DAILY TIMES : Anxiety as Senate delays confirmation of 60 nominees over Magu


Controversy is now trailing the stance of the Senate to put further confirmation of about 60 nominees from President Muhammadu Buhari on hold, pending action of the President over its rejection of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu. Incidentally, the stand-off between the executive arm and the Senate over the status of Magu has continued to affect the smooth running of the affected Federal Government agencies, The Daily Times can report. 

The Senate had on two occasions rejected Magu on the grounds of adverse report from the DSS. The rumblings between the two arms of government has affected several nominees of Buhari who he considered for appointment several months ago, and who the Senate had refrained from clearing as required by law. 
About 60 nominees of President Buhari are still having their fate hanging in the balance since the Senate continues to put their case in abeyance in protest against the retention of Magu by Buhari as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. 

Most affected government agencies still having problems clearing their nominees in the Senate include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), National Pension Commission (PenCom), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA). 

But the Senate had in March 2017 suspended the process of confirmation of nominees, first for Resident Electoral Commission (RECs) jobs, in protest against the refusal of Buhari to sack Magu as Acting Chairman of EFCC despite rejecting him twice for substantive position as the EFCC Chairman in 2016. 

Although the Senate initially refrained from confirming nominees by Buhari as RECs, it however, had a rethink by resolving to confirm some of them for appointment, acting on the pressure of the process of electioneering, which has started gaining the momentum. A report by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Senator Suleiman Nazif had prompted the Senate to screen and confirm 15 of the nominees for appointment as INEC RECs ahead the 2019 elections. The Senate had said it would no longer recognise Magu as Acting Chairman of EFCC on the basis of negative reports against him by the Department of State Security (DSS) over alleged conduct. 

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Petitions, Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who probed the allegations of misconduct against Magu had said his committee would no longer invite the acting chairman of the EFCC. Meanwhile, the decision by the Senate to use Magu as a bait for setting aside its function on confirmation of nominees from President Buhari for appointments got a temporary boost last Friday as a Federal High Court in Abuja confirmed the lawmakers power to confirm nominee for the EFCC chairman In a judgment delivered on January 15, Justice John Tsoho held that section 2 (3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004, conferred the Senate with the authority to ensure the choice of only suitable and credible persons for appointment into the EFCC’s chairmanship position. Justice Tsoho also held that the import of the EFCC Act was that the Senate has the power to confirm or reject any appointee to the office of the Chairman of the EFCC by the President, based on facts available to it. 

The Senate was in a jubilant mood after the judgement prompting the Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullai Aliyu Sabi, to address the media, calling on President Buhari to nominate a new person for the post of the EFCC Chairman and to be expeditiously confirmed by the Senate. He said: “By this judgment, if the Executive does the needful, provide another Nigerian of credible character, of which we have millions of them – 180 million of them – even by arithmetic error, we should be able to get good people. 

“So, it is our hope and prayer that our amiable president will find this judgment in order and will be submitting very soon, another nominee, to carry on with the good work of anti-corruption, especially now that we are very proud of him as the AU anti-corruption ambassador.” But some critics and a lawyer have faulted the Senate over its celebration of a case in which the court said the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to file the suit. The lawyer, who sought anonymity, said, ” The case of the plaintiff was struck out by the court for want of locus standi. 

It is trite law that once a case is dismissed or struck out by a court for any reason whatsoever it cannot be relied upon to assert any right or exercise any power. “Accordingly, the view expressed by the learned trial judge on the power of the Senate to confirm or reject a person nominated for the post of the chairman of the EFCC by the President pursuant to section 2 of the EFCC Act the finding is of no legal value as the case had been struck out by his Lordship in the same ruling. “In the ruling being celebrated by the Senate, the plaintiff did not pray the court to remove Magu from office and no such order was made by the learned trial judge. In other words, the court not annulled the appointment of Magu as the acting chairman of the EFCC. 

“But it is pertinent to note that the several cases pending in the federal high court on the legal validity of the appointment of Magu as the acting chairman of the EFCC made by the President Buhari in exercise of his powers under section 171 of the Constitution have not been determined by the federal high court. Meanwhile, the Presidency, on Sunday night, kept mum over the delay by the Senate to confirm nominees sent to it by President Buhari. 

Text message sent by one of correspondents to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, was not replied at press time. But Dr. Joe Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin, Chairman, Steering Committee, Movement against Corruption and President, Women Arise for Change, has urged Nigerians to join the EFCC in winning the war against corruption in the country. Odumakin, who was speaking during a courtesy visit to the EFCC on Friday, expressed concern over the impact of corruption in Nigeria, noting that “Nigeria is bleeding under the heavy weight of corruption”. 

She called on Nigerians to take the fight against corruption as a duty saying that, “There is the need for Nigerians to own the fight against corruption because it is not only for Magu and EFCC, but for the citizens to win”. Odumakin attributed the success of the EFCC to the political will of the federal government, noting that Nigerians too can attest this going by what happened recently in Addis Ababa where President Buhari was honoured as the ‘Africa Anti-corruption Champion’ by the African Union, AU. 

She said, “The government has helped in providing an enabling environment for the Commission to thrive”. While urging the Senate to join the wagon of change by confirming Magu as the substantive chairman of EFCC, Odumakin said: “If at the level of Africa, the giant strides of Magu and indeed Nigeria in the fight against corruption is recognised, and if we can realise that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us, then I am appealing to the Senate as true representatives of the people, not to stand against the moving train” Responding, Magu called on Nigerians to eschew all manners corruption as it remains the bane of the country. 

Magu urged the group to take upon itself the zeal to fight corruption, stressing that “it is a duty that must be done”. Urging Nigerians to take ownership of the fight against corruption, Magu challenged individuals as stakeholders in the fight not to shy away from fighting the hydra-headed monster. He said, “Fight corruption the way you can. The fight against corruption should not be left for the EFCC alone. Everybody has a duty to fight corruption. You may not fight corruption the way EFCC is doing, but you can do it through your actions or deeds”. 

The EFCC boss assured the group that despite the odds, he would not give up in the fight against corruption, adding that he would fight the menace this year like never before. Magu said, “Against all adversaries, I remain focused, dogged, committed and determined more than never before to bring all corrupt elements in this country to justice. So, let’s join hands to fight the battle and ensure it is won”. 

He urged the group to continue its efforts in mobilising Nigerians against corruption for the country to attain sustainable development. Okei-Odumakin was accompanied on the visit by Sadiq Daba, veteran actor and ambassador of the Movement Against Corruption. Daba lauded the numerous achievements of the EFCC and urged Magu to continue with his job without fear or favour, saying, “Nigerians are behind you” Other members of the delegation were Olufemi Lawson, Tim Gabriel and Leye Somefun.
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