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Tyrant of the gavel: Ibrahim Magu and Hameed Ali as sacrificial lambs

*Go, obey the voice of the gavel in its ‘aye’ or ‘nay’

From Sambo Muritala

In spite of machineries put in place to ensure equal footage of the three arms of government by the concept of checks and balances in ensuring pragmatic separation of power in every democratically embraced governance, the tilts of pendulum on legislative arm is obvious. Ibrahim Magu and Hameed Ali are our focus this time out.

There have been several arguments against this supremacy of the legislature but the simple question is that if not legislature, which organ should be favoured? Legislative arm of government comprises of a micro citizens draw out of communities comprises of Nigerians to fulfil the democratic dictate of government by the people.

It is rather too late to question the compositions of the National Assembly and examine their uprightness as these will only amount to a cry over spilt milk. I will rather advise that Nigerians should save their strengths and wait till 2019 when a call to determine their representatives at National Assemblies is made. By then, the opportunity to right their wrongs will re-present themselves.

The legality of rejection of Mr. Ibrahim Magu by the Senate: The appointment of any chairman of commission is the responsibility of the President but there are commissions that their appointment is subject to the confirmation of the Senate which the EFCC is inclusive. See Section 2(3) of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, CAP. E17 LFN, 2004.

The chairman and members of the commission other than the ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be SUBJECT TO the confirmation of the Senate.

The intent of law is not ambiguous and not only legal practitioner can give a perfect interpretation of this section as a simple diction was employed by the law makers. The intent of law is to ensure that the person appointed by the President must not only be a fit person in the eye of the President, he must equally be seen to be fit and proper by the Senate.

Failure to see Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the President sees him by the Senate is too bad for him. Rejection of Mr. Ibrahim Magu by the Senate is in accordance to the law of the federation. The weight of the reason for the rejection of Mr. Ibrahim Magu or whosoever submitted by the President for confirmation of the Senate is never provided for by any law whatsoever. Thus, a mere flimsy excuse is weighty enough to reject the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of EFCC.

It is not a good advice expected of elder statesmen whose aims include seeing operation of rules of law to advise the President to continue using Magu as the Chairman of the Commission against the confirmation of the Senate.

Appointment of any person subject to the confirmation of the Senate by the President can only continue for a short period of time without the confirmation of the Senate and the reason must be for need to act in a contingent situation pending the fulfilment of bureaucracy.

Consequently, asking Magu to continue in his acting capacity and coming to Senate to re-present the name for Senate again and again is an abuse of democratic process with a prime aim of provoking, insulting and frustrating the Senate and the intent of the rule of law. If the President yields to the like of this advice, the consequence will surely not be good for our nascent democracy and he would have his mark in frustrating the rules of law.

Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali’s uniform saga: Notwithstanding the fact that The Customs & Exercise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45, Law of Federation of Nigeria is silent as to the issue of uniform, The Customs and Excise Preventive Service Regulations makes reference to uniform of an officer in Regulation 31 of the subsidiary.

With or without law regulating wearing uniform of Custom by the Comptroller General of Customs, the Senate can give order in form of law regulating its affairs. See Section 60 of 1999 Constitution.

Subject to the provision of this Constitution, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.

This is not any law rather the provision of the Constitution of FRN 1999, as amended. Once the Senate has given its directive as to the manner in which it wants to handle its sitting, no person summoned by the Senate can question such a procedure and Comptroller General of Custom has no discretion whatsoever in this situation.

The simple ‘aye’ and ‘nay’ commonly employed in voting system to give resolution on any matter is never a child’s play once the gavel hammered in either way but a law making process. This is the usual procedure in legislative chambers. A resolution of the house that Ali should come back on Wednesday in his custom uniform is a law as echoed in the tone of the gavel and it must not be flouted.

Assuming without conceding that the positions of law above are not clearer enough to warrant the Comptroller General of Custom have a rethink in retracing his steps of flouting the order of the Senate, I will not mind going deeper into the limitless power of National Assembly. See Section 89 (1).

For the purpose of any investigation under Section 88 of this Constitution and subject to the provisions thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to- {Section 89(1)(c)} summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence of any place or produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, and examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, subject to all just exceptions; and…

The use of words like ‘any person’, ‘any place’, ‘any document’, ‘any other thing’ are the signs of the limitless power of National Assembly. A careful observation of the words: ‘…and examine him as a witness’ is talking on the power of the Senate to decide on the way he looks and how he should look.

From the above quote, telling Ali to go and come back in his uniform which is in his possession is in accordance with the rules of law.

Morally speaking, I cannot say any other way of projecting image of any establishment with uniform than making use of the said uniform regularly. Moreover, snubbing the directive of Senate is a huge disrespect to the entire nation and such has never existed in any world as far as democracy is concerned.

Aside this, it will interest the general public to know that the Legislative arm of government is the only arm of government that can make, execute and interpret the law at the same time.

I am not without my reservation as to the compositions of the National Assembly but these we have challenged much more before now but it is so unfortunate that we cannot go outside of what we have in governance. However, this is the resolution by the National Assembly to have full control of its power and check the excesses of executive arm of government.

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