The raging controversy between the Senate and the Presidency is yet to abate over the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
New Telegraph’s investigations at the weekend revealed that the Senate has vowed never to reconsider Magu for confirmation for the plum job, after he failed to scale through the hurdle in the last two consecutive attempts.
A reliable source in the Senate told our correspondent that the apex chamber had resolved to give zero allocation to the anti-graft commission in the 2017 fiscal year, if the Presidency tried to leave Magu indefinitely in acting capacity.
The commission’s 2017 budget proposal had been reduced by the Budget Office from N18.8 billion in 2016 to N17 billion, representing 8.5 per cent slash, a situation that Magu decried when he came to the National Assembly recently for budget defence.
The source further revealed that the Senate started planning for zero allocation for EFCC when it suspected that President Muhammadu Buhari might decide to resubmit Magu’s name for confirmation or quietly allow him to continue in acting capacity. Our correspondent was reliably informed that the Senate would not pass the 2017 budget in a hurry because of the Magu saga, noting that passage of the document might be put on hold for this reason.
“The Senate is waiting for the Presidency to take the next decision on Magu and then it will unfold its next plan to checkmate the excesses and dictatorial tendencies already evident in the present administration, especially within the Presidency.
“If Magu’s name is resubmitted for confirmation, I can tell you that it is dead on arrival. But if the President wants to play a fast one on the Senate, by tactically allowing him to remain in acting capacity indefinitely, then we as the representatives of the people will have no option than to apply our constitutional powers in order to defend the people.
“I can assure you, EFCC will receive zero allocation; and if they go ahead to fund the agency without the National Assembly approving such funds, then that will amount to obvious breach of the constitution, and I am sure you know the implication of that,” the source said.
Meanwhile, senators have warned that Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign would be in serious jeopardy if the President allowed Magu to continue in office as the acting chairman, after being rejected twice by the Senate.
Senator Sonni Ogbuoji argued that Magu’s case had placed serious moral burden on the President to do what is right. “It won’t be proper for the President to leave him to continue in acting capacity when security report says he (Magu) is corrupt and would be a liability to his anti-corruption fight. I believe that no President of a nation is expected to discountenance security report.
“We as a Senate and the representatives of the people cannot force Buhari to remove Magu, but you know that leaving him there raises a lot of questions on the sincerity and credibility of his anti-corruption war,” Oguoji told New Telegraph.
Spokesman for the Senate, Aliyu Sabi, told our correspondent that he was persuaded that President Buhari knew the grave implication of retaining Magu or resending his name to the Senate for confirmation would have on the anti-corruption programme of his administration.
Sabi posited that he did not expect the president or any other person or group to rubbish or take the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) for granted, being a constitutionally recognised and well-respected institution of government over the years. “Are we saying that the DSS is incompetent? I need an answer from whoever may be advising the President not to remove Magu or to resend his name to the Senate.
“Are we saying that the DSS should now be rubbished and made object of ridicule? I insist that doing anything to rubbish the DSS would amount to rubbishing Nigerians. Doing so would also amount to rubbishing the institution. But I think the President knows better,” he said.
He, however, declined to comment on what the Senate would do if Buhari resubmits Magu’s name to the apex chamber for confirmation, saying, “I am sure that when we get to the bridge we will cross it.” Senator Dino Melaye pointed out that there is a provision in the Senate Rules, which would not permit the Red Chamber to reconsider Magu for the same position.
Melaye cited Order 131 of the Senate Rules, saying that after the rejection of Magu’s nomination, his candidacy was considered to have elapsed and, therefore, advised the President to consider a fresh nominee who would qualify, in terms of experience, integrity, knowledge and temperament, to lead the anti-graft commission.
Order 131 of the Senate Rules states: “Nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session or within 21 working days in the case of ministerial nominees shall be returned by the Clerk to the National Assembly to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and shall not again be made to the Senate by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He further observed that, apart from the security report against Magu, the embattled EFCC boss did not impress senators who would have been sympathetic to his cause during the confirmation.