REACTIONS yesterday trailed Senate’s rejection of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu as the agency’s substantive chair.
The Upper Chamber’s action came exactly three months after it declined to confirm Presidency’s preferred nominee for the EFCC top job. It hinged its action on a Department of State Services (DSS) Report.
Reacting to the Red Chamber’s action, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) said no law stops President Muhammadu Buhari from re-appointing Magu as EFCC’s acting or sending his name again to the Senate for confirmation.
According to him, it was possible that some senators were not comfortable with Magu due to his enthusiastic crusade against corruption.
Sagay said since the Senate only has a constitutional role to confirm and not to appoint, the person who has the right to appoint can do so again.
His words: “They know that Magu has been outstanding in the fight against corruption, and that his achievements have simply been extremely praiseworthy. He’s been consistent; he’s committed. He’s a man of high integrity and his productivity has been high.
“The only reason they will refuse to confirm him is that they decided to be perverse on this occasion for reasons best known to them. Probably it’s known to everybody.
“Maybe it’s because he’s just too good for the job, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with people like that who are committed and determined to root out corruption from the country. That’s what it is.
“They have done their own part of the job – very good. They don’t appoint, they merely confirm. So, the appointor will continue to appoint.”
Asked if Magu’s name could be re-submitted to the Senate for confirmation, Sagay said: “There is nothing stopping that. There is no provision in the EFCC Act that prohibits a man’s name being brought up again and again and again.”
Another SAN, Dr. Paul Ananaba, said in the absence of any law against Magu’s re-nomination, President Buhari could to re-present him for Senate screening.
He said: “The Senate’s rejection of Magu does not mean that he cannot be re-presented by President Buhari. There is no law limiting the number of times a nomination can be made.
“But as it stands, the president’s nomination has not been approved by the Senate. The Senate is doing its duty within the Constitution. It is not expected to be a rubber stamp.
“In a case where the Senate finds that it is unable, for some reason or no reason, to approve a nomination sent to it, that is the position of the Senate. I see nothing extraordinary about it.
“It happened during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s time, when he nominated Prof. Babalola Aborisade several times.If the Senate must approve every nomination, then there’s no basis for Senate approval.”
Urging the President to re-examine the lawmakers’ reasons for their decision, Ananaba said: “If the Senate has rejected Magu a second time, I think it’s time for the President to take a second look at the position of the Senate.”
But, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), said that since the Senate has rejected Magu twice, some other person should be considered.
His words: “The Senate has the constitutional duty to confirm the EFCC chair. It has rejected Magu twice on account of negative security report by the Department of State Services (DSS).
“I don’t believe Mr. Magu is the only capable, honest and qualified person for the job in our country! We should move on.”
Activist lawyer Mike Ozekhome said the President can no longer represent Magu ‘s name to the Senate “because of the serious moral burden, ethical challenges and legal impediments thus imposed on him with this second definitive rejection, this time after a full screening.”
Ozekhome, a senior advocate, is being tried for receiving N75 million from Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose. The lawyer insists that the funds were meant to defray the costs of legal services his chambers rendered to the governor.
He said re-presenting Magu’s name will raise more questions than answers as to why the insistence on one man.
Ozekhome said: “This is unlike the first instance when Senate merely turned him down without any screening. That it was done shortly after the celebrated arrival of President Buhari from his medical vacation makes it more interesting and more significant as it underlines the independence of the legislature.
“Magu’s tenure should have nothing to do with efficiency and effectiveness alone, which he apparently possesses. The role of the number one anti-corruption czar should be more.
“It should also embody the finest and most edifying virtues of nobility in terms of observance of citizens’ fundamental rights and the all-important rule of law concept.
“The anti- corruption war has so far been fought without a human face, in the most crude, most bizarre, most discriminatory and most degrading manner that diminishes the humanity.
“It is high time for President Buhari to look for another competent Nigerian out of about 180 million population, after all, there was once a Nuhu Ribadu, a Mrs Waziri and a Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. The cliche goes thus: ‘soldiers go, soldiers come, Barracks remain.”
Constitutional lawyer and author Sebastine Hon (SAN), urged President Buhari not to present Magu again for confirmation.
