Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
There are indications the Senate has abandoned the confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
It was gathered on Monday that the lawmakers had yet to agree on the next line of action on Magu, the reason why they have been silent on his confirmation.
Those who responded to our correspondent’s enquiries gave conflicting reasons for the delay.
The Senate had delayed action on President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the lawmakers in which he sought legislative approval for Magu’s appointment for six months.
The lawmakers subsequently on December 15, 2016, rejected the nomination based on a “security report” by the DSS.
The DSS, in its report dated October 3, 2016, specifically disqualified Magu for EFCC chairmanship, alleging that his activities had made him ineligible to hold the office.
The Senate, after rejecting Magu’s nomination, had communicated the decision to the President.
But President Buhari, in his response to the Senate, still urged the lawmakers to confirm Magu as Chairman of the EFCC.
It was, however, learnt that the since Senate President Bukola Saraki read Buhari’s letter to the lawmakers during plenary on January 25, 2017, no official action had been taken on Magu’s confirmation.
When contacted on Monday, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), who replied to a text message sent to him, blamed the delay on the Committee on Rules and Business.
He said, “It is the floor functionaries with the Rules and Business Committee that will determine a date for scheduling it (Magu’s confirmation) on our Order Paper.”
But the Chairman, Committee Rules and Business, Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun East), did not return calls to his telephone lines and did not send a response to a text message sent to him, asking him to confirm or deny the allegation.
The Vice-Chairman of the committee, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) also did not return our correspondent’s calls, neither did he reply to the reporter’s text message.
Also, the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South), said the lawmakers had yet to deliberate on Magu’s confirmation ever since Buhari replied the Senate on his appointment.
“We have never discussed it. Never ever have we discussed it. Most of our people (in PDP caucus) are disposed to clearing him,” she said.
The Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central), when asked why the confirmation had been delayed, declined to speak on it.
“Honestly, I cannot comment on that,” he said, stressing that he was out of Abuja on an official assignment.
But Senator Danjuma La’ah (PDP, Kaduna South), who denied knowledge of the letter from Buhari, urging the Senate to still confirm Magu, stated that the Senate had made its point on the acting EFCC chairman.
He said, “The Senate is not silent on the matter. We have sent our resolution back to the President, telling him what actually was our stand. If he (Buhari) still insists that he wants the EFCC chairman to be confirmed, then, we will tell him why we cannot take him (Magu).”
When reminded that the President had replied the Senate on Magu, La’ah said, “No, we have not seen it. I don’t know and I’ve not heard about it. Maybe they brought it (the letter) when I was not around. But as far as we are concerned, we have told him that this is our stand.”
In his reaction, Senator Adesoji Akanbi (APC, Oyo South), stated that until the DSS issued a new report to clear Magu, the Senate might not be able to confirm his appointment.
“We have said it that we won’t confirm Magu until the DSS clears him. If the security agency issues another report and he is cleared, we will consider him. If there is no clearance from the DSS and we go ahead to act on the President’s letter, that means DSS’ clearance of any other nominee is of no use again.
“It is part of the guidelines that clearance is necessary; and who can clear a nominee? It is the DSS,” he said.
Another APC senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that the lawmakers would not start the confirmation process until Magu had been cleared by the DSS.
The source stated, “The delay is not deliberate. Sometimes, we have to be careful. The chamber now sees Magu as a saint. Today, for the first time, he got a former governor convicted. I think (Acting President Yemi) Osinbajo, being a senior lawyer, has now aligned with us on the fact that a clearance letter must come from the DSS. This is one of the areas where the incapacity of the President can delay processes. Osinbajo will not make a move on such matter; he will not want to dabble in it at all. If the President returns, he will ask the DSS to issue another report.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North), did not return calls to his mobile.
He had recently told our correspondent that the confirmation had been suspended until after the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
‘PSC not DSS can disqualify Magu’
Also, another member of the Senate APC caucus, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation by his colleagues, however, said with the nod given by Buhari despite the DSS report disqualifying Magu, the Senate should dismiss the report.
The senator said, “At the first instance, we said we rejected Magu based on the letter (report) from the DSS and the President said he had investigated the issue, in relation to the letter, and he (Buhari) has renominated him. The other thing now is that a case (on Magu’s confirmation) is now before a court. The Senate cannot sit on it anymore.”
According to the lawmaker, there is a limit to what the judiciary can do to stop Magu. He also said the DSS was not in the best position to disqualify a serving police officer (Magu) but the Police Service Commission, which is his current employer.
He said, “Either way, those against Magu are the losers. What can a court do? The case that Magu should not be confirmed will not see the light of the day. It is a matter of common sense: Magu is a serving police officer. What stops him from holding a public office if he is a serving police officer?
“If we say he is not fit to occupy a public office, is he fit to carry a gun as a Deputy Commissioner of Police? If somebody is fit to be a Deputy Commissioner of Police, is there any assignment that relates to security that we cannot assign him to?
“Had it been he is somebody who was brought from outside, then, we can check his background and disqualify him, based on that. Does the DSS even have the right to say he is not qualified to occupy a public office? Is it not the Police Service Commission because he is a police officer?”
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