Thursday 22nd June, 2017
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Presidency, Senate feud: Matters Arising

Presidency, Senate feud: Matters Arising

Nigeria has within the last few months witnessed consistent Executive-Legislature feud which appears to threaten the nation’s democracy. IGNATIUS OKOROCHA examines the unfolding events
By May 29, 2017, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) would have been two years in office and an in-depth appraisal of the successes recorded by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration within the period under review leaves much to be desired. Unfortu­nately, the administration which won the overwhelming support of Nigerians appears to be fast diminishing.
Nigerians have within the last three months been treated with what many political watchers re­gard as a show of shame between the executive arm and the legis­lature. For many analysts, most of the people hired by President Buhari to work with him have continued to display signifi­cant arrogance. Most of these appointees of the President ex­hibit actions that tend to portray them as having no knowledge of the principles of separation of powers which is the hallmark of democracy. Modern democracy is built on a tripod of three arms of government consisting of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judicary.
The essence of this system of government finds its bear­ing in the power of each of the arms playing the role of checks and balances. Each of the arms plays the role of watchdog on the other. But most of the people recruited by President Buhari on taking over the mantle of leadership from the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan ironically still feel that they are working for a military dictator who has no need of other arms of government to work with.
Recent events in the nation’s polity have shown that the Ex­ecutive arm of government con­sisting of the President and his deputy who are elected on a sin­gle ticket with a bloated number of appointees have continued to exhibit actions that portray the country as if under a military regime.
A classical example of what Nigerians have witnessed in the Buhari-led government within nearly two years of his adminis­tration was first, the probe of an alleged diversion of huge sums of money meant for the recon­struction and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency by the contractors handling the projects under the close watch of the Secretary to the Government of the Federa­tion (SGF),Engr. Babachir La­wal.
To get to the root of the al­legation, the Senate in the dis­charge of its constitutional role
 
 
 
