- Senate to Presidency: No Going Back on Magu
The Senate has said it will not back down on its decision to reject the appointment of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
It said it will also not rescind its decision to suspend further consideration and confirmation of appointments made by the Presidency over the position taken by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that some appointments did not require legislative approval.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly also stated that it had no need to clarify its statutory powers on the confirmation of appointments made by the President, while asking the executive to approach the Supreme Court for judicial interpretation of Section 171 of the Constitution cited by Osinbajo.
The legislature said since it was the Presidency that was contending with subjecting appointments made by it to legislative approval, the executive was in the best position to approach the Supreme Court for judicial interpretation of roles.
The Senate had on Tuesday moved against the Presidency over the retention of Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC despite his rejection by the legislature.
In protest, the lawmakers decided to suspend further consideration and confirmation of appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari based on Osinbajo’s claim that the President was empowered to make some appointments without seeking legislative approval as provided in Section 171 of the Constitution.
They also asked the Acting President to retract the statement.
Speaking to our correspondent on the telephone on Thursday, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, stated that lawmakers had always made it clear that they would maintain their position until a court approached by the Presidency says otherwise.
He said, “In a situation where we are claiming that this is our power and right, those who are challenging it are the ones who have the responsibility to go to court. And I think the Senate has said it much and it has never been unambiguous in whatever it says. We are always very clear; we always try to make sure that we are very clear in what we say.
“We have said ‘this is our position’ and anybody who feels it is not correct has the right to go to court. We have said this on various occasions. We were never in doubt of our powers by the virtue of the constitution; those who are creating the doubts are the ones who have the responsibility (to go to court), not us.”
In a related development, the Senate had said it had no plan to impeach Osinbajo as reported by a section of the media.
Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, while speaking to our correspondent on the telephone on Thursday, explained that the legislature was clear on its decision to suspend further confirmation of appointments made by the Presidency until Osinbajo retracts his statement that some appointments did not require the approval of the lawmakers.
The Senate’s spokesman said the lawmakers were clear on their decision and it should not be misinterpreted.
He said, “This issue does not require any further clarification. Our statement was very clear and straightforward. If people are making their interpretations, they should tell the world. The Senate was very clear and unambiguous in what it said. Those who made the report (that the Senate plans to impeach Osinbajo) should provide the details. But what we said was very clear; our resolution was clear.
When asked to be specific on whether there was a plan to impeach the Acting President, Sabi-Abdullahi said, “Go and ask those who reported our position like that.”
Sabi-Abdullahi, in a report by the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday, said Senate’s rejection of the nomination of Magu as EFCC Chairman “still stands“.
He said, “Nobody in the Senate is expressing his individual opinion. We are expressing the opinion of the Senate, its stand and its position.
“We have given it a resolution. For now, that is what subsists, and until we get a response, otherwise officially, we are not going back.”
“Magu was brought to us for confirmation, and on the basis of damning reports from the Department of State Services, we rejected him twice. It is left for Nigerians to see and we have done our part,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Sola Adeyeye, has also denied knowledge of plans by the Senate to impeach Osinbajo over his insistence on Magu as Chairman of the EFCC.
Adeyeye, in an opinion piece sent to one of our correspondents through WhatsApp and titled, “The Rule of Law is Supreme,” stated that if there was such a move, it would fail.
According to him, there is no plan to install the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, as the acting president of the country.
Adeyeye said, “For the avoidance of doubt, let me state here again that I was a strong supporter of Magu. I enthusiastically canvassed support for his confirmation. I shouted the loudest ‘Yea!’ when the vote was taken on his confirmation.
“However, once he has not been confirmed, it is my categorical view that a nominee whose nomination has been rejected by the Senate cannot continue to function in that office. Otherwise, what was the essence of the legal provision for confirmation?
“Sadly, rumours are being peddled that senators are being steered in a ploy to heighten a Saraki-Osinbajo conflict to a point where the Acting President can be impeached, so that Saraki can take over as Acting President. I am not aware of such a ploy within the senate.
“More importantly, I dare say that were such a ploy to exist, it would woefully and precipitously fail. What matters, therefore, is that Prof Osinbajo must not be misled into siding with those talking as if their own views are the views of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
While stating that the noise level from the “flurry of endless analysts and commentators” was creating more hoopla than were necessary, Adeyeye stressed that there was nothing strange for a nominee to be denied confirmation by a legislature.
“So far, no one has said that the Nigerian Senate manufactured the DSS report that caustically scathed Magu,” he noted.
Adeyeye also said pundits claiming that the issue was purely a legal matter were wrong.
The senator backed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Ali, that the Nigerian Constitution did not envisage “a ceremonial legislature that must rubber-stamp every wish of the Executive.”
Adeyeye added, “A quick corollary to this firm opinion, however, is the very poor image and negative perception of the senate in the eye of the public. This pitches emotive issue of morality against the sanctity of the law. The balancing of these two perspectives remains a challenge for the senate and equally for a public that is obviously and justifiably angry.
“One solution is to be diligent with the court process rather than to then say that because of public anger at perceived misdeeds within the senate, the institution should be further weakened. Otherwise, let us weaken the military, the court or any agency because as with the legislature, there are misdeeds in these institutions too!”
No decision yet on court option –Presidency
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, on Friday said he was not aware of any decision yet on whether the Presidency would approach the court to interpret Section 171 of the Constitution as it affects the Senate confirmation of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Enang said there was no categorical statement on the matter as of the time of filing this report.
The presidential aide spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone.
When asked if the Presidency would approach the court, Enang said, “I am not in a position to say yes or no because since the Senate resolution was passed, I have not heard any categorical statement.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President, Mr. Laolu Akande, did not yield any positive report as he did not pick his calls.
Akande had not returned the calls as of the time of filing this report.