From FRED ITUA, Abuja
Despite the suspension of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal by President Muhammadu Buhari, the face-off between the Senate and the presidency, may still be far from over.
Sunday Sun has reliably gathered that the meeting which the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was mandated to hold with Buhari on why the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, was yet to be relieved of his duties, may have failed to yield the needed results.
On Thursday, March 28, the Senate, mandated its President, Saraki, to meet with President Buhari to come up with ways of resolving the feud between it and the Executive Arm of Government.
The decision of the Senate followed its rejection of a list of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), forwarded to it by the President. The lawmakers had contended that the names would not be confirmed until Buhari removes Magu as head of the anti-graft agency.
Since the resolution was passed by the Senate, Saraki has met with President Buhari on several occasions, where the issue was reportedly discussed. It was learnt that despite Saraki’s efforts to persuade Buhari on how to pacify angry lawmakers, the President apparently insisted on retaining Magu as EFCC boss.
Sunday Sun learnt that Saraki and principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), met with the president over the issue of Magu.
The meeting was held few days after the Senate arrived at the decision. Saraki, who has repeatedly tried to ensure that there is a cordial relationship between the National Assembly and the Presidency, is still exploring other options to ensure that the feud is resolved amicably.
While the Senate Rules Book is clear on the issue of re-submission of names of rejected appointees of President Buhari, pundits, drawing instances from previous experience, believe that Magu, for instance, can be re-nominated.
Order 131 of the Senate Rules states that “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session or within 21 working days in the case of Ministerial nominees shall be returned by the Clerk to the National Assembly to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and shall not again be made to the Senate by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Since there are conflicting arguments, it was learnt that the Senate is mooting the idea of using a pseudo group or name to approach the Supreme Court to get an interpretation on whether or not Magu can continue to remain in office in an acting capacity, despite his rejection by the Red Chamber.
Meanwhile, the peace committee set up the president and headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to mend fences with the National Assembly, is yet to reach out to the leadership of the National Assembly.
The committee was set up by Buhari soon after the Senate declined to confirm names of RECs he forwarded to them. Former lawmakers who are ministers are members of the committee.
Findings by Sunday Sun, showed that Professor Osinbajo is yet to write to Saraki, who is the chairman of the National Assembly to arrange for a formal meeting.
Osinbajo, it was learnt, is also yet to meet with Saraki informally on the issue, despite the urgency of the need to settle the rift between the two arms of government.
Instead, Osinbajo has maintained that Magu will continue to act, despite his rejection by the Senate. At a recent interaction with newsmen, Osinbajo said “it is up to the Senate to make their judgment and it is up to us say what we want to do.
“If our candidate is rejected, we can re-present him.No law says we can’t re-present him. And again, there is the other argument, whether or not we need to present him for confirmation and that’s a compelling argument from Femi Falana.
“His argument is that under the constitution, section 171, and if you look at that section, it talks about the appointments that the president can make. They include appointments of ministers, ambassadors and heads of agencies such as the EFCC.
“In that same section 171, the constitution rightly said that certain appointments must go to the Senate such as ministerial and ambassadorial appointments. Those of heads of agencies like the EFCC do not have to go to the Senate.
“That is what the constitution says. But the EFCC Act, which of course as you know is inferior, says that EFCC chairman should go to the Senate for confirmation.
“I am sure that even a pocket book lawyer knows that when a legislation conflicts with constitution, it’s the constitution that prevails.”
Some Senators are however unhappy over the issue. Some lawmakers who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, said some elements in the Presidency, particularly, the Vice President Osinbajo, are not ready to end the feud.
The lawmakers said, despite their membership of the ruling APC, they will defend the integrity of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate against external attacks.
They are gearing up a major showdown with the Presidency, as the lifespan of the 2016 budget gradually comes to an end. The 2017 budget is yet to be passed.