The Senate has described as mere kite-flying the Presidency’s proclamation of its intention to approach the Supreme Court to seek legal interpretation of certain sections of the constitution bordering on power to make federal appointments.
A dependable source in the Red Chamber told journalists Sunday that the presidency was just testing waters, knowing full well that Section 171 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) has nothing to do with the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC).
The presidency had last Sunday hinted that it has initiated moves to end the executive- legislature impasse over powers on certain federal appointments by approaching the highest court in the land to seek legal interpretation of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
It said its decision to seek legal interpretation on the matter was based on a legal advisory prepared by judicial and legal experts constituted by the State House legal department as a working document in respect of the differences in the constitutional interpretations on matters of some federal appointments like that of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), which is still keeping the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the commission at bay.
But the source in the upper legislative chamber who did not want his name in print told our correspondent that the presidency was just selling the idea to know what the lawmakers are thinking about it.
He said, “The EFCC is not known to the 1999 Constitution as amended, because it was not in existence as at 1999 when the constitution came to an effect. Rather, EFCC is a creation of the National Assembly by way of an Act.
“The same constitution that gives power to the National Assembly to make laws for order and good governance, is the same one that gives power to the National Assembly to establish an Act by which the EFCC came into existence.
‘’What the National Assembly has done is recognized by the constitution, and the presidency is highly aware of it”.
But the chairman of Ethics , Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Sam Anyanwu (Imo East) said it would be a welcome development if the presidency could muster courage to approach the Supreme Court over the matter.
‘’Supreme Court is the highest court of the land. Let the apex court decide it once and for all. It will be a welcome relief if the presidency can muster enough courage to seek for clarification on who has the power for the federal appointments in question”, he stated.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the lingering impasse between the executive and the National Assembly is far from abating as the Senate, by virtue of its calendar, will proceed on its annual vacation on Wednesday, with certain requests for confirmations and loan approvals by the presidency still pending before the parliament.
It is revealed that since the Red Chamber is yet to shift ground on the confirmation of some federal appointments and approval of some foreign loans till date, it is equally impracticable that it will do so within 72 hours before proceeding for its annual recess.
Consequently, these and other legal instruments required of the Senate for order and good governance will have to wait for the next 60 days.
Senate had on July 4 showed the yellow card to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, warning that any further move to refuse to strictly adhere to legislative decisions of the National Assembly in particular and the 1999 constitution (as amended) in general will be interpreted to mean crossing the red line.
The Red Chamber also resolved during plenary to suspend further confirmation of nominees from the presidency until the executive implement senate resolutions in the past concerning all issues relating to confirmation in line with provisions of the constitution and laws of the Federation.
Irked by the alleged comment credited to the Acting President that the Senate does not have legislative powers to confirm certain nominees of the executive, the upper chamber equally asked him to withdraw same immediately.
The senate resolutions were subsequent to a letter from the Acting President requesting for the confirmation of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila as the chairman of National Lottery Commission, which it out-rightly rejected.
The senators were also peeved by the continuous retention of Ibrahim Magu in office as Chairman of the EFCC by the presidency against his rejection by the senate while at the same time, expecting them to confirm other nominees forwarded for approval.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who read the Acting President’s letter on Gbajabiamila during plenary, said, “This is an issue that we have to once and for all address. We cannot pass laws and see that the laws are not being obeyed”.
Also, on Thursday, the Senate came out plainly to confirm that it was still maintaining status quo ante bellum on the issue of Magu and other federal appointees.
It revealed this when Senator Eyinaya Abaribe (Abia South) at the plenary on Thursday attempted to draw the attention of his colleagues to media report to the effect that the Senate appeared to have soft pedaled with its resolve on July 4 this year to suspend consideration of requests for confirmation of nominees from the presidency.
Consequently, Abaribe said if the Senate leadership has shifted its ground in order to confirm the RECs nominees, it should also consider the nominee from his state on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was put on hold as a result of Senate’s resolution.
But Senate President Bukola Saraki who presided over plenary dismissed the media reports that the Senate had made a U-turn by confirming the nominees.
He said Senate’s stance does not affect appointments explicitly stated in Sections 153 (f) and 171 of the 1999 constitution that requires Senate confirmations. These appointments include Ministerial, ambassadorial, Justices of the courts, Police Service Commission and RECs.
His words: “The resolution does not affect confirmation expressly stated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). What is in contention are the confirmation of appointments into all establishments created by acts of parliament. This includes: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) among others.
“I want to reassure you that we have not moved away from this resolution. We don’t have the powers – just as presiding officers to move away from it; we must come back to you (legislators). Please disregard what you have seen in the newspapers and be guided that we presiding officers respect the law and respect our colleagues”.