to pillory our security reports. Some flimsy excuses were given that some of the offences were committed about 10 years ago and some involving just one hundred thousand naira. I know time is a great healer. But time does not heal a crime.”
Excerpts:

The eventual clearance of Marwa and Co., what is the real picture?
It is very disappointing on the part of many people. And I feel very sad about it. I have been subjected to abuse and accusations that are completely out of tune with my character.
The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs headed by me, is responsible for screening of ambassadors. The list is sent by the President of the Federal Republic to the President of Senate and read on the floor of the house. The list is thereafter refereed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
There are processes that the nominees undergo. I have been in this business for sometime now. I have carried out screening exercises on large and small scale on different occasions about nine or ten. Sometimes at the beginning of the session, particularly after elections, the list will be quite long.

I will like to let Nigerians know that there were 62 candidates on the ambassadorial list referred to the committee. Fifty-nine names were eventually screened and cleared by the committee. It is not a matter of three people came and all three were victimized or whatever. May be the thought of some people is that everybody shortlisted must pass the screening exercise. And if that is the case, then there is no need for the exercise. No body can say that the committee did not do the right thing.
I bear no personal grudge against anybody. As you can see, I am a very happy man. I have neither unfulfilled ambition nor any body that I am afraid.

The process: When the Senate refers a bill to a committee, the committee meets and deliberates on it. And we met. We painstakingly carried out the screening exercise and non of the committee members objected to our position. We requested for reports from three agencies. The Code of Conduct Bureau was approached to ascertain the assets declaration by the nominees. All of them did that and the stamped documents were forwarded to the committee.

The second process is the police reports on the nominees. There was no criminal report on any of the nominees. The State Security Service did the security report. There are not court of laws. They only give the past records of the nominees – political, moral or social. Their report comes last because it takes a long time to investigate. They sometimes go outside the country. Their report is not a criminal indictment. It is the investigation of somebody’s past record, public and private.

From their findings, they expressed their opinion on the nominees. It could be dissatisfactory opinion based on what they discovered. And the tradition has been that decisions be made in accordance with the security reports. But now, the Senate in its wisdom has come up with a system whereby nominees for whatever positions are expected to have been investigated by the executive before the submission of such names to the Senate. The senate would not be bothered on such exercises again, although they might request for the security reports on the candidates, nominees or as the case may be.

But my position has been completely misunderstood because of self-interest or ethnic sentiments and lobbying. It might not be proper for the security reports to be read on the floor of the House or made available to all senators. If this is done, I can bet, it will become a public document. I was trying to avoid this scenario. I don’t understand the attitude of those concerned and what have been conveyed to the public that they were victimized. May be all the nominees must, as a matter of nomination, pass the screening, irrespective of the security reports. Otherwise, something is wrong.

I don’t seem to understand what the problem is. There should be no need for ethnic sentiment, as it has become an official norm that whenever somebody from X state is dropped, removed or disqualified, somebody from Z state cannot take his place. As a matter of fact, no state is so backward that it cannot replace 60 people even for about 60 times that they may be affected by the screening. So, the ethnic dimension is ridiculous.

Let it be known that whatever the security report says of the three nominees, that was what we reviewed and acted upon. And we discovered inconclusiveness on the reports on Dr. Kema Chikwe and we asked them to give us the benefit of the doubt. But if the President wishes to act on the report, fine. But the committee was not ready to do so because there was no categorical position by the security arms on Chikwe. But the same cannot be said of General Buba Marwa and Senator Nwite. I cannot single handedly recommend or disqualify them.

But it is said that you and some members of the committee literally hijack the entire exercise?
(Cuts in) No. I shall explain later. This is just a preamble. Concerning Senator Nwite, we both saw recently at the airport and we exchanged pleasantries. People should understand that I bear no personal grudge against any of them.

There were about five nominees in question. One of them sought for the security reports and argued his case with the security people and they sent to us another report. Kwankwaso withdrew because of his political ties with his people in Kano. But General Buba Marwa did not attend any of the screening sessions. He was completely absent.

Let it be known that we screen only those whose files were forwarded to us. Senator Florence Ita Giwa collates the files and forwards same to us. All these politicization of issues and character assassination are not part of me. It might interest you all to know that Mrs. Fati Abubakar contested an election against me in 2003 and she was nominated to be ambassador and she came and was cleared. She represented Nigeria in Bostwana. I don’t have anything personal against her. If she is nominated again, she will scale through.

I have no political or personal animosity against Marwa. I tried my best to represent his good name. If Marwa is a political torn in my flesh in the state or nationally, it would have been a great political wisdom on my part to influence his successful screening so that he would be sent out of the country and I will have political and personal respite. But these are not the problems. The problem was my conscience.

