‘Sagay arrogating to himself president’s power’
By TUNDE THOMAS, VINCENT KALU, Lagos; DESMOND MGBOH, Kano
Legal luminaries and prominent Nigerians are divided in their opinion over the refusal of the Senate to screen Alhaji Ibrahim Magu for confirmation as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The upper chamber of the National Assembly had sent back the EFCC boss nomination to the Presidency on Thursday, citing “security reports” for finding Magu unqualified.
Although there was no official disclosure of these reports, snippets of them have found their way to the media and the public, thus provoking a rash of comments.
Leading lawyers including two Senior Advocates- Prof. Itse Sagay and Mr. Femi Falana, had in earlier comments, faulted the Senate’s action, with Sagay accusing the lawmakers of aiding corruption and promoting self-interest with their action.
Their views have been echoed by several eminent lawyers and Nigerians, but with dissent from others, notable among them former Nigeria Bar Association, NBA President, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), former Abia State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Awa U. Kalu SAN and a former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Dr. Akin Onigbinde (SAN), who urged objectivity and dispassion in the matter. They are of the view that the legislative action stands based on law and due process, unless the reasons given for it can be faulted.
Below are cross sections of the views:
Anti corruption fighter must not only be, but also be seen to be above board – Olisa Agbakoba
I’m not surprised at all, because all of us agree that corruption is what is holding us back. So if there is an allegation on anybody who wants to hold a high office, then clearly it’s something we should look at very well. Don’t forget that even the Senate President is facing an allegation at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. I’m not saying that the allegation against Magu is true. But it is an allegation and clearly it would stop his confirmation process. You remember that the six or seven judges who where stinged by the DSS also face the same crisis. In fact, the wife of Justice Ademola technically have been removed from office, because the Government of Lagos State has appointed a new Head of Service. There’s a price you pay for an allegation that you are corrupt. So, the only thing that Magu would have to do is to clear his name, if the allegation proves to be wrong, then, clearly he would require to be confirmed.
But for now the Senate was right for withholding the confirmation, because don’t forget that the DSS report is from a senior government agency concerned with intelligence matters. So for that alone, rightly or wrongly, and to treat everybody equally, because Magu cannot enjoy a different treatment from the Supreme Court judges, therefore, I entirely endorse and support the fact that he wasn’t confirmed.
If you allege something against somebody then what you do is to respond to it once. So the allegations against the Supreme Court judges are a good example. They’re all sending letters to the CJN to say ‘this is our position’. I would expect him to say, ‘I would like to see the DSS report’, go through it and respond to it.
Just responding to it may not clear him. No, the onus to prove corruption is on the person who alleges. So, it is for the DSS to prove that Magu is corrupt. It is slightly different from the case of the Supreme Court judges who were sent to court. In the case of Magu all he needs to do is to say all the allegations made against me are not true. And then it would be for the DSS, whether through the court or through administrative process to make us Nigerians aware that Magu is indeed corrupt.
If he clears his name, then clearly he would have no baggage. And then the Senate can now proceed to consider whether he is professionally qualified. Because now the Senate has not done that, what they did was just to say ‘there’s a report against you and that stops us from considering whether you are professionally qualified’. So, the Senate has not made any pronouncement on his professional competence at all.
President Buhari has come to power on the big issue to fight corruption. So I think he ought to be interested and make a statement on the issue. In fact, the president needs to put his mouth into the discussion and say ‘look I can’t have a corrupt chairman of the EFCC. The EFCC is the premier anti-corruption agency. So they must be above board they must be seen to be really above aboard. So the allegation alone concerns me and how the president can carry on with his anti-corruption crusade. It is for the president to really call all the sides and make a determination about what is going on. Because the DSS is under the president office, the EFCC is under the President’s office. So this matter can be very easily resolved. If Magu is truly guilty, he should remove him, but if he is not, then clear him and then the name goes back to the Senate to consider if he is professionally qualified, which the Senate has not reached.
