Monday, March 27, 2017

Magu's Rejection: I Stand With The Senate (II)

By Ochereome Nnanna
Having examined the retired Colonel Hameed Ali versus the Senate saga, let us take a look on another contentious issue: the Ibrahim Magu screening controversy.
President Buhari and Sen Pres Saraki 
So many people have said their minds on this matter, which is their constitutional right. There are those who blame the Senate for the long-drawn impasse and difficulty in getting Ibrahim Mustapha Magu confirmed as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Some have alleged that in rejecting Magu’s candidacy, the Senate constitutes itself into a “parallel government”. Others say they want to “collect the power” from President Muhammadu Buhari and frustrate him from implementing the “change” he promised Nigerians.
The one I found most interesting was the submission of Chief Robert Clark, a respected lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, with usually sound perspectives on legal and current affairs. He appeared on Channels TV and was all over the place, lamenting that the Senate’s treatment of Magu was “a slap on the face of the President; a slap on the faces of Nigerians”.
The impression being given by all these shades of opinion is that the Presidency has played its own part neatly only to be messed up by the Senate. Another impression is that the Federal Government is all about President Muhammadu Buhari, the Presidency he commands and the Cabinet he has at his disposal. In other words, the Executive Branch alone is the Government. On both counts I beg to disagree. First of all, let us track the facts of this story.
Following the sack of Ibrahim Lamorde as the EFCC Chairman, Magu, another police officer, was nominated as his successor in acting capacity. One would have expected that President Buhari, cognisant of the sensitive nature of the EFCC Chairman’s duties, would immediately send Magu’s name to Senate for confirmation. Instead, Buhari delayed this issue between 9th November 2015 and 14th July 2016, when his Deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President, submitted Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation when the President was away on his foreign medicals.
The delay was a tactical blunder because in his nine months as Acting Chairman, Magu had made enemies as any anti-corruption Czar naturally would. Up to a third of members of the Senate, being politicians, are said to be in the anti-corruption Commission’s radar. If Buhari had quickly sent Magu’s name after carefully choosing him as the right man to headlight his anti-corruption fight (he could always sack him if Magu later proved himself unworthy), the allegation that the senators did not want to confirm him because he was already after some of them would not have risen.
Take note that the same sloppy manner in which the President delayed sending Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation was repeated in the case of Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen. It was also Osinbajo, as Acting President for the second time, who saved the situation by sending Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation in Buhari’s absence. Only the heavens know what would have been Onnoghen’s situation if Buhari had not travelled for medical vacation and handed over presidential powers to his Deputy. The same trend runs in so many other departments of government, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, where 33 states remain without Resident Electoral Commissioners, while the National Commissioners still lack a dignified quorum.
The second and more obvious area where the Presidency messed up Magu’s matter is the worrisome signs of infighting among the President’s men (and women). How can the Presidency send its main anti-corruption Czar’s name to the Senate for confirmation and the nation’s foremost national security institution, the State Security Services, SSS, would tender two conflicting security reports to the Senate reprobating in one breath and approbating in the other? The fact that SSS reiterated its earlier stand questioning Magu’s integrity and fitness for the job clearly showed where the organisation really stands on this matter. Yet, EFCC, SSS and the Attorney General of the Federation, all report to the President.
From the look of it, the Presidency is factionalised on Magu’s candidacy. Those in support of his approval by the Senate include VP Osinbajo, First Lady, Aisha Buhari and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC. Those in opposition (it seems) include interests in the SSS and members of the President’s “kitchen cabinet”, whom First Lady Aisha had alluded to as “outsiders” of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who have taken over the Buhari government.
The question that remains unanswered is: where is our President, Muhammadu Buhari, in all this? When former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Malam Nuhu Ribadu as the pioneer Executive Chairman of the EFCC in 2003, there was no question as to where he stood throughout Ribadu’s tempestuous and controversial regime during which he was reappointed for a second term.
Now, with this vacuum occasioned by lack of a central anchor in the Presidency, added to the serial unfavourable reports of the SSS against Magu, the Senate cannot be blamed for rejecting his candidacy. People are saying that since the President had written back to the Senate “clearing” Magu of SSS’s allegations of unfitness for the job there is no need for them to entertain the SSS’s second indictment of the nominee. I beg to disagree. It was the Presidency (through its sloppy strategy and lack of decisive stand on Magu’s candidacy) that gave the Senate the whip to lash Magu. The Buhari regime should have lear nt from the experience of its Obasanjo predecessor, but of course, it was part of the “sixteen years of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, “rot”.
Taking the Col. Hameed Ali and Mr. Ibrahim Magu episodes at the Senate together, I wish to remind Nigerians that we are in a democracy. During military rule, we only had the Executive and the Judiciary. While the Executive had its own unelected “ruling council” handpicked by the Head of State who composed it to rubberstamp his decrees and policies as a quasi-legislative body, the Judiciary functioned in limited capacity because the military suspended some sections of the constitution to enable them ride roughshod over the polity.
The restoration of democracy meant that constitutional rule had become full-blown once again, and the Legislative arm, an assembly of elected representatives of our various peoples, was back in full spate. The democratic government is now composed of three arms: the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. Many people (including those who hold the views canvassed by Chief Clark above) think the Federal Government is only the Executive; the National Assembly is seen as a mere “meddlesome interloper”  as lawyers would say. That is absolute bunkum.
The Legislature, under our Presidential System, is that part of the government. They have the constitutional power and mandate to represent our interests, make laws, appropriate the national purse, supervise how it is being spent, as well as ensure that general governance by the Executive is carried out in a way as to benefit the people they represent (you and I).
It is in this light that their summons of Col. Hameed Ali, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and any other citizen over any matter whatsoever as guaranteed by Section 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is their rightful role in governance. They also have the right to approve certain appointees of the Executive to fulfill their role in the checks and balances mechanism of our democracy.
The Senate, (perhaps, more than the House of Representatives) of the Eighth National Assembly, has stood up for Nigerians to prevent the Executive’s ingrained reflex of military impunity from derailing our democracy. What the Senators are doing is a slap on the face of impunity and dictatorship; it is not a slap on the faces of Nigerians. I urge them never to be intimidated by noisemakers, some of whom are motivated by selfish interests.
As a democrat I stand with the Senate!

Read Part One Here

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