Hon said: “The reason is plain enough: it is nigh impossible for the DSS to make a U-turn, after twice launching out against Mr. Magu; and secondly, the Senate has not shown any intention of dumping the DSS.
“To Mr. Magu, I will personally say he has done well, at least in my personal but limited perception. However, it does appear the position of substantive EFCC chairman is not his now.
“I don’t subscribe to the insinuation that 109 eminent Nigerians sitting in the upper legislative chamber, coming from different political and cultural persuasions, will act twice in unison for no justifiable reason.
“In this case, damning reports have twice been written by the DSS against the person of Mr. Magu, which reports constituted the basis of Senate’s twice rejection of Mr. Magu.”
Expressing his belief that Magu has done exceptionally well to deserve confirmation by the Senate, Hon said he lacks the moral justification to insist the DSS, with its far investigative reach was only playing games or being economical with the truth by twice moving against his confirmation.
“Let me boldly say that if the DSS and the Senate are acting in some insidious conspiracy, Nigeria is finished! I will, indeed, warn the two regulatory bodies that there is nothing hidden that will one day not be exposed, supposing they are playing such games!”, he stated.
The senior lawyer reiterated that Senate confirmation hearings are not jamborees but are weighty constitutional exercises requiring deep public interest considerations, noting that the Constitution’s framers did not insert this sine qua non for the appointment of certain categories of public officers just for the fun of it.
According to him, the aim was to ensure checks and balances so that Nigeria will not at any given time have a despotic President who will be ridding rough shod on the national psyche and consequently be toying with the commonwealth.
Lagos lawyer and law teacher Wahab Shittu said notwithstanding the Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu, he can continue to act in office at the pleasure of President Buhari.
Shittu said: “Magu represents one of our very best in terms of competence, character and commitment to the anti-corruption war.”
The lawyer, who also prosecutes for EFCC, described the Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu as unfortunate.
His words: “It means Magu is paying a huge price for loyalty to the Nigerian nation for his commitment to anti-corruption war and for his unquestionable integrity.
“It is a sin in Nigeria for someone to be loyal to a worthy cause, to be indelibly honest and to be uncompromising on matters of principle.”
Another Lagos-based lawyer, Collins Okeke, of the Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), said: “I believe this is the end of the road for Mr. Magu. I doubt President Buhari will re-present his name to the senate.
“I am, however, concerned about the image of the Presidency. Why would the president nominate or re-submit the name of a candidate who was disqualified by the DSS, an agency under the same Presidency. The entire scenario is strange.”
The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has condemned the ill-advised decision of the Senate to again reject the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“What the Senate has effectively done is to further diminish itself in the estimation of Nigerians” CHRICED’s executive director, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said in Abuja through a statement yesterday.
The statement reads: “The Senate’s unending onslaught against the anti-corruption agency should worry all patriotic citizens. CHRICED insists that the action of the Senate, ostensibly hinged on the report of the Department of State Services (DSS), is a huge joke taken too far.
“Only yesterday, the EFCC, under Magu’s able watch, recovered yet another trove of cash amounting to N49 million at the Kaduna Airport. The money was obviously being squirreled away by one of the unrepentant looters of the nation’s treasury.
“Is the Senate unwittingly telling Nigerians that it is not happy with the hefty haul of stolen monies Mr. Magu has worked so assiduously to recover? It beats the imagination that the helmsman of an anti-corruption agency who has been so conscientious and consistent in recovering Nigeria’s looted national wealth, is being blackmailed by characters who are supposed to be lawmakers.
“While the unpatriotic action of the Senate maybe understood to be motivated by the many skeletons they habour in their closet, CHRICED cannot understand why the Presidency cannot rein in the meddlesome DSS.
“What is apparent from the despicable role of the DSS is that there exist multiple centers of power and authority within this government. Except President Muhammadu Buhari does not want Magu to continue his good work, he should immediately put a stop to this serial embarrassment, which could lead to erosion of trust in the government.
“As stated in our previous take on this issue, the long-suffering citizens of Nigeria, who have been robbed of quality education, healthcare, infrastructure and other services as a result of barefaced stealing of national resources, know who the patriot is.
“No amount of rejection by the Senate and its conspirators can change the fact that Magu, through commitment and dedication, has done more to fight graft in a few years, than the band of conscienceless looters, masquerading as legislators”, the statement said.