of over-sighting the Executive arm, set up Senator Shehu Sani-led Adhoc-committee to con­duct a public hearing in order to ascertain how much has been released to the Presidential Ini­tiative on the North East (PINE) And also to ascertain how these funds have been utilized from in­ception to date.
The committee was also ex­pected to investigate the diver­sion of grains and other food items from the Strategic Grain Reserves, NEMA and other sources for the IDPs. Conse­quently, the committee held a three-day public hearing be­tween 6th to 8th, December, 2016, even though some of the invited stakeholders refused to attend the event, the probe panel went ahead to carry out its man­date.
The Senate had in the find­ings of the Ad hoc, indicted the SGF of corruption and abuse of office in the handling of the funds earmarked for tackling the humanitarian crisis in the North East, and subsequently called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him and also that the Attorney-General of the Federa­tion (AGF), should immediately commence his prosecution.
According to the lawmakers, the SGF violated some of the provisions of Public Procurement Act and the Federal Govern­ment’s Financial Rules and Reg­ulations guiding award of con­tracts. The Senate said that some of the contracts were awarded to companies belonging to highly placed government officials, their friends and family members.
The chamber pointed out that the committee discovered in the course of its investigation, that Rholavision Engineering Lim­ited, a company, that has Lawal as Director, was awarded consul­tancy contract, with no tangible work on ground done to justify the money spent. However, Presi­dent Muhammadu Buhari, in January, wrote to the Senate and defended the SGF while accusing the Chamber of bias and alleged that the SGF was not given a fair hearing.
Sequel to this, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, man­dated the committee to conduct a fresh public hearing and invite relevant stakeholders, including the SGF to defend themselves. Also the Senate was saddled with the task of confirming the Acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) Ibrahim Mangu as sub­stantive chairman of the commis­sion by President Buhari.
The Senate had in an attempt to carry out its constitutional role of screening Magu before pro­ceeding to confirm him received a letter from the Directorate of State Security Services ( DSS) which abruptly halted the ex­ercise and the high point in the letter was that Magu has some uncleared security issues and as such should not be confirmed. The Upper House had to write to Buhari with a resolution that it has rejected the confirmation of Magu for the EFCC job.
The President on receiving the Senate report wrote back resub­mitting the name of Magu for the same position saying that he has looked at the allegations on Magu and absorbed him of such allegations. However, the Senate was again dissuaded from go­ing ahead with the confirmation of Magu by a fresh letter from the DSS asking the Senate not to confirm the Acting chairman of EFCC.
The upper chamber in total submission to the advice of the DSS rejected the nomination of Magu for a second time and asked President Buhari to send another nominee for headship of EFCC this to say the least was unprecedented as the nation in its journey to democracy has never witnessed many of such experi­ences
As if that was not enough tonic the Senate again was con­fronted with a policy that many political watchers view as not only anti-people but would if al­lowed inflict untold hardship on Nigerians. And that new policy was unleashed on Nigerians by the Nigeria Customs Service popularly known as retrospec­tive payment of import duty on vehicles and the upper chamber of the National Assembly had to appealed to the Service to sus­pend the implementation of such policy.
And to ensure compliance to this directive the Senate had to direct its committee on Customs headed by Senator Hope Uzodin­ma to meet the Comptroller of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) and convey the resolution of the parliament to him. Surprisingly the Customs Boss was quoted in some national dailies the follow­ing day to have dared the Senate by saying that there was no going back on the policy.
Unfortunately this demon­stration of Executive rascality incurred the wrath of the Senate and it then demanded that Ali should appear at its plenary in his Customs complete uniform to shed light on why the policy must be implemented despite its negative impact on the Nigerian public the resolution of the legis­lature.
Ali who some political analysts described as reluctantly appeared before the Senate on the day after been threatened with a warrant of arrest appeared without his cus­toms uniform was turned back by the upper House and asked to re­peat the invitation in few days af­ter in his complete customs outfit.
But rather than honour that in­vitation the customs boss decided to seek legal protection from the Attorney General of the Fed­eration through a letter the SGF wrote to the Senate. This letter of the nation’s number one lawyer (Counsel) rather than proffer so­lution to the already brewing feud with the Executive appeared to have added salt to the injury.
Reacting on the content of the letter to the Senate by AGF most view the letter as a direct affront of the presidency on the Senate and there and then the Upper House resolved to declare the Customs CG, Col. Ali unfit to oc­cupy any position in the nation’s public service while asking him to resign his appointment as CG of the Customs Service. Mean­while one of the Senators who many Nigerians said spoke their mind on the happenings in the presidency is Senator Isa Hamma Misau (Bauchi Central).
He said:”The President re­cently left for London for holiday and attend for medical attention and while he was away for about 59 days the nation did not record any crisis from any part the coun­try. The herdsmen did not attack any community and you didn’t hear of any militancy attack from the Niger Delta Avengers nor any other crisis and those who were antagonistic to Buhari’s ad­ministration went silent and the President just came back about two weeks ago and since he came back there has been a lots of ten­sion in the county.
“I feel that those who are cre­ating this tension in the polity are within the presidency and as such, those people don’t want the president to work. I think the enemies of this country are within the presidency and people very close to the president. They are the enemies of this govern­ment and they are enemies of Mr. President and I submit that we should continue to pray for the President.” It is instructive to note that these developments are hap­pening under the watch of Presi­dent Buhari and he appears to be nonchalant about them.
No wonder the Senate recently refused to honour President Bu­hari’s request for the confirmation of 27 nominees for Resident Elec­toral Commission (REC) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)until the President takes appropriate ac­tion against the continued stay in office of the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC), Ibrahim Magu the upper chamber has recommended for his sack.
The Authority gathered that President Buhari has set up a Peace Initiative Presidential Committee on Executive-Leg­islature Relations headed by his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo com­prising of former Senators and Ministers in his cabinet to meet with the National Assembly del­egation.
Many see the reconciliatory move as commendable but query the use of the reconciliation when constitutional breaches have be­come the order of the day under the close watch of Mr. President. Why should a parliament issue a resolution that a nominee of the presidency be dropped for se­curity reasons and the President goes ahead to re-nominate such a person as if the nation is bereft of capable hands to fill the gap. 

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