By Lucy Osuizigbo
A Professor of Political Science, Femi Otubanjo, has urged the legislative and executive arms of government to approach the Supreme Court to resolve their differences over the retention of Mr Ibrahim Magu in office.
He spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Sunday, on the backdrop of the latest face-off between the two arms over Magu’s continuation as Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Senate had on July 4 moved against the Presidency over the retention of Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC despite his rejection by the legislature.
It resolved to suspend all confirmation requests from the executive until decisions of the legislature are adhered to.
The decision arose from a motion raised by Sen. 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 Magu, the Senate insisted that the Executive must respect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or go to court to seek redress.
The Senate 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 should withdraw the statement credited to him that the Senate does not have the power to confirm certain nominees,” the Senate said.
Otubanjo said the way to resolve the issue was to go to the apex court to make a declaration on the matter.
He said that in Magu’s case, through legal intervention, there is a position that according to the constitution, the EFCC is not one of those institutions whose chief executive ought to be confirmed by the senate.
“But the EFCC Act states that the Chairman of the EFCC, after being appointed by the President, must be confirmed by the Senate.
”Suddenly, because the presidency has an interest in this person, they are now saying they ought not to send Magu to the Senate for confirmation, but the senate still insists their decision must stand in Magu’s case.
”The solution now is to go to the constitutional court which is the supreme court for interpretation that the President ought not to have sent the name or ought to have sent it.
”Now it is a conflict between the EFCC Act and the constitution. Although the EFCC Act should submit to the constitution, the court has to declare it.
”We cannot destabilise the country over an issue for which there is provision for the court to adjudicate and decide who is right between the presidency and the senate, ” he said.
Otubanjo also spoke on the Amnesty Bill for treasury looters, describing it as an ambitious one, aimed at helping to recover most of the nation’s looted funds.
Mr Linus Okorie, a lawmaker representing PDP- Ebonyi, sponsored the Bill which seeks to give looters immunity to any form of probe, inquiry or prosecution after fulfilling some conditions.
Part of the conditions is to allow persons, who had acquired such money or assets illegally to voluntarily declare it and forfeit part through tax and percentage surcharge.
Such persons would also not be compelled by any authority to disclose the source of the funds.
The bill is currently awaiting second reading in the House of Representatives.
”On the surface, the amnesty bill looks a little bit unserious and frivolous, but is not when looked at properly.
“The objective is to get as much money back as possible; it is not to give blanket amnesty to whoever must have stolen public funds.
” First, you have to declare that you have done so. Secondly, you have to return the money and thirdly you get some relief from the state.
” So, that’s a big process; it is not something that is intended just to gratuitously give away pardon to people who have stolen public funds,’’ he said.
Otubanjo, however, said that a challenge to the bill achieving its objective is the fact that not many people will easily admit that they have stolen, or be able to return what they have stolen.
”Arresting people who have stolen can also make them return what they have stolen,’’ he said.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise for Change Initiative and the Campaign for Democracy, who also spoke on the bill, urged the house of representatives to throw it out without delay.
She said that the Bill did not mean well for Nigeria as it would foster a culture of impunity in which corruption would become the norm, rather than the exception.
”It will encourage corruption as it would be seen that once you steal to the maximal level the state will bargain with you instead of punishing you,” she said.