By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja.
A shut down of the Federal Government of Nigeria may be looming with signals coming in from the parliament Tuesday.
Senators have stood down the consideration of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners, because of what they perceive as disrespect for the institution of the Senate with the continued retention of twice rejected Ibrahim Magu as acting head of dreaded anti-graft agency, EFCC.
Senators spoke strongly today against Magu’s retention and comments credited to Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Itse Sagay, a presidential appointee, who continues to insist that Magu can continue to act, even if unconfirmed by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
But the two weeks stand down on the RECs, it was gathered, may be the opening for the make or mar negotiations to take place over Magu.
Shortly before the decision to stand down the screening of the RECs, Senators frowned at the manner the Executive Arm was carrying on.
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi recalled how the American Senate recently rejected President Donald Trump’s nominee for office of National Security Adviser.
“What am I saying? Issues like this have to transcend the issue of political parties or where you have lived for the interest of Nigerians and also to protect our constitution and protect our democracy.
“Recently in this Senate, we have dealt with the issue of confirmation and where are we today, the chairman of the presidential committee on anti-corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay went to the press and said that the Senate merely confirms. This is not expected of somebody who had lectured constitutional law in the university, a professor of Law, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and of course a chairman of such a big body to say that the legislature merely confirms. That is, the legislature has no power.
“Here are we again today, now be given a list to confirm and we merely confirm. Look at the list here, we have eightof them here out of 27, eight of them are for reappointment which means they are acting already, they are already working and they are still in position. Prof. Sagay will start again Section 171 subsection (d) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria even if we don’t confirm them he will say continue to act. You can imagine this kind of advise that this kind of persons are giving to Mr President. They are telling Mr President to disregard and disrespect an institution the legislature.
He advised the Senate not to accept such precedent which is capable of destroying democracy.
“But when you denigrate such an institution that have the power to confirm and used the word merely. We could have ignore it but for somebody of that status. My position on this matter is that since our confirmation is merely let us suspend it until wee now know whether we have the power as given to us by the constitution to look into confirmation matters or any other status.”
Senator Matthew Uroghide agreed with Nwaoboshi adding that the Upper House of the parliament was only performing its function in rejecting some nominees.
“We are only performing our statutory role and if by chance, Mr President sends a name to the Senate for confirmation and they are not confirmed. What happens is that the president is at liberty to send another name but it must be that the Senate too must be properly informed of what has happened by confirmation either the one that has been upheld or the one that has been turned down by the Senate. We deserve the right to know.
“We cannot keep confirming names or turning down names of nominees of Mr President only for them …about our decision particularly the one that happened recently we don’t know what has happened. These persons cannot keep acting even when we have turned them down because as it is now they are acting and their names have been sent in for confirmation and we don’t know what has happened in the case of the EFCC. Specifically speaking, is he acting today. If the president knew that he was not going to honour our refusal or rejection of his nominee they shouldn’t have sent him in the first place which would have meant an outright violation of the law establishing EFCC and of course the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”
Senator Adamu Aliero, however, disagreed with his colleagues, especially in the matter of the 27 RECs because it would ensure the smooth conduct of the 2019 election.
“There is already an impression that is created particularly by the media that the INEC is not ready for the conduct of 2019 election and 2019 election is very crucial to us and the preparation and the conduct of the 2019 election is the reason for the submission of resident electoral commissioners to the Senate for screening and approval.
“Without that INEC will never be ready for the 2019 elections even though what he said is true, I want to ask (that we) consider the screening of this list and if there is any observation on any nominee it should be done at the screening stage.”
Francis Alimekhana took exception to the position of Aleiro, noting that what is worth doing should be done well.
“There is no need to disapprove one and he goes back to say you can continue to act. The EFCC chairman that we disqualified in this hall, is he acting? Among the report that are agog in the papers he is behind it. Magu is terrorising us because we disqualified him and we cannot hide it. We disqualified Magu and he is terrorising our people because we disqualified him and he is still acting and they are still bringing in confirmation for us to confirm. If they know they can do it alone, let them do it. ”
Deputy Leader Ibn Na’Allah observed that the unfolding drama is a defining moment in the journey to nationhood.
“Having had the privilege of being a leader in this Senate I have always prided myself with the fact that this Senate is imbued with men of intelligence, courage and character with determination to play a fundamental role in our journey towards nationhood. I have always said that it consists of former governors, former ministers, former captains of industries what that means is that at each point that we are been called upon to decide on an issue that affects this nation, we must show that we have superiority of thinking and we have more committment than those anti-democratic forces that survive outside the chambers of the National Assembly. I think this is one situation where that call is relevant and important.
“I share the sentiments of my colleagues on this issue. I am in great difficulty to disagree with more convincing reasons as to why I think the Senate will thread cautiously on the request by my colleagues for us to stand down this. I think this matter is going to be referred to the committee, we still have enough time.”