Time To End Impunity In The Senate
The Interview Magazine
Pursuant to the powers conferred on it under section 3 (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 the Senate has refused to confirm the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the (EFCC). However, President Buhari has decided to allow Mr. Magu to continue to head the EFCC in an acting capacity. The decision of the President cannot be faulted by virtue of section 171 (1) (d) of the Constitution which provides that the President is vested with the power to appoint the head of any extra ministerial department to hold office in an acting capacity. Such appointment does not require the confirmation of the Senate.
Completely aggrieved by the decision of the President to exercise his constitutional powers in the circumstance the Senate has decided not to confirm the 27 newly appointed Resident Electoral Commissioners until Mr. Magu has been removed from office as EFCC Chairman. In asking for the removal of Mr. Magu the Senate said that the anti graft czar has been terrorizing the Senate. Should the Senate resort to such cheap blackmail because the embattled EFCC helmsman has tefused to compromise the prosecution and investigation of about 15 senators alleged to have been involved in serious economic and financial crimes? Why should the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki not be terrorized for the criminal diversion of N3.5 billion from the London/Paris Club loan refund?
Before now, sharp disagreements between the National Assembly and the executive had been submitted to the courts for judicial resolution in line with the rule of law. At the twilight of the Goodluck Jonathan administration the Attorney-General of the Federation challenged the purported amendment of the Constitution at the Supreme Court. Based on the interlocutory injunction granted by the Supreme Court the National Assembly suspended further deliberations on the amendment of the Constitution. Instead of following the path of rule law and constitutionalism the Senate has completely thrown caution to the winds.
In the atmosphere of impunity which has enveloped the Senate the chairman of the Prrsidential Advisory Council on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay has been ordered to appear before the Senate for having the temerity to criticise the senators. In El Rufai v House of Representatives (2003) 46 WRN 12 the Court of Appeal held that the respondent lacked the power to summon the appellant over a defamatory statement made by him.
The purported suspension of Senator Ali Ndume is the height of the serial illegality. In Hon. Dino Melaye v House of Representatives (unreported) the federal high court declared the indefinite suspension illegal and unconstitutional on the ground that a legislator could not be suspended for more than 14 days. But in House of Assembly v Hon Danna the Court of Appeal held that a legislative house is not competent to suspend a member even for a single day as it is a violation of the democratic rights of members of his/her constituency.
In view of the settled state of the law as expantiated upon in the aforementioned cases the Senate is advised to reverse its illegal decisions and quickly return to the path of constitutionalism in the interest of lasting democracy in the country. However, if the Senate remains intransigent the Executive branch of the government should adopt decisive measures to terminate the rein of impunity in the National Assembly.