…… the continued face-off between the presidency and the senate amid hazy attempts at reconciliation..
Since last week when federal lawmakers threatened to be at daggers drawn with the Presidency over the approving powers of the Senate on federal appointments, there have been series of moves to resolve the ongoing rift between the executive and legislative arms.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as well as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had last week confirmed the reconciliatory process.
Addressing State House Correspondents after the last week Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the Information Minister noted that the matter was discussed at the Council, particularly on finding amicable resolution to the crisis.
Mohammed boasted that the executive had a special mechanism of handling such issues when they arise.
He said, “The fact of the matter is that we have a very excellent mechanism for resolving whatever issues is between us and the National Assembly. That is being addressed.
“Whatever may be the problem between the executive and the National Assembly, we have an excellent mechanism for resolving it. I don’t think we need to go to specific statements as to what was said by A or B.
“We believe that government is not one arm, but the legislative, executive and judiciary arms, whatever might be the problem, we are resolving it and we are addressing it.”
Reacting to the same development, Shehu explained that the remarks made by the Acting President about the screening of nominees by the Senate were greeted with misconception.
The presidential spokesman, however, assured that concrete steps were already afoot to end the friction.
Shehu said in an interview, “There is no official position by the government of Nigeria and the Federal Executive Council never sat down to take a decision to say that some categories of officials will not be sent to the National Assembly any longer or that the authority of the Senate under the constitution to screen and pass nominees has never been questioned by the government or the FEC,” he said.
According to the media aide, in compliance with the provisions of the law, the executive arm has been sending the names of its nominees to the National Assembly for screening and it will continue to do so.
He said that all parties involved in the matter would soon meet with a view to resolving the impasse.
“From the time the Vice President gave that opinion to now, more than 20 nominations have been forwarded to the Senate and quite a number of them have been screened, sworn in and are now occupying positions. So, therefore, this is not a big issue as some people want to make it. The party, government and the National Assembly will sit on a roundtable and this matter will be discussed and resolved. I assure you,” he stated.
Recall that Osinbajo was recently quoted as saying that executive appointments did not require legislative approval based on Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The comments by the Acting President, last week, drew the ire of lawmakers, who swiftly placed an embargo on confirmation of executive appointments as a gesture of all-out showdown.
In the wake of the Acting President’s comments, the irate lawmakers also suspended the confirmation of Osinbajo’s nominee, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila as chairman of the National Lottery Commission, pending the time their powers would be recognised and respected by the executive arm, especially the removal of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Reports have shown that since Senate fresh feud with the Presidency broke out last week, the Senate President Bukola Saraki has had two closed-door meetings with Osinbajo but the details of their meetings were not revealed.
Recent reports have it that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has waded in to broker peace between the executive and the legislature over their disagreement on the removal of Magu, the reports revealed that the latest in the series of meetings, which began last week, was held at the Presidential Villa late on Sunday.
It was learnt that the meeting was deadlocked, as the party leadership could not convince the executive and the Senate to shift their grounds on Magu.
Some pundits have posited that the ongoing power play and power tussle between the two arms must come to an end, as it is taking a heavy toll on the smooth-running of the government.
The report said that a top member of the party had disclosed that a lasting solution to the raging face-off was yet to be found.
The media report quoted a source, who attended the meeting as saying, “We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Consultations and discussions are still ongoing. We were not consulted at the beginning and this thing was allowed to degenerate to this level.
“What we are doing is damage control. We had to intervene instead of waiting to be left with offering explanations for something we know nothing about.
“The matter is still on. What is happening is that the Acting President, who is fiercely loyal to his boss, does not want to do anything to betray that trust. The last time he spoke to the boss, the boss wanted Magu and as a lawyer, he does everything to protect his client that is his attitude.”
Another report has said that the lawmakers have listed their conditions for resolution, which included the immediate removal of Magu and respect for their constitutional powers. The report said that the Senate vowed not to sheathe their swords in the ongoing peace talks unless the acting chairman of EFCC is removed.
The report quoted a source as saying, “They are insisting that in the real sense, not only the EFCC chairman, any public officer that is subject to Senate confirmation, what disqualifies his confirmation by the Senate automatically disqualifies him from acting in that capacity.
“In any democracy in the world, lobbying is allowed. You lobby the legislature, you lobby members of parliament.
“In this case, the Department of State Services was supposed to have sent its security report to the President, but it didn’t do that; it sent it directly to the Senate. This never happens anywhere.”
Meanwhile, some public commentators have thrown their weight behind the Senate, urging Osinbajo to withdraw his comments and recognise the powers of the legislature by dropping Magu as the EFCC boss just for the sake of peace.
They wondered why the Presidency is adamantly insisting on Magu to head the anti-graft agency in spite of the damning reports from the Department of State Services (DSS), asking if Magu is the only Nigerian to drive the vehicle of anti-corruption agency in the country.
However, others commentators believe that the executive cannot afford to easily yield grounds to the legislature, which appears bullying. They opine that the presidency needs to put up a strong front and stamp its feet down and not buckle.
In all, the face-off is clearly affecting governance just as politics have taken center stage. For one, many expect that the apprehension that trailed the signing of the budget should by now have petered out for real governance to take place.