*Will they resume from break polarised?
By Sandra Onyekwere
It is no more news that the Nigerian Senate, on Thursday 15th December, 2016, rejected the nomination of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for confirmation as the substantive Chairman of the Commission.
She also resolved to return Magu’s nomination to President Muhammadu Buhari, to perhaps reconsider the decision or choose a replacement for the EFCC boss. After taking this last minute shocking resolution, the Senate glided into the Christmas and New Year break.
One fact that was quickly registered is the fact that Magu has his supporters just like his arch antagonists. The Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, was obviously Magu’s chief lobbyist in the Senate.
Unfortunately, Ndume was not successful in his mission because the conspiracy against Magu was not only within the National Assembly and Senate in particular but from some forces allegedly operating within the Presidency and the Department of State Services (DSS).
This division in the Senate over Magu, led to Senators Ndume and Dino Melaye having hot verbal altercation on that fateful Thursday over the modalities to be adopted by the Senate in the earlier scheduled screening of Magu.
Meanwhile, the Senate had hinged its decision to reject Magu’s appointment on unfavourable security report it allegedly received on him from the DSS. This was disclosed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, Senator Aliyu Sabi, while briefing the press on the matter.
His words: “the Senate wishes to inform the general public that based on security reports available to the Senate, it cannot proceed and confirm the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the Executive Chairman of EFCC. Accordingly, the Senate hereby rejects the said nomination and has returned the said nomination to Mr President for further action.”
The Senate had on the resumption of plenary that Thursday, went into executive session that lasted for about two hours, to discuss the issue of Magu.
Senators Ndume and Melaye engaged in serious altercation on modalities for screening Magu, which was scheduled in the Senate’s Order Paper of that legislative day.
According to a source, the quarrel between the two senators emanated from the argument on whether to screen Magu in a closed door session in order to shield it from the public or in plenary session, where the public would observe the process and make judgement themselves.
Ndume was said to be highly infuriated by Dino’s overbearing exuberant disposition towards the issue, as he insisted that Magu should be taken on behind the cameras while Ndume pleaded that the aborted exercise be done in public glare.
Why Magu was feared, rejected: It was further learnt that Magu has been facing opposition from powerful forces in the Presidency and also in the Senate, who are apprehensive that the embattled EFCC boss might send them to prison because of corruption allegations hanging on their fragile necks.
However, after the Senate resolution, there were indications that Ndume and perhaps some other senators were not happy with that hard decision on the EFCC Acting Chairman.
Buttressing this, Ndume, in Abuja, dismissed media reports that the Senate had rejected the nomination of Magu for confirmation as the chairman of the anti-corruption agency.
Ndume, who spoke after a closed-door meeting with President Buhari at the State House, said that the confirmation of Magu was only suspended pending clarification from the presidency.
He said, “what we said is that the Senate on that Thursday could not go ahead with the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu because we are in possession of a letter from the DSS, which requires clarification from Mr President, who is the principal or the head of the government.
“That was what happened, anyway. I’m one of those that wrote the short press statement which states that the Senate cannot continue with the confirmation. So, the other four members have been referred to the committee and the committee will resume its work immediately after the break”.
But Ndume’s comment, that the Upper Chamber did not reject the nomination of Magu did not go down well with the leadership of the Senate.
Accordingly, the Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi, in a swift reaction the following day, insisted that the Senate rejected the nomination based on security report submitted to it by the DSS.
Sabi also said that the Senate did not receive two security reports on Magu as claimed by the Senate Leader, noting however, that the purported second report was allegedly sent to the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Matters), Senator Ita Enang.
The lawmaker maintained that the position of the Senate on Magu had not changed and that only the position stated by him (Sabi) should be regarded as the position of the Senate, stressing that the leader could not be the spokesman of the Senate neither could he do the work of the Senate leader.
He said, “I would like to make the following clarifications: I’m holding the votes and proceeding of Thursday. We had two votes and proceedings because we had to go into joint session to receive President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Our votes and proceedings are the official records of what transpired in the chamber.
I briefed you on Thursday to the effect that the Senate is announcing that in view of security reports available to the Senate, we were unable to confirm Magu.
“We then rejected and returned the nomination to Buhari for further action. Media reports emerging especially from interviews granted by Senator Ndume meant we have to clarify issues.
“For the records, I am the official spokesman of the Senate and I intend to discharge this with honour and integrity because the sanctity of the institution is crucial to the sustenance of democracy. To clarify, I have only one point of reference, which is, the votes and proceedings. This is the only official position of the Senate.
What I say, I say on behalf of the Senate. Nigerians should be guided. There is no ambiguity in what we said. Senate is an institution and we are working with the Constitution, and whatever rules we use, our powers are drawn from the constitution. We also want the media to be guided on the matter because of some misleading news in the public domain”.
On the allegation that two separate reports were presented to the Senate on Magu, Sabi said, “truth is sacrosanct. For every line of command there is a line of communication. For the records, the leader that I know is Saraki and the administrative leader is the Clerk to the Senate. As a routine, when you have a nominee, security report should be given.
On whether the Senate would consider Magu’s case if resubmitted by President Buhari, he said, “we are all guided by processes, If Buhari is going to resubmit the communication for re-nomination he must come with the necessary reports, either negative or positive.
Commenting on the insinuated crack in the Senate as a result of Ndume’s statement on Magu, Sabi said, “the Senate leader is the Senate leader but I am the spokesman; he can’t do my job and I cant do his job. He is my leader and I am his spokesman but we have different responsibilities.
From the action and reaction that have taken place in the Senate so far on the issue of Magu, there is no gainsaying that the development has caused a crack in the leadership, even though the aggrieved persons in the Chamber are tactically managing the situation to avoid making it a public spectacle.