After maintaining what had been described as awkward silence for weeks, the presidency has finally made public its position on the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who made the position known said whether he is confirmed by the Red Chamber or not, Magu can remain EFCC chairman.
It could be recalled that the rejection of Magu by the Senate had rekindled speculations about the seeming frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature.
It became more apparent that the lawmakers were indeed set for a show down with the presidency when the Senate further refused to screen nominees for resident electoral commissioners (RECs) on the ground that Magu must first be removed as acting chairman of EFCC.
The upper chamber had also vowed that it will no longer consider Magu for confirmation if his name was sent to it again by the president.
But speaking with a group of select online newspapers on Tuesday night, Vice President Osinbajo declared that the acting chairman of EFCC enjoys his confidence and that of the president.
“The President reserves the right to say ‘this is who I want’. I am fully in support of Magu as the EFCC chairman just as the president is”, he stated.
Osinbajo who is a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) expressed the views of another learned silk, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) that there was no need to send Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation in the first place.
Citing section 171 of the 1999 constitution to back up his assertions, he argued that although the EFCC Act requires that an EFCC chairman be sent to the Senate for confirmation, part of Section 171 of the constitution, which is superior to the act, does not mandate such Senate confirmation.
He said, “It is up to the Senate to make their judgement and it is up to us to say what we want to do. If our candidate is rejected, we can re-present him. No law says we can’t re-present him. And again, there is the other argument, whether or not we need to present him for confirmation and that is a compelling argument from Femi Falana.
“His (Falana’s) argument is that under the constitution, section 171, and if you look at that section, it talks about the appointments that the president can make. They include appointments of ministers, ambassadors and heads of agencies such as the EFCC. In that same section 171, the constitution rightly said 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 is what the constitution says. But the EFCC Act, which of course as you know is inferior, says that EFCC chairman should go to the Senate for confirmation. I am sure that even a pocket book lawyer knows that when legislation conflicts with the constitution, it is the constitution that prevails”.
Agreeing with Falana categorically that there was no need in the first place to have sent Magu’s name to the Red Chamber, the VP said, “We did so and it was rejected by the senate, but I believe that it can be re-presented.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong about the fact that Senate has rejected him. Senate has acted in its own wisdom to say ‘no, we don’t want him’ and we can say, ‘this is our candidate…, we like the gentleman and we want him to continue”, he added.
On the Department of State Security Service (DSS) report which indicted Magu, Osinbajo described it is “a robust expression of our institutions of government”.
He said it was an indication that the Buhari administration does not interfere in the works of its security agencies.
The VP continued: “We should commend the president for not interfering with what the DSS said. The DSS came up with a report and the man who was accused refuted it. PHe explained and gave a reason. When that happened, the president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said ‘I am satisfied with what Magu said’.
He then decided to retain Magu as the nominee for EFCC. I don’t see any reason why that should be contested. The president has not interfered with what the DSS said. If he wanted to interfere, he would have ordered the DSS to keep quiet. He didn’t do that, but he said ‘I don’t think the DSS report is meritorious enough to withdraw his nomination”.