There are two steps; the first step is the fact that you must have good security clearance. So Magu failed that test. So if he clears his name then he comes back to face the second challenge which is if he is professionally qualified.
But in summary, the way this can go that would be good for Nigerians is for the President of Nigeria to take very active role, because the President cannot afford to have a chairman of the EFCC facing corruption challenge, because it is the same EFCC chairman that is trying some judges. So, it would be contradictory, it would belittle the entire anti-corruption campaign; people would now be saying that ‘the man who is chasing us is equally corrupt’. That is the main issue here. It is capable of derailing Nigeria and the entire anti-corruption programme.
MAGU’S REJECTION A SABOTAGE OF ANTI-GRAFT WAR- ABUBAKAR TSAV, FORMER COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, LAGOS STATE
I see the refusal of the Senate to confirm Magu’s appointment as an act of conspiracy to sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade. I had thought that the Senators would have shown enthusiasm in joining Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, but what they did to Magu has confirmed that these lawmakers are bitterly against reforms being made by Buhari to sanitise this nation, and rid it of the vice called corruption. Senate’s action is sending a wrong signal to Nigerians that our lawmakers are not committed to change.
Magu is doing a good job, Mr President should not succumb. He should re-present Magu again for re- confirmation while he continue working as Acting Chairman of the EFCC. I also appeal to the Senate to reconsider their stand over this issue. The security report reportedly by the DSS being flaunted by the Senators as their excuse for rejecting Magu is a lame one.The question again now is this, who is even a saint? Who is an angel in this country?Are the Senators themselves clean? It is even more painful that the Senate used the DSS report without giving Magu an opportunity to hear his own side as to whether the allegations are true or not.
SENATORS WITHIN JURISDICTION -FORMER ABIA STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND COMMISSIONER FOR JUSTICE, PROF AWA U. KALU SAN
The Senate said it acted based on an adverse security report against him. I don’t have that report to know the content. So, if they acted based on the adverse security report, they are within their jurisdiction.
Mind you, the EFCC is not from Presidency, it was created by statutes, likewise the DSS, and the National Assembly is a creation of our constitution. The function is what you look at. The Senate has powers by virtue of the constitution to confirm anybody who would be the chief executive of that commission, but for the DSS, any person who is occupying a certain position in public service, so if the DSS in fulfillment of its statutory functions has forwarded a security report to the NASS, which doesn’t favour a person who is to be confirmed, you cannot overlook an adverse security report. If there was a security report as the Senate has said, then it acted in order.
If you are in doubt and you want to get the security report, you can apply through the Freedom of Information Act.
SENATE ON VEGEANCE MISSION-AYO OPADOKUN, LAWYER &EX –NADECO SCRIBE
Senate’s refusal to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC is in bad taste. It is a worrisome development. I believe that the Senate is on a vengeance mission. Why do I say so? Magu has stepped on many powerful toes including some prominent members of the National Assembly, so it was a payback time for them when Magu’s name was brought to them for confirmation.
But I believe that the Senate has not had the last laugh over the matter. The current actors in the National Assembly are, however, advised to be mindful of the consequences of their action, because what goes up must certainly come down. What the Senate has done amounts to an indirect assault on the war against corruption being waged by President Muhammadu Buhari.
To me Magu so far in his work at the EFCC has shown himself to be a committed worker. He has exhibited courage and commitment in carrying out his official duties. I believe that it is those Nigerians that have skeletons in their cupboards including our lawmakers that are not comfortable having Magu as the substantive Chairman of the EFCC.
Senate’s action notwithstanding, President Buhari should continue to nominate Magu as the EFCC Chairman until the Senate finally confirms him. I also want to advise the President to investigate claims that a powerful figure in the Presidency who is under EFCC searchlight colluded with the lawmakers in scuttling Magu’s confirmation.
