- Says constitutional nominees not affected by suspension threat
- Rejects Nigerâ€™s nominee
Damilola Oyedele in Abujaâ€¨a
The Senate thursday confirmed eight persons as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It, however, withheld the confirmation of the nominees from Lagos, Kebbi and Zamfara States for further legislative consultation.
Adopting the recommendation of its Committee on INEC, the Senate rejected the nomination of the nominee from Niger State, Prof. Mustapha Zubairu, whom it noted, hails from the same local government as the INEC Federal Commissioner representing North-central in the commission, Mr. Mohammed Haruna.
INEC is specifically listed in Section 153 (sub-section F) of the constitution, as one of the bodies for which confirmation shall be sought for the appointment of the Chairman and members.
During the confirmation yesterday, the Senate clarified that executive nominations explicitly outlined in the 1999 Constitution, concerning confirmation by it are not affected by its recent resolution to suspend all issues relating to confirmation of executive nominees.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, made the clarification in response to a point of personal explanation raised by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) who cited newspapers as reporting that the Senate has backed down from its resolution, following the laying of the report on the screening of the RECs, on Wednesday.
Saraki noted that the constitution explicitly stated the nominations of ambassadors, ministers and bodies, as contained in relevant sections.
Abaribe had said he was inundated by calls from his constituents on the matter, as the constituency is yet to be represented on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Chairman of the Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), while presenting the committeeâ€™s report, said the nominees whose confirmations were recommended, have been cleared by the security agencies.
He added that the nominees from Kebbi (Dr. Mahmuda Isah) and Zamfara (Ahmad Bello Mahmud) were stood down for â€œfurther legislative consultations.â€
The nominees whose appointments were confirmed by the Senate are Dr. Asmau Sani Maikudi (Katsina), Sam Olugbadebo Olumeku (Ondo), Prof. Riskuwa Shehu (Sokoto), Mr. Kasim Gama Geidam (Yobe), Jibrin Ibrahim Zarewa (Kano), Abdulganiyu Olayinka Raji (Oyo), Prof. Samuel Egwu (Kogi) and Mr. Mike Igini (Delta).
Meanwhile the decision to withhold the confirmation of the nominee from Lagos, Ambassador Rufus Oloruntoyin Akeju, was taken by the lawmakers when Senator Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti South) produced a document which she claimed was a â€œcourt rulingâ€ relating to Akejuâ€™s nomination.
â€œMr. President, I have a court ruling against him, saying he cannot be confirmed as REC. He went to appeal but his appeal was struck out. He appealed but lost it. The document is here with me,â€ she said.
Upon enquiries by the Senate President, Nazif said he was not aware of any court ruling.
The sudden development caused a sharp divide among the lawmakers, with some arguing that it should be of no consequence as the screening process was already concluded, while others argued that a judicial pronouncement must be respected.
The Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), argued that despite the court ruling, the Senate should go ahead and confirm Akeju, since he has undergone and been cleared at the screening.
His position was echoed by Senator Olamilekan Adeola who is from Lagos state as the nominee.
He argued that the nominee had no issues challenging his eligibility during the screening and said â€œlet us look beyond this because of Nigerians who have put their trust in this man. Let us give him the opportunity to serve this country.â€
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) however argued that while the doctrine of the separation of powers is sacroscant, a judicial pronouncement cannot be ignored by the legislature.
He added that stepping down the confirmation of the nominee does not indicate his rejection.
Similarly Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said the Senate or National Assembly is not constitutionally empowered to handle a judicial matter.
Ekweremadu advised that the matter be referred to the INEC Committee to study the court ruling and proffer a recommendation.
â€œWe need to send it back because even the Supreme Court has said that we cannot sit here as an appeal court in judicial processes. That is why we have separation of powers,â€ he added.
Following a voice vote, Saraki directed the INEC committee to study the ruling.
â€œSenator Nazif, based on the document given to you by Olujimi, do more legislative work on it and come back and give us a report on this matter,â€ Saraki said.
The Senateâ€™s resolution to suspend confirmation issue was hinged on the need for a clarification on its powers of confirmation, which was called to question by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, following the continued retention of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, despite his rejection twice, by the Senate.
Maguâ€™s nomination as substantive head of the anti-graft commission was rejected twice by the Senate, based on a report of the Department of State Services (DSS) which indicted him for criminal and unprofessional conduct.
The resolution had read: â€œThat 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.â€