• Suspends confirmation of 27 INEC RECs until decision on EFCC chair’s rejection is implemented
From FRED ITUA, Abuja
The senate yesterday gave President Muhammadu Buhari the marching order to relieve the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu of his job.
The sabre-rattling Senators vowed not to consider or confirm the 27 names of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), if Buhari failed to respect the outcome of their decision to sack the anti-graft boss.
To prove that it is prepared to walk its talk, the Red Chamber announced the suspension of confirmatory hearing on the REC nominees for two weeks to enable the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki “discuss” with the executive.
Buhari had forwarded the list of REC nominees to the Red Chamber last week for confirmation.
For the second time, Magu was rejected two weeks ago by the Senate on account of a damning report from the Department of State Services (DSS).
At plenary yesterday, the Senators said it was wrong of Buhari to continue to keep Magu in an acting capacity, despite their resolution that he should be outrightly replaced.
But the presidency reacted yesterday through Senator Ita Enang, the president’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, saying it would respect the decision of the lawmakers and toe the path of dialogue.
“We will not question the power of the senators to take decision on how they want to conduct nomination hearings. We will not go fighting with them,” Enang told an online medium.
But he declined to say if the president would replace Magu, saying he will “not go into specifics.”
Adopting a motion sponsored by Peter Nwaoboshi from Delta State, the Senate directed its president to within two weeks, convey its position about the non-replacement of Magu to Buhari and report back to allow it take further legislative actions on the matter.
Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, had in a separate motion urged the Senate to consider the nomination of the REC designate in accordance with sections 14 (3)(a) of the Third Schedule of the constitution, as amended.
Reacting, Nwaoboshi drew the attention to what he called the disgraceful manner in which Senate’s decision against Magu was being treated by the President.
He specifically expressed disappointment with remarks made by the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay that the president could ignore the decision of the Senate and continue to keep Magu in an acting capacity.
The senator said the REC nominees be sent back to the President.
“Prof. Itse Sagay went to the press and said that the Senate merely confirms.
“This is not expected of somebody who had lectured constitutional law in the university and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and of course, chairman of such a big body to say that the legislature merely confirms and that the legislature has no power.
“Here we are again, being given a list to confirm and we will merely confirm. Look at the list. We have eight of them out of 27 that are for reappointment. That means they are acting already. They are already working. Prof. Sagay will state again Section 171 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria even if we do not confirm them. He will say they should continue to fight. They are telling Mr. President to disregard and disrespect the institution of the legislature.
“Let us not take such a precedence. We cannot destroy our democracy because certain persons feel that it is only their belief or what they want that will happen in this country. This country does not belong to them. This country belongs to the Nigerian people. The Nigerian people have elected us. They have given the power to look into those names sent to us for confirmation and to look into their credentials.
“We could have ignored it, but for somebody of that status, we will not. My position on this matter is that since our confirmation is merely a formality, let us suspend it until we know whether we have the power as given to us by the constitution to look into confirmation matters or any other status,” he said.
“We cannot keep confirming names or turning down names of nominees of Mr. President only for them to be put in a basket. These persons cannot keep acting even when we have turned them down because as it is now, they are acting and their names have been sent in for confirmation and we do not know what has happened in the case of the EFCC.
“Specifically speaking, is he acting today? If the President knew that he was not going to honour our refusal or rejection of his nominee, he should not have sent his name in the first place which would have meant an outright violation of the law establishing EFCC and of course the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(1999) as amended.”
However, Adamu Aliero, disagreed as he urged his colleagues to look beyond the failings of the executive and confirm the nominees in the interest of the forthcoming general elections.
Meanwhile, Saraki, has again alleged that unnamed persons were blackmailing the Senate, even as he said the Red Chamber would not be intimidated.
The Senate also vowed to protect its integrity, by doing whatever it would take to ensure that it was not taken for granted, while discharging its Constitutional responsibilities.
The Senate, which made the position known after an hour and 30 minutes closed-door session, said it took the decision, following series of coordinated attacks against it by external forces.
President of the Senate, Senator Saraki, who made the disclosure, did not give details or identity of the external forces.
Saraki said: “The Senate in a closed session, discussed the various attacks on the National Assembly, especially on the Senate, for performing its constitutional duties.
“And the Senate resolved to defend the integrity of the Senate against such attacks and will not be intimidated from carrying our constitutional duties at all times.”
The Senate’s position, may not be unconnected to its recent face-off with key members of the executive, particularly the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (retd) and the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal.