Executive, Senate Face-off may Linger over Magu

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Damilola Oyedele

The disagreement between the Executive and the Senate which deepened following the decision of the upper legislative chamber not to confirm Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may worsen in the coming weeks.

This is because almost six weeks after Magu’s rejection based on the report of the Department of State Services (DSS), which indicted him for “criminal and unprofessional conduct”, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to formally respond to the Senate memo, which conveyed the rejection to him.

The Senate, in response, placed a two-week suspension on the screening process for the confirmation of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as on ministerial nominees.

The two-week suspension has since expired.
Sources told THISDAY that since the president had refused to take any action despite the two-week suspension, the lawmakers might be in a dilemma over the next step to adopt.

“There was no official communication from the president. We only heard the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, say the appointment of Magu does not need legislative approval. So why send him to us in the first place. So we need a clearer interpretation of Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution,” a lawmaker said.

He added: “We take those comments seriously coming from the VP, echoing a lawyer like Falana. As things are, a good number of senators are pushing that the Senate takes the media reports of the Presidency’s position on Section 171 as government’s position since the reports have not been refuted.

“Recall that the famous motion called Doctrine of Necessity was passed based on a broadcast from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which was taken as communication from the then late President Umaru Yar’Adua.”
Another lawmaker noted that the position of Osinbajo, which might translate to that of the presidency, officially indicated that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan might have acted against the Constitution.

“It would also mean that Buhari himself erred by sending nominees to us for confirmation before now. We would, therefore, need clarification on whether legislative approval is needed for the RECs, the ministers and the nominees for the board of Central Bank and the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission), and the nomination of the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) before we know how to proceed,” he added.

THISDAY gathered that the Senate may have also been buoyed by the position of the House of Representatives, which urged the president to seek an interpretation of Section 171, from the Supreme Court.
Attempts to seek further clarification from the Senate spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, failed as his mobile numbers could not be reached.

THISDAY had reported that the reconciliation committee set up by the Executive and headed by Osinbajo to resolve all issues regarding nominations and confirmations is yet to formally contact the Senate.