• Suspends confirmation of Presidency nominees
• Asks acting president to withdraw statement
From Fred Itua, Abuja
In what could be described as open declaration of war, the senate, yesterday, passed a resolution block consideration and confirmation of appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The executive drew the ire of the lawmakers following a comment by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that executive appointments did not require legislative approval based on Section 171 of the Constitution.
The position of the Senate, followed the unveiling of a letter sent to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, requesting the Red Chamber to confirm Lanre Gbajabiamila as the substantive Director-General of the National Lottery Commission (NLC).
Prior to it, the Senate had a closed-door session, which lasted for almost an hour, where the senators reportedly discussed extensively the “flagrant refusal by the executive to implement resolutions passed by the Senate.”
As soon as it reconvened, Ahmed Yerima from Zamfara State raised Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rules, and argued that since the acting president had already concluded that the Senate lacked the powers to confirm nominees, there was no need to acknowledge any letter from the executive on issues related to confirmation.
The Senate, accordingly, resolved to suspend any confirmation of nominees from the executive until issues relating to the power of the Senate to confirm were resolved.
It also passed a resolution and re-enforced its earlier position that all nominees rejected by the Senate should be relieved of their duties, with particular reference to the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Following his rejection for the second time based on the Department of State Services’ (DSS) report, Osinbajo had declared that Magu did not need senate’s confirmation to become substantive EFCC boss.
But at plenary, yesterday, senators said Osinbajo must withdraw his statement.
Saraki who presided, in his concluding remarks, told Osinbajo to ensure that all resolutions passed by the Senate were implemented.
Saraki said: “This is a matter that we have to address and put behind us. As a society, we cannot pass laws and they will not be obeyed. These resolutions passed by the Senate must be adhered to by the acting president or we hope that he takes appropriate actions.”
Also, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu said the executive must obey the contents of the constitution.
“Let me make it clear that this has nothing to do with the Director-General of Lottery Commission or Ibrahim Magu, but about our constitution. One of the features of the Senate is the power of confirmation. The framers of the constitution gave the power to the Senate.
“If the law says that an appointee requires confirmation, we must obey what the law says. The executive must follow the provisions of the constitution,” Ekweremadu said.
In his contribution, George Sekibo urged his colleagues to take a firm position and reject any attempts to weaken the National Assembly.
“A careful look at what is happening will tell Nigerians that they are trying to indirectly take over our responsibilities. The main function of the National Assembly is to make laws. The clearing of nominees from the president is one of the major functions of the Senate.
“All the various laws made to establish agencies of the Federal Government state that we will confirm nominations into such bodies. When an acting president says that the Senate has no powers to confirm, I wonder if he is familiar with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“In a civilian democracy, there is nothing like an executive order. You cannot wake up and issue executive orders. You cannot also wake up and tell nominees to take over office. This goes contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
“If the acting president said we do not have the powers to confirm and he is sending a name that we confirm, then what do we do? Senate should place a suspension on nomination until we determine whether we have the powers to confirm.”
Isa Misau from Bauchi State accused the executive of always blackmailing the National Assembly to do its bidding.
“It’s like they do not want this National Assembly to function properly… The National Assembly is being blackmailed. They have stormed the house of the deputy president of the Senate and the house of the appropriation committee chairman. They lied that it was the police that carried out the raid. But we know that it was the EFCC. It is time we challenged the executive whenever they attack us,” he declared.
Sam Anyanwu, who warned that legislators might move against the leadership of the Senate if it failed to take a drastic action against the executive within 48 hours, also asked lawmakers to shun any invitation from the EFCC.
Dino Melaye who is currently fighting to fence off recall, warned the executive to stop “playing blues and dance reggae.”
“The executive must stop approbating powers to itself. This is a republic that our founding fathers fought for. In this same chamber, we invited the acting EFCC chairman for a job interview and he failed. We rejected him.
“As I speak, Magu is still parading himself as EFCC chairman. Now, the same executive is sending a name for us to confirm. We confirmed RECs before we went on break. They have sworn-in some people and have refused to do same for others. This Senate leadership must act and take a position. It is time for the Senate to apply force. I am moving a motion that it becomes abominable for the Senate President to read another confirmation letter until the integrity of this Senate is respected by the executive.”
Senate Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, warned against destroying the institution of the Senate.
“These are frightening times. This is because many Nigerians, including many of us here put our lives on the line to ensure that we have democratic governance in Nigeria. We need to remind the republic that the difference between the military and a democratic regime is the existence of the legislature,” he said.