By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Senior legal practitioners in the country, on Wednesday, gave reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari cannot re-nominate Mr. Ibrahim Magu for confirmation as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after being rejected twice by the Senate.
The lawyers, comprising Senior Advocates of Nigeria, said Magu’s second rejection by the Senate means he could no longer remain in office as Acting Chairman of the anti-graft agency.
They said continuous sending of Magu’s name to the Senate would amount to making a mockery of extant provisions of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
In his reaction entitled ‘The legal and moral issues of the second and final rejection of confirmation of Magu as EFCC Chairman’, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: “Going by sections 2(1) and 2(3) of the EFCC Act, he (Magu) ceases to be the Executive Chairman of the commission.
“Having left his ‘acting’ position during his proposal to the Senate, he also loses his ‘acting’ capacity.
“It is simply a bad case.The Senate is the only repository of confirmatory powers of the EFCC Chairman. And it has spoken. That is the beauty of the doctrine of separation of powers between the three Arms of government, the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary, as ably propounded by Baron De Montesque in 1748.
” Magu’s problem is self-inflicted from within the APC ruling party itself, that is also not comfortable with the way he has carried on with his functions.The worm that kills the maize is right inside the maize.
“His tenure should have nothing to do with efficiency and effectiveness alone, which he apparently possesses.The role of the number one anti-Corruption Czar should be more. It should also embody the finest and most edifying virtues of nobility in terms of observance of citizens’ fundamental rights and the all important rule of law concept.
“The anti- corruption war has so far been fought without a human face, in the most crude, most bizarre, most discriminatory and most degrading manner that diminishes the humanity and respectability of Nigerians and bring us back into the Hobesian state of nature where life was short, nasty and brutish.
“The anti corruption fight has been fought in the most opaque, selective, bestial and humiliating manner, devoid of any scintilla or modicum of decency and respect for our collective and individual civil liberties and freedoms. It has all but reduced Nigeria to a one Party state,with everyone decamping to APC ,because once you do that,you are immediately and automatically protected from the inquisition of EFCC and like Naaman the leper who was dipped into River Jordan seven times and became cleansed of his leprosy, such a decampee is cleansed of his political leprosy and antecedental criminality”.
Another constitutional lawyer, Mr. Sebastian Hon, SAN, said: “I have always maintained that Senate confirmation hearings are not jamborees but are weighty constitutional exercises requiring deep public interest considerations on the part of the Upper Chamber.
“The framers of our Constitution did not insert this sine qua non for the appointment of certain categories of public officers just for the fun of it; rather the legislative mischief is to ensure checks and balances so that Nigeria will not at any given time have a despotic President who will be ridding rough shod on the national psyche and consequently be toying with our commonwealth.
“I don’t subscribe to the insinuation that 109 eminent Nigerians sitting in the Upper Legislative Chambers, coming from different political and cultural persuasions, will act twice in unison for no justifiable reason.
“In this case, damning reports have twice been written by the DSS against the person of Mr. Magu, which reports constituted the fons et origo (source) of Senate’s twine rejection of Mr. Magu.
“While I personally believe Mr. Magu has done exceptionally well, deserving of confirmation by the Senate, I lack the moral justification to insist that the DSS which has far more investigative reach than me is only playing games or is being economical with the truth by twice moving against his confirmation. Let me boldly say that if the SSS and the Senate are acting in some insidious conspiracy, Nigeria is finished! I will, indeed, warn the two regulatory bodies that there is nothing hidden that will one day not be exposed, supposing they playing such games!
“Having sounded that note of warning, however, I will strongly counsel Mr. President not to present Mr. Magu again for confirmation.
“The reason is plain enough: it is nigh impossible for the DSS to make a u-turn, after twice launching out against Mr. Magu; and secondly, the Senate has not shown any intention of dumping the DSS.
“To Mr. Magu, I will personally say he has done well, at least in my personal but limited perception. However, it does appear the position of substantive EFCC Chairman is not his now”.
On his part, Mr. Kayode Ajulo said: “By the extant provision of our Constitution, the senate rejection of Magu, is the rejection by the entire Nigerians and what’s is expected is for the President to send another name out of 160 million Nigerians to the senate as it is the continuous sending of the same name is mockery of the provisions of our law”.