ONUS ON MAGU TO ABSOLVE SELF -DR. AKIN ONIGBINDE (SAN), FORMER SPEAKER, OYO STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
I don’t think because the Senate is perceived as a bastion of corruption, we should be carried away by prejudices and emotions and so, throw the baby out with the bath water. This is a constitutional matter. We should look at what the law says and the facts on which the legislature as an arm of government and confirming authority took the decision it took, whether they are true and valid or not.
It would be unfair to accuse the Senators of self serving and frustrating the war against corruption, given the facts available in the public domain, unless it can be shown that they are lies. Magu’s nomination is not the only one that they have, or have had to consider, or that had suffered a setback such as this, in the legislators’ exercise of the power to approve or disapprove. You would remember Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) also suffered similar delay before he was confirmed by the National Assembly as Attorney General of the Federation in the Second Republic. For sometime now, the nomination sent by President (Barrack) Obama to fill the vacant seat in the Supreme Court in the US has been pending before the Senate, without being approved, despite the fact that the man is adjudged one of the most brilliant minds in the American judiciary.
The power of checks and balances given to the other arms of government is so as not to create a monster of an executive, which could turn fascist and trample on the laws of the land and rights and interests of others.
I’m not for Magu, or against him. But, I think it’s serious when the Senate says one of the security reasons for refusing to screen him is that he has been dismissed from the police for abusing investigative powers. If that’s true, there’s no doubt it will affect his present brief, position and role as the Chairman of the EFCC. I mean, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands and he who lives in a glass house must not be seen to throw stones. In other words, there must not be any moral liability.
But, if this is not true, Magu should not keep quiet. He owes it a duty to refute it and say so.
Government is responsible for this apparent embarrassment. It’s the responsibility of the appointing authority to do due diligence and background checking on Magu before forwarding his nomination. The issue of taking credit for transparency by apparently not interfering does not arise, because you don’t have to stop or doctor the process. If you found all this out, you may then not have sent the nomination.
I’m surprised that, that check was not conducted before his (Magu) name was put forward.
On Prof Itse Sagay’s alleged statement that the man can continue in office in spite of the legislative action, I don’t know the authority he has to amend the constitution of Nigeria, or render nugatory the powers of the Senate to validate such appointments. Prof Sagay is a prfessor of Law, a SAN, yes, but, he’s not the Attorney General of the Federation, who is the Chief Law Officer of the federation. Prof Sagay’s utterance in this matter is capable of overreaching the opinion of the AGF. This will be both improper, unfair and less than disciplined. There are many Professors of Law who are also SANs. If all of them should be making policy pronouncements like these… Senior Advocates should respect the AG, and pass their view through his office and not overreach him through public policy pronouncements.
The action of the Senate, I want to believe, is in the interest of the society. It’s not a personal thing. It will help our democracy. The President has huge reserve of human resources out of the 190 million population of Nigerians to choose another EFCC Chairman from.
After all, this is the first time the Senate is rejecting a nominee of the President, I think we should give them the benefit of doubt.
DSS REPORT NAILED HIM -CHIEF AYO ADEBANJO, ELDER STATESMAN
DSS report nailed him. Do we want to doubt the security report?
On the position of Prof Itse Sagay that Magu will stay, does it mean the legal luminary was suggesting that the DSS report should be ignored? That is disappointing. I have high regard for Sagay, but what he is saying these days beats my imagination. It appears that. Sagay is becoming less principled than I knew him to be. Is the report not credible? If so, there is no need to believe any security report on anybody.
The Senate acted based on security reports. I don’t know Magu, and I don’t have interest in all these reports.
GROWING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST REGIME MEMBERS A MOCKERY OF ANTI GRAFT WAR -ALHAJI TANKO YAKASAI, ELDER STATESMAN
Endorsed the decision of the Nigeria Senate to withhold its confirmation of Alhaji Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The decision of the Senate was based on a report by the DSS and I think the DSS would not just indict him without a clear justification. I think that the unfortunate episode would be a serious challenge to the anti- corruption campaign of the present administration. What I mean is that this is certainly a litmus test to the administration’s anti corruption campaign. And if the President should go ahead to represent him to the Senate for confirmation, then it would damage the credibility of the Presidency.
