Magu: Senate threatens Osinbajo, dumps confirmation of nominees

senateTHE Senate, on Tuesday, resolved to suspend all issues relating to confirmation of nominees from the executive until issues relating to confirmation of candidates are resolved.

The Senate, which returned from a two-week recess, also threatened the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo with impeachment for failing to respect legislative resolutions bordering on nomination of candidates by the executive.

The resolutions by the senators were sequel to a letter from the acting president requesting for the confirmation of Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila as the chairman of National Lottery Commission, which it rejected outright.

The senators were particularly unhappy at the continuous retention of Ibrahim Magu in office as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), despite his rejection by the Senate.

Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who read the acting president’s letter on Gbajabiamila during plenary, said “this is an issue that we have to once and for all address,” adding that “we cannot pass laws and see that the laws are not being obeyed.

“This resolution must be obeyed by the acting president, otherwise we will take appropriate actions and resolutions,” Saraki said.

The Senate had, on December 14, 2016 and March 25, 2017, rejected Magu as substantive EFCC chairman.

It initially based its decision on the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) which indicated that Magu was not fit to hold the office.

At the second coming, the Senate declared that Magu performed poorly at the screening at the Senate plenary.

The acting president was later quoted in the media as saying that the Senate lacked the power to reject anyone nominated for appointment by the Presidency apparently on advice of some lawyers who indicated that Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution empowered the president to nominate persons without Senate confirmation.

Former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmad Sani (APC Zamfara West) came under a Point of Order, citing Order 42 of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 to ask the Senate to stop the confirmation of Gbajabiamila as the Lottery Commission boss based on the acting president’s alleged comment.

The lawmaker wondered why Osinbajo was requesting the nominees’ confirmation after he had reportedly said the Senate lacked power of confirmation on certain nominees from the Presidency.

The Senate President, in his comment, said “this is an issue that we have to once and for all address, we cannot pass laws and see that the laws are not being obeyed. This resolution must be obeyed by the acting president, otherwise, we will take appropriate actions and resolutions.

“It is very clear these resolutions as passed must be acted upon by the acting president and ensure that we continue to respect our democracy, our laws and constitution.

“It is not for us to choose which laws we obey and which laws we don’t obey. That is not the way any civilised, modern society works. And we hope that the acting president will take appropriate action in line with these resolutions.”

The Senate, in the resolution, added that the acting president must respect the constitution and laws as it related to confirmation of appointments and should immediately respect rejection of nominees by the Senate.

Consequently, the Senate asked Osinbajo to withdraw the statement credited to him that the Senate did not have the power to confirm certain nominees.

Most of the contributors disagreed with the statement credited to Acting President Osinbajo.

Senator George Thomson Sekibo (PDP Rivers) took a swipe at the executive arm over its continued refusal to comply with the resolutions of the Senate, insisting that the development was an attempt by the Presidency to usurp the powers and roles of the Senate.

He said: “What is happening shows to Nigerians that they (executive) are either trying to silence the National Assembly or trying to take our responsibilities.

“From the constitution, it is very clear that one of the functions of the Senate is confirmation of appointments by the president.

“All the Enactments Acts contain a section that states that the president will nominate and the Senate confirms.

“If the acting president says we do not have power to return any nomination, I wonder if he is in touch with the EFCC Act. The EFCC Act states that the president shall nominate and Senate will confirm. If you reject one law, you will reject the constitution.

“There is nothing like executive orders in a democratic constitution,” he said.

In his contribution, Senator Dino Melaye said that the executive and the legislature must stop approbrating and reprobating at the same time.

He said: “It is time for the Senate to tell the executive arm of government that it must stop approbating and reprobating. This republic our fathers fought for should not be allowed to be completely destroyed. Not in our time, God forbids.

“Magu came for a job interview and failed and he was rejected. As we speak, Magu is still parading himself as the chairman of EFCC. The same executive now writes a letter that we should confirm someone who went to resume office without confirmation and he was chased out of office. Now that name has been brought before us.”

Senator Isah Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi) accused the acting president of creating double standards on the issue of the Senate’s power of confirmation.

“I see this nomination as double standards or hypocrisy. If we cannot stand and face these challenges against this institution, soon they will tell us that we cannot come to the National Assembly.

“There are many ministers who have high level corruption allegations against them, but they have never been harassed; instead, these same ministers go about castigating the National Assembly,” he said.

Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central) stressed that “these were frightening talks; they were frightening because many Nigerians put our lives on the line to ensure that we have democratic governance in Nigeria.

“I want to remind all of us that the difference between a military regime, however, benevolent and a democratic regime is the presence of a legislature whose responsibilities is defined by the constitution. Whether you serve in the executive, legislature or judiciary, everyone is called to obey the laws of the republic.”

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the framers of the constitution were wise to give powers of confirmation to the Senate, adding that the constitutional basis of the statement of the acting president only applied to the personal staff of the president

According to him, “we have a more serious problem in Nigeria now; we have nobody that is at the head of the government. The law states that you cannot have a vacuum, Today, the acting president is outside the country and so there is a vacuum.”

Reacting to the threat by Senate, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, told the Nigerian Tribune last night that the only option opened to the legislative body was litigation, giving an indication that the directive to remove Magu would not be obeyed by the executive arm.

According to him, “it is nonsensical. They don’t have the powers they are claiming. They can’t ask the executive to remove Magu. How can you ask the executive to remove someone you don’t have the power to appoint? Under the constitution, they don’t have the powers they are arrogating to themselves. They only have powers to conduct oversight functions to ensure accountability and good governance.

“The constitution gives the president the power to appoint the chairman of the EFCC, so the Senate cannot ask the acting president to remove him because Section 171 of the Constitution gives the president power to appoint heads of inter-ministerial bodies. It is not same with ministerial and ambassadorial nominees. Section 1(3) of the constitution also says that any law that is inconsistent with provisions of the constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistencies.

“If the Act setting up the EFCC is inconsistent with provisions of the constitution, because the section on Senate confirmation is inconsistent with provisions of the constitution, then the Act becomes inferior to the constitution. They should go to the Supreme Court and ask if they have the power to remove an appointee of the executive.

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