Senate asks Osinbajo to recant on appointments

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

• Suspends further confirmation of nominees
• Insists on removal of Ibrahim Magu, others

The row between the Acting President and the National Assembly regarding the confirmation of nominees is deteriorating. Yesterday, the lawmakers asked Osinbajo to immediately withdraw his earlier remarks that the Senate lacks the power to confirm nominees of the president.

Disagreements between the executive and legislature have almost become a permanent feature in the ongoing dispensation where, incidentally, the APC-led Federal Government also controls the National Assembly. The inability of the two arms to strike consensus most time on policy matters underscores the deep divisions within the ruling party. The net result is a stalemate that affects almost every other thing in the polity and economy.

Adopting a motion sponsored by Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) on the matter, the Senate suspended the consideration of any further request from the acting president for the confirmation of nominees.

While reacting to the Senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu’s appointment as substantive Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, Osinbajo had said that “in the light of Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution, the president can retain Magu as EFCC chairman without confirmation by the Senate.

“In that same Section 171, the Constitution rightly says that certain appointments must go to the Senate, such as ministerial and ambassadorial appointments. Those of heads of agencies like the EFCC do not have to go to the Senate. That’s what the constitution says.

“I agree with Mr. Falana that there was no need in the first place to have sent Magu’s name to the Senate, but we did so and it was rejected by the Senate, but I believe that it can be represented.”

Fresh trouble was triggered yesterday when Osinbajo wrote a letter to the Senate requesting it to confirm the appointment of Lanre Gbajabiamila as director-general of the National Lottery Commission.

In his ruling, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said: “I thank Senator Ahmed Yerima for raising the issue. I think this is a very important matter, we need to address it once and for all and put it behind us because as a society, we can’t pass laws and see these laws not being obeyed. It is very clear these resolutions as passed must be acted upon by the acting president and ensure that we continue to respect our democracy, our laws and constitution. It is not for us to choose which laws we obey and which laws we don’t obey. That is not the way any civilised modern society works. And we hope that the acting president will take appropriate action in line with these resolutions.”

Prior to the reading of Osinbajo’s letter, the Senate had a closed-door session which lasted for almost an hour. It was learnt that members discussed extensively the “flagrant refusal by the executive to implement resolutions passed by the Senate.” As soon as the Senate reconvened from the closed-door session, Yerima from Zamfara State raised Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rules. In his submissions, he argued that since the acting president had already concluded that the Senate lacks the powers to confirm nominees, there was no need to acknowledge any letter from the executive on issues relating to confirmation.

The Senate accordingly resolved to suspend any confirmation of nominees from the executive until issues relating to the power of the Senate to confirm are resolved. The chamber also resolved that the acting president must respect the constitution as it relates to the issue of confirmation.The lawmakers passed a resolution and re-enforced its earlier position that all nominees rejected by the Senate should be relieved of their duties, with particular reference to Magu.

While raising the point of order, Yerima had noted: “I want to draw the attention of the Senate to a statement credited to the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo that the Senate does not have the powers to confirm. “I was surprised to see the Senate president read a letter from the same acting president who said the Senate does not have the powers to confirm a nominee from the executive.

“I am raising this point of order to draw the attention of the Senate to this issue and urge that we suspend any further action on confirmation of any nominee until the issue is resolved.”George Sekibo added his voice, urging his colleagues to take a firm position and reject any attempts to weaken the National Assembly.

He said: “A careful look at what is happening will tell Nigerians that they are trying to indirectly take over our responsibilities. The main function of the National Assembly is to make laws. The clearing of nominees from the president is one of the major functions of the Senate.

“All the various laws made to establish agencies of the Federal Government state that we will confirm nominations into such bodies. When an acting president says that the Senate has no powers to confirm, I wonder if he is familiar with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“In a civilian democracy, there is nothing like an executive order. You cannot wake up and issue executive orders. You cannot also wake up and tell nominees to take over office. This goes contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

“The moment you are playing down on the constitution, then you are playing down on the integrity of the Nigerian people. If the acting president said we do not have the powers to confirm and he is sending a name that we confirm, then what do we do? Senate should place a suspension on nomination until we determine whether we have the powers to confirm.”

Isa Misau criticised what he described as hypocrisy of the executive. He said the National Assembly was always blackmailed by the executive to do its bidding. “This is a double standard or an act of hypocrisy. It’s like they do not want this National Assembly to function properly. Sometimes, we associate corruption with only financial misappropriation.

But there is also corruption in the area of appointments. When you appoint your friend into an office, it is corruption. We are here to serve the people,” he said. Sam Anyanwu who heads the Ethics Committee of the Senate, issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Saraki to do something about the Osinbajo’s statement. He said that if Saraki failed, he would move against him.

Melaye who is currently fighting to fence off attempts by his constituents to recall him, digressed when he made his contributions. He warned the executive to stop “playing blues and dancing reggae.”

“The executive must stop approbating powers to itself. In this same chamber, we invited Magu for a job interview and he failed. We rejected him. As I speak, Magu is still parading himself as EFCC chairman. Now, the same executive is sending a name for us to confirm. We confirmed resident electoral commissioners before we went on break. They have sworn in some people and have refused to do the same for others. This Senate leadership must act and take a position.

“It is time for the Senate to apply force. I am moving a motion that it becomes abominable for the Senate president to read another confirmation letter until the integrity of this Senate is respected by the executive,” Melaye said.

The Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, warned against attempts by the executive to destroy the institution of the Senate. Ekweremadu said: “Let me make it clear that this has nothing to do with the director-general of Lottery Commission or Magu, but about our constitution. One of the features of the Senate is the power of confirmation. The framers of the constitution gave the power to the Senate.

“If the law says that an appointee requires confirmation, we must obey what the law says. The executive must follow the provisions of the constitution,” Ekweremadu said.Eyinnaya Abaribe caused a stir when he deviated from the issue at hand. Abaribe, who was the last to speak on the issue, queried what he described as the vacuum created in the country, following the two-day absence of Osinbajo who traveled to Ethiopia on Sunday to attend an African Union (AU) meeting. He returned to the country yesterday.

“The acting president is the head of government now. We have a serious problem. As of today, there is nobody who is the head of government. The law and the procedure state that you cannot have a vacuum. The acting president is out of the country and there is a vacuum,” Abaribe stated.

For about five minutes, the chamber was rowdy. Lawmakers from the South West, with minimal support from their North East colleagues, countered Abaribe whose voice was drowned. He was immediately countered by Kabiru Marafa who referred his colleagues to Order 53(4) of the Senate Standing Rules.“The issue Abaribe raised is not part of the issue before hand. We may have to discuss that at another day if need be. I have to rule you out of order Abaribe,” Saraki said.



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