A row has broken over the Senate’s decision to drop Mr. Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla, nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as a Non-Executive Commissioner to represent the Southsouth in the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).
Obla claims that Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki unilaterally overturned his confirmation. But the Senate says he was never confirmed.
On August 3, Obla was nominated by the President as a Non-Executive Commissioner to represent the Southsouth in the NCC.
His name and others’ were sent to the Senate.
Obla is also a Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The Senate, which felt uncomfortable with the insinuation that Obla’s confirmation was upturned, urged “those peddling these half truths to avail themselves of the proceedings to confirm if the nominee was rightly cleared by the Senate or not”.
Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs Chairman Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi gave the clarification in a statement in Abuja.
He said: “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to reports to the effect that the Senate has dropped a nominee of Mr. President, Mr. Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla, as a non-executive commissioner on the Governing Board of the NCC after he was purportedly cleared by the Senate.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the nomination of Mr. Obla was never confirmed or voted for since no decision of the Senate is said to be approved if not adopted during the consideration of the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate at the next legislative day.
“The Senate also wishes to note that the business of the Senate can only be binding when the votes and proceedings have been adopted and approved without any objection.
“The implication of the directive by the Senate President to the Secretariat is that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Baba Kaka Garbai’s observation or correction was correct and therefore the Votes and Proceedings should be amended to reflect the true situation.
“On that fateful day, November 22, 2016, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Baba Kaka Garbai, objected to the alleged confirmation of the nominee, saying, “My name is Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai representing Borno Central Senatorial District. Mr. President, what is actually reported in the Votes and Proceedings is not a true reflection of what transpired on Thursday with regards to the confirmation of one of the commissioners under NCC, Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla. The decision then was a resounding nay. So, because of that, it was a mistake. ”
“Responding to the observation made by Senator Garbai, the Senate President said, ‘secretariat, take note’.
“The Senate hereby calls on those who are peddling these half-truths to avail themselves of the proceedings of the Senate on the above stated dates to confirm if the nominee was rightly cleared by the Senate or not.”
The popular thinking is that Obla’s travails may not be unconnected with his appearance before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on July 30, 2016, where he represented the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
Malami was invited by the Senate to explain why he filed charges against Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, over the alleged forgery of the Senate Rules book.
Obla told members of the committee headed by Senator David Umaru that the Senate lacked the power to summon the minister.
Obono-Obla was later walked out of the hearing room. He went outside to insist that the Senate had no power to summon any minister.
The altercation between members of the committee and Obla did not go down well with the Senate in plenary.
Obono-Obla asked: “Can the Senate President unilaterally overrule the confirmation of a nominee by the Senate?”
He claimed that he was “successfully screened by the Senate Committee on Communications on the October 19, 2016”.
He added: “On the November 17, 2016, the report of the Senate Committee was presented before the Plenary Session of the Senate by the Chair, Senator Gilbert Emeka Nnaji.
“In the report, the committee cleared Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye (Chairman); Sunday Dare (Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management); Clement Omeiza Baiye (Non-Executive Commissioner); Senator Ifeanyi Ararume (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla (Non-Executive Commissioner).
“The committee rejected the nominations of Aliyu Saidu Abubakar and Pastor Ezekiel Yissa and elaborately gave reasons why.
“Consequently, the Senate unanimously confirmed the following thus: Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye (Chairman); Sunday Dare (Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management); Clement Omeiza Baiye (Non-Executive Commissioner); Senator Ifeanyi Ararume (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla (Non-Executive Commissioner). This was graphically captured in the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in pages 880-891 of Thursday November 17, 2016.
“In the same vein, the Senate rejected the nominations of Aliyiu Saidu Abubakar and Pastor Ezekiel Yissa.
“The entire major electronic and print media organs in the country on November 17th & 18th , 2016, carried the confirmation by the Senate of the Board of NCC.
“Surprisingly and curiously, the Senate President , in a letter dated November 22, 2016 to President Muhammadu Buhari titled:
“Confirmation of Appointments) falsely stated that the Senate did not confirm the following nominees thus: Aliyu Saidu Abubakar; Pastor Ezekiel Yissa and Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla.
“It was reliably gathered after the confirmation of Chief Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla; the Senate President was put under intense pressure by two PDP Senators from Cross River State; John Owan Eno (Cross River Central) and Gershom Bassey (Cross River South), which the Senate President balked.
“The two senators from Cross River blackmailed and fed the Senate President with lies concerning Chief Obono-Obla, who is from Cross River State. The duo told the Senate President that Obono-Obla is behind his legal travails.”