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Governor Wike receives the inquiry's report on the sale of state assets

Is it goodbye to Amaechi’s ministerial chances?

A judicial inquiry into the sale of state assets in Rivers State has indicted former governor Rotimi Amaechi in what the government has called “fraudulent transactions”.

The state government led by governor Eze Wike has accepted the recommendations of the inquiry and has commenced proceedings to prosecute Amaechi and others involved in the sale of assets.

A spokesman for the state government said yesterday: “The commission recommends that the former governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, along with his former commissioners for Finance and Power, Dr. Chamberlain Peterside and Augustine Nwokocha, respectively, should be held to account for their roles in the sales of the power generation assets of First Independent Power Limited and the disbursement of the proceeds there from.

“Government accepts this recommendation and directs the office of the Honorable Attorney-General and commissioner for Justice, to promptly set in motion the appropriate machinery for the recovery of the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbines from the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and every other persons implicated in the commission’s report.”

The inquiry claimed that about 97bn naira ($486.9m) was misappropriated in the sale of state assets.

Things are looking grim for Amaechi
Things are looking grim for Amaechi

This indictment has come at the wrong time for Amaechi, who is facing a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday for his nomination as a minister by President Muhammadu Buhari. Senate rules dictate that all nominees must be backed by at least two senators from their states. Ita Enang, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters has said that the senators from their states should be the “first line of defence” for the nominees.

In Amaechi’s case, Rivers State senators have been the first line of attack. There was drama on the floor of the Senate two days ago when Senator George Sekibo tabled a petition against Amaechi’s nomination as a minister. The petition is “on the grounds of corruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and conversion of over 70bn naira ($351.4m) of Rivers people’s money when Amaechi was governor of the state between 2007 and 2015”.

Amaechi has, in recent days, been desperate to appease the forces stacked against him, especially Wike and the three Rivers State senators. On Tuesday night, he met Senate President Bukola Saraki to help him clear the confirmation hurdle.

But it is hard to see how Wike and his allies the Rivers State senators can possibly back Amaechi’s nomination now with the indictment of the judicial inquiry and the looming prosecution by the state’s attorney-general.

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