The nation risks a needless standoff between the Senate and the Presidency if the Federal lawmakers make good their threat not to confirm nominees for public office henceforth until the battle of wits between the two arms of government over the fate of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, is resolved.
Our fear is that if the Senate carries out its threat, apart from the fact that it will affect preparations for the 2019 general elections and other important national activities, it might tempt the Executive to also resort to counter-measures. This could plunge the nation into crisis and endanger our democracy.
The quarrel arose when Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President submitted Magu’s name to the Senate. The senators leveraged on damning reports against Magu by the Department of State Services, DSS, as well as Magu’s poor performance when he appeared before them, to advise President Muhammadu Buhari that Magu was not fit to head the Commission.
After sending Magu twice to the Senate, the President, who is firmly convinced he is the person who can help him deliver on his campaign promise of fighting corruption, bowed to the opinion of a section of the legal community that the EFCC, being an “extra-ministerial depart-ment” under the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, does not require Senate confirmation, thus disregarding Section 2(3) of the EFCC Act of 2004 which has been observed till now.
This opinion runs against a counter legal view that since the EFCC, a statutory agency created by an Act of the National Assembly in line with the constitution cannot be an extra-ministerial department as reflected in Section 171 of the Constitution.
This is exactly the typical situation that calls for the intervention of the Judiciary arm of government. Now that a major disagreement has arisen between the Legislative and the Executive arms of the Federal Government, we believe the only consequential step forward is to invite the Supreme Court to expeditiously state the true position of the law once and for all.
The war against corruption is too important to be mired in this type of controversy. We believe that the independence of the EFCC and other crucial Federal agencies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be put beyond doubt.
The intervention of the Supreme Court will douse the tension and save the nation the distractions of this needless power struggle.