Monday 26th June, 2017
Translate Language:::

Magu and the Senate: Time to end the circus show

Magu and the Senate: Time to end the circus show

For a while now, Nigeri­ans have been bemused and worried at the same time by the seemingly unend­ing circus that the nomination and Senate confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has become. President Mu­hammad Buhari’s strong confidence in Ibrahim Magu is only rivalled by the Senate’s disdain and contempt of him. As the two elephants fought over Magu’s suitability or oth­erwise as the country’s top cor­ruption czar, Nigerians and the fight against corruption were the worse for it. Thankfully, it would appear an end is in sight for this long running saga.

Twice the Senate has refused to confirm Magu as the EFCC chairman but the presidency remains determined to retain him in that position regard­less. Until now there has been a media frenzy feeding off this stalemate with no indication as to the president’s next line of action. However, last week, the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, gave the clearest indication yet of the president’s thoughts on the matter. Speaking to a cross section of journalists, Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, advanced legal rea­sons for government’s stance.It is the opinion of the presi­dency that going by section 171 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, the president does not necessarily need Senate’s confirmation of Magu’s ap­pointment. He also disclosed that president Buhari did not find the DSS report on Magu meritorious enough to ne­gate his nomination. The vice president also indicated the readiness of the president if necessary, to resubmit Magu’s name to the senate for as many times as it takes the senate to confirm him .It is worthy to note also that a huge number of legal experts support the position of the law as espoused by the vice president. It is ar­gued and convincingly too, that the effect of section 1 (1) &(3) read together with Sec­tion 171 (1) &(2) of the 1999 constitution as amended, is to void section 2 (3) of the Eco­nomic and Financial Crimes Commission Act which re­quires that a nominee for the agency’s chairmanship be subject to confirmation by the Senate. Since this provision of the Act is inconsistent with section 171 of the constitution, it becomes void to the extent of its inconsistency as per sec­tion 1 (1) & (3). In other words, since section 171 (1) &(2) does not require Senate’s confirma­tion of the appointments of heads of government agencies like the EFCC, and the consti­tution is superior to the EFCC Act which requires such senate confirmation , Ibrahim Magu automatically becomes the substantive chairman of the anti-corruption agency and will hold office for such period as stipulated by law.

The reasoning of the presi­dency is not only sound in law, it is also a lot of common sense. Everything is not poli­tics. While it may be politi­cally savvy for the president to drop Ibrahim Magu to diffuse executive versus legislature tension, such move may deal a death blow to the adminis­tration’s anti-corruption fight. Also, since the matter involves interesting constitutional is­sues, it will enrich our demo­cratic jurisprudence to have the Supreme Court give an opinion in the event that the Senate is minded to challenge the presidency’s reading of the law. That is what the judiciary exists for. It is hoped that the Senate will come to terms with this legal reality and move on, or opt for a legal challenge at the Supreme Court. I agree with the presidency and the Senate is best advised to let go and move on.

The monumental accom­plishments of the EFCC under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Magu even in the face of the uncertainty surrounding his confirmation, is a testament to the stuff he is made of. Rather than be distracted by it all, he remained resolute in his determination to win the war against corruption. President Buhari must, in like manner be commended for his steadfast belief and trust in the abilities and integrity of the man he has chosen as the arrow head of the anti-corruption campaign. His painstaking adherence to fair hearing, due process and the principle of separa­tion of powers is a hallmark of great leadership. Nor can we forget the institution of the Senate and the patriotic sena­tors who participated in the confirmation process in the Senate. They have inexorably contributed their own quota to the democratic process and constitutional jurisprudence. They can only be derided to the extent that some of them sought to use the process to settle personal scores and as a bargaining chip in their ongo­ing corruption investigations and trials.

Yet this is not an occasion to gloat by any of the parties. It is a call to increased action for the EFCC. The calming of the storm now can only mean one thing--- a demand for more of what Magu has done these past months. More discoveries and recovery of looted funds, more prosecutions and convictions of suspects and a more proac­tive engagement with the peo­ple and authorities with a view to achieving an all embracing attitudinal change among the people. Truth be told, not a few people were dismayed at Magu’s inability or reluctance during his confirmation hear­ing, to disclose to the nation the sum total of all monies and properties recovered from po­litically exposed persons since he assumed office as acting chairman of the agency. Go­ing forward, Nigerians expect a detailed disclosure regarding all recoveries and the govern­ment will do well to inform us on how it intends to apply the recovered monies and proper­ties.

Corruption, official cor­ruption especially, is very debilitating to the well-being of a people. It affects us all ir­respective of our status and political leaning. It is unargu­ably the single most significant factor that has held back the development of Nigeria since independence. The impera­tive and urgency of the fight against this scourge can there­fore never be over emphasised. The executive, the National Assembly and indeed all Nige­rians must as a necessity pull together as one in confronting the corruption malaise. What better way to do this than to focus on the things that mat­ter and leave out inanities and ego. It is therefore time we end the Senate circus show and unleash the dragon on cor­ruption and corrupt people at all levels and in all spheres of life in Nigeria. It is time to let Ibrahim Magu and the EFCC go to work without further dis­tractions.

Prince Nwaeze Onu is a public affairs commentator and writes from Abuja.

E mail: nationalpathfind­ernewspaper@