By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The Senate on Tuesday called out Nigeria’s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to a constitutional fight over Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Senators unanimously resolved today to suspend all confirmation requests from the executive until decisions of the legislature are respected by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
One of the decisions was the non-confirmation of Magu twice by the senate. Senators now wanted Magu sacked immediately.
In a four-prayer motion unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, the Senate frowned at a statement credited to the Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo that the Senate had no power to confirm the chairman of the EFCC.
The decision of the Senate arose from a motion raised by Senator Ahmed Sani following a letter requesting the confirmation of Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila as Director General of the National Lottery Commission.
With particular reference to the rejection of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, the Senate insisted that the Executive must respect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or go to court to seek a redress.
The upper legislative chamber stressed that it was an illegality for Magu to still be parading himself of the chairman of the Commission after being rejected by the body constitutionally empowered to approve or reject his appointment.
The Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was credited as saying that the Senate does not have power to reject the appointment of Magu as Chairman of EFCC.
The Senate therefore frowned at the comment credited to the acting president and approved the following prayers:
“That the Senate suspends all issues relating to confirmation of nominees from the executive until all issues of confirmation as contained in the constitution and laws of the Federation are adhered to.
“The Acting President must respect the constitution and laws as it relates to confirmation of appointments.
“The Acting President should immediately respect rejection of nominees by the senate yes.
“The Acting President should withdraw the statement credited to him that the Senate does not have the power to confirm certain nominees,” the Senate approved.
This is the second time the senate is taking a resolution against the executive for its refusal to adhere to the rejection of Magu and the Chairman of the EFCC.
In March, the Senate suspended the confirmation of INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners to protest the refusal of the executive to implement the legislature’s rejection of Magu as EFCC boss.
The President of the Senate Bukola Saraki who commended Sen. Sani for the motion stressed that the Senate could not continue to make laws and resolutions that would be flagrantly disobeyed.
He urged the Acting President to take appropriate actions on all resolutions and laws of the Senate.
“Distinguished colleagues, let me thank Senator Yerima for coming under Privileges. I think this matter is a very important matter but I think we need to address it once and for all and put it behind us.
“As a society, we can’t pass laws and see these laws not being obeyed. It is very clear these resolutions as passed must be acted upon by the Acting President and ensure that we continue to respect our democracy, our laws and constitution.
“It is not for us to choose which laws we obey and which laws we don’t obey. That is not the way any civilised, modern society works.
“We hope that the Acting President will take appropriate action in line with these resolutions,” he said.
While contributing to the motion, Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu said that the constitutional provision upon which Osinbajo made his comment only applied to personal staff of the President.
Ekweremadu therefore stressed that the Senate is adequately empowered by law to confirm or reject any appointment by the President.
Sen. George Thomson Sekibo said that it appeared like there was a calculated action to quieten the National Assembly.
He however stressed that there was a clear constitutional provision that empowered the Senate to confirm all appointees of the President.
“If the Acting President says we do not have power to return any nomination I wonder if he is in touch with the EFCC Act: The EFCC Act states that the President shall nominate and Senate will confirm.
“If you reject one law, you have will reject the constitution. The Constitution did not give room for acting appointment after a nominee has been rejected by the Senate.
“If the Acting President says we do not have the power to confirm and then turns around to send us a nomination, which one do we now take?
“I think Senate should put a suspension on this nomination until this issue is resolved so that we know if we have the power to confirm or not,” he said.
For Sen. Isah Hamman Misau, sending a candidate to the senate for confirmation amounted to double standards by the Acting President Osinbajo.
He said that the senate must stand and face the challenges against the institution.
“If the executive was not ready for democracy then they should tell us and propose another system of government,” he said.
Senator Sam Anyanwu in his view said that the Senate should not even be accepting nomination letters from the executive, let alone considering them on the floor of the Senate.
He said that the comment of the Acting President had given impetus for more comments, adding that a report this morning was calling for the senate to be scrapped.
“We must try to stand our ground. If the leadership doesn’t do anything about this matter within 48 hours, we would move against this leadership,” he said.
Senator Dino Melaye, who is currently facing threat of recall, also added that the senate must not accept the comment of Prof. Osinbajo.
Melaye said that the National Assembly which is a mark of democracy, must not be allowed to be destroyed.
“It is time for the Senate to tell the executive arm of government that it must stop approbating and reprobating.
“Magu came for a job interview and failed and he was rejected. As we speak, Magu is still parading himself as the chairman of EFCC.
“The integrity of the Senate is at stake. This senate cannot be disregarded and insulted: our authority to confirm cannot be eroded.
“I am moving a motion that it becomes abominable to read any other confirmation report in this chamber until they act on our position.
“Those who have failed should go back. Magu is not the last Nigerian Angel. He can serve this country in another capacity,” Melaye said.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye, the Chief Whip of the Senate reminded the executive that the difference between Military rule and Democracy was the existence of the legislature.
“Whether you serve in the executive, legislature or judiciary, everyone is called to obey the laws of the republic.
“If there is any law passed by NASS, signed by the President and gazetted, no one has the permission to dance around that law.
“Whoever has a problem with any law should go to court. Until a court declares it null and void, it remains the law of the land. Anyone who does not respect it is breaking the law of the land.
“I want to say here that I voted yes for Magu, but this is not about my view. The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria voted no and I stand with the Senate.