“I am indeed surprised that Professor Sagay- even before the decision of the Senate to refuse to confirm him- should be quoted as saying that whatever happens, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman must remain in office until the expiration of his tenure.
To my mind, Professor Sagay, by that statement, is arrogating to himself the power of the President. He should not preempt the President in this matter and he is in no position to do so, unless the allegation that some powerful persons are actually the people running the government for President Buhari is true.
The growing number of corruption allegations against people in position of power under the present charge, is becoming worrisome. This particular issue (Magu) and the allegation that a company owned by the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) for which he is signatory to this date, was awarded a contract for N200 million, without following due process is worrisome. These revelations are making mockery of the anti corruption campaign of the administration, they are saying that this campaign is after all not a genuine exercise.
PARTIES SHOULD JETTISON SELFISH INTERESTS -PETER ESELE, FORMER PRESIDENT,TRADE UNION CONGRESS,TUC.
I believe that there is more to this issue than meets the eye. I believe politics has been introduced to the issue. I believe the Senate should come out with an official statement on the matter, especially over the claims that Magu was rejected due to indicting DSS report about him. Up till now, this allegation has not officially been made by the Senate. We are all just hearing rumours that it is over this so-called report that Magu’s fate was sealed. I will like the Senate to make a categorical statement on this. My appeal to all stakeholders or parties involved in this issue is that they should jettison parochial interests and consider the nation’s interests in resolving the issue. But so far, Magu has not fared badly as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, he is doing well, but my advice to him is that he should ensure that the EFCC obeys court orders on issues or cases involving the commission.
CHARGES AGAINST MAGU NEBULOUS -MONDAY UBANI, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT, NBA
The legislative arm of the government is trying to checkmate the executive, but in doing that it must be within the confines of the constitution and overall national interest.
If security report was the reason for not confirming Magu, it is nebulous. They should make such reports public; in any case, was he confronted with those allegations, and what was his response?
We should ask the NASS whether they are acting in the overall interest of the country.
But I know that Magu would run into problems when the Senate President is being prosecuted by him, and so, he would not expect to go down without a fight.
Also, recently Magu had confrontation with the DSS after the invasion of the judges’ houses, over which was the right agency to carry out that operation that has to do with corruption matter.
Why haven’t they submitted this security report all these while, since his nomination? The so-called security report was turned in after the October confrontation with the DSS.
Again, I read an exclusive story over certain persons in the Presidency who are against Magu’s confirmation; there are some people in the Presidency who are working against his confirmation, if that is true, it looks suspicious that DSS that is an arm of the Presidency will send in a report that is very adverse against Magu’s interest that the President was not aware of it. It was the Presidency that sent Magu’s name for confirmation. Why will the same arm of government be working against the person it has sent to the Senate for confirmation, unless there is a conspiracy theory that we don’t want him to be confirmed so they pushed it to the Senate to dispense with? This is a case of the more you look the less you see.
NOBODY’S INDISPENSABLE, NIGERIA FIRST -GABRIEL GIWA-AMU,LAWYER& HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST.
If the DSS report on Magu is found to be true and correct, then the Senate is in order to reject him. We should not bring sentiments into this issue. Nobody is indispensable. We are talking about fighting corruption, and what this means is that whosoever will be in charge should be somebody that is above board. The moment you have a question mark hanging on a nominee, then that nominee is not qualified to hold any position, especially that involving trust and accountability. Again we should not rule out the possibility that these so -called Magu’s symphatisers are those seeking one favour or the other from him, or have benefited from him. Nigeria is a country of over 170 milllion people ,then why should some insist that a particular person must be there, more so when there is a report indicting that person. I believe we must not compromise standards and quality. The nation’s interests far outweighs any individual interest.