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.