What about the division in the committee?
There was no such thing. We did our work as a committee and forwarded the report to the senate. We are talking about a committee for goodness sake! How can a chairman doctor a report involving 12 members? It is not possible. The chairman might write a report, which the majority might not agree. But it cannot be doctored.

After the committee’s deliberations and closure, the minutes were written which I deliberated upon. I maintained that it would not be good for the committee and history to recommend some of these nominees, considering the security reports on them. And I stood my position. Those who were cleared, we stated so and those who were not, I considered that the senate debated on it.

It is on record. January 29th was the date given for the consideration of the reports. The night of 23rd, the Rule Committee ordered that the report be submitted the following day. Hence, the date was shifted from 29th to 24th. So, I was handicapped, else I would have called on the committee members to again deliberate on whatever outstanding issues and at least inform them of whatever development. So, whatever was written, were quickly photocopied and forwarded to the committee. There was no time to inform the members of the committee and there was no time to even apologize to them. It might not be pleasant, but it is the truth of what transpired. I can show you all in written form.

I cannot decide to the distinguished senate what decisions to take. Even if I disagreed with them, but I did not write the comment on the security reports. I don’t think that we should be the people to pillory our security reports. Some flimsy excuses were given that some of the offences were committed about 10 years ago and some involving just one hundred thousand naira. I know time is a great healer. But time does not heal a crime. For anybody to say that I use my position as the chairman to do whatever I wanted, is not true and it is completely uncharitable.

Why were you not at the venue?
I was away in Yola. The president was holding meetings with the governors concerning the election. The meeting was held on Monday so I was not around. But I told my vice to take charge of deliberations. There is nothing new about this. It was not as if I walked out of the committee. I was in Yola attending stakeholders’ meetings in the state. It was not even a PDP affairs. It was the entire state.

Were you surprised or disappointed with what your colleagues did on the issue?
I was surprised. I was not so pleased. They were all aware of the security reports. And they cannot make any pretension about it. I think some of the people were excessively lobbied. •••••••••

It is alleged that there is muted hostility between you and Marwa over the control of the political soul of Adamawa Sate, which explains why you are not disposed to his ambassadorial nomination. How true is this?
It is not true. It has nothing to do with Adamawa politics. There is no link between his political ambition or ambassadorial nomination and the security reports. May I again sound it out to all as I have said before, if I don’t want Marwa around me for whatever reason, it will be a great political wisdom to send him out of the country as an ambassador!

What is your take on the 419 lawmakers?
There is no 419 lawmaker. However, the senate has set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Ethics to investigate and submit the report to it. And I believe that the senate will do a thorough job on the issue. So, why don’t we allow the senate to do its job.

But the integrity of the senate is at stake.
Our integrity is always at stake. If somebody is seen carrying Ghana-must-go with documents or reports, it is misinterpreted. So our integrity is everyday at stake. Haba!

What is the latest on the Siemens bribery scandal involving you and the Wilbros involving Atiku? Have they all died a natural death?
I can only talk about myself. I have stated categorically that I don’t know anything about the allegation. I have never had anything to do with Siemens. It is people who have worked in the communications that should be quizzed on the scandal. I am available for probe by the EFCC, ICPC or any institution. I have not run away.

But Senator Waku and David-West maintained that you were begging the issue
Who is Waku? I must say that Waku is a disappointment. And for Tam David-West, you would expect that. We have been adversaries for a long time. He will use any opportunity to tarnish my image. I have denied it over and over again. I have nothing to do with Siemens.
I won’t be surprised if Tam David-West alleged all these. But for Waku, I don’t reckon with him.
There is an attempt by the presidency to remove the immunity clause. Do you see this as part of an honest effort to fight corruption?
I think most Nigerians want the immunity clause removed. I think this is a new political culture the president wants to bring to bear on governance. But the worry is its feasibility. The rigour of constitutional amendment might just be an albatross.

There are calls for the removal of the INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu on the premise that if President Yar’Adua was really sincere about the electoral reforms, his removal should have been the first step.
No. Iwu is very intelligent. When I read that Atiku has obtained a court injunction to interrogate Iwu, I said if they did not take time, he will disgrace them. He is a very intelligent man. He is confident. I have talked with him on several issues and he talks straight, no cover up in his tone or mode. I don’t see why people should declare Iwu guilty without him being tried and convicted by a law court. He has done a good job in my own opinion considering the peculiar nature of Nigeria.

What about the PDP national convention and the moral burden on Obasanjo?
The problem you all suffer from, including Waku and Tam David West is that whenever an allegation is on about somebody, no matter how incredible it might sound, you will sentence such person to death by hanging before the person gets a hearing.
Obasanjo is credible. People who want to take over his position can say whatever they like. But the fact remains that he is the chairman of the BoT. And we have confidence in him.

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