The Senate tuesday said it would screen the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, in accordance with legislative procedures, but elected to stand by its resolution calling for the sack of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.
The decision of the Senate was made known by its spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi during a press briefing, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s letters requesting for the screening and confirmation of Magu and exonerating Lawal were read out by Senate President Bukola Saraki in the chamber.
Having read out both letters from Buhari, the Senate said it would screen Magu. The Senate spokesman, however, regretted that the president’s letter failed to address the allegations raised against Magu by Department of State Services (DSS), which led to his rejection by the Senate late last year.
Abdullahi also said notwithstanding the president’s position on Lawal, the Senate stood by its resolution, which indicted him of corruption.
But before the press briefing by the Senate, there was an uproar in the upper legislative chamber tuesday following the accusation made by the Chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in North-east, Senator Shehu Sani, that the presidency was full of lies and hypocrisy.
Sani was miffed by the content of Buhari’s letter read by Saraki, in which the president accused the committee chaired by Sani of denying the SGF of fair hearing by failing to invite him to defend himself during the investigation on the mismanagement of funds allocated to the North-eastern section of the country as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The president, in his letter, also concluded that the ad hoc committee’s report was an interim one, obviously forgetting that the presidency had indicted and ordered the arrest and arraignment of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki in 2015, on the basis of an interim report submitted to it by a presidential committee set up to investigate the utilisation of funds for the procurement of arms by past administrations.
Sani described the letter as the funeral of Buhari’s anti-corruption war, pointing out that when the president wants to fight corruption outside the presidency, he uses a disinfectant but when it is within the presidency, he uses deodorant.
But in a bid to douse what he deemed to be strong and inflammatory remarks, Saraki attempted to stop Sani from having his say on the floor on the upper legislative chamber.
Saraki’s attempt to gag the senator, however, drew the ire of his colleagues who appeared to be enjoying the barbs thrown by Sani, as they shouted thunderously until proceedings were interrupted for some minutes, forcing Saraki to allow Sani to continue.
Buhari’s letters had cleared the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and Lawal of corruption allegations.
The Senate had on December 14, 2016, accused Lawal of awarding a multi-million naira grass cutting contract in the North-east to his company and therefore called for his sack and prosecution.
The parliament also rejected Magu as the substantive chairman of EFCC on December 15, 2016, citing a damning security report.
However, Buhari had asked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to investigate the allegations and revert to him with a report on his findings.
It was on this basis that Buhari cleared the SGF and the acting EFCC chairman of the corruption allegations and resubmitted Magu’s name to the Senate for screening and confirmation.
But in his reaction, Sani said contrary to the claim of lack of fair hearing, a letter was sent to the SGF and was received and acknowledged by his office.
He displayed the acknowledgment letter by the SGF’s office as well as a full page advert published in the Daily Trust edition of December 2, 2016, where he said the SGF was listed among those invited to the investigative hearing.
He further accused the presidency of cultivating the habit of telling lies to cover up its shortcomings.
“It is shocking to me that such a letter can come from the presidency with such misinformation and outright distortions.
“They lied by saying that the committee did not invite the SGF. The committee invited the SGF and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF, Mr. Aminu – spelling not sure?
“To make sure that we buttressed our point, we published a paid advert in three or four national dailies. This one was published on December 2, 2016, and the SGF was clearly mentioned as one of those that were expected to come and appear before the National Assembly.
“If they had the intention of simply reaching a pre-determined conclusion by covering up on the issues raised by the committee, that is one thing.
“Secondly, issues were raised that only three members of the committee signed that interim report. That was a second lie coming from the presidency. I have a copy of the interim report which was initially signed by seven members of the nine members of that committee and I am going to submit it to the Clerk of the Senate.
“Even if it was nine members, and then three people signed, we still had a quorum, but here I have seven persons.
“I will say also that I listened to the list of the names that were read and they omitted the chairman, which is myself.
“I know that I am not very big in frame, but I believe my name shouldn’t have been omitted. This shows clearly how the SGF and his minions in the presidency misinformed the president to sign this letter.
“Thirdly, I will state this clearly: This letter is a funeral service for the anti-corruption fight. Mr. President, when it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly, the judiciary and in the larger Nigeria society, the president uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the presidency, they use deodorant.
“I stand by the report of that committee and it was very clear to us. If we allow this committee’s report to be shredded into pieces, then l think it would be in order for us to open all the 138 prisons in this country for all the convicts and awaiting trial inmates to go scot free.
“As far as l am concerned, on behalf of myself and the committee, what we did was a thorough job. We invited all the companies concerned. We invited the SGF and he sent us the secretary of the Presidential Initiative on the North-east.
“The secretary testified under oath that he was competent enough to answer our questions. He came with tons and tons of documents which we went through and then we came out with our report.
“It is unfortunate that we have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic presidency and a devilish and evil society.
“We must in every respect fight corruption within the kitchen as we do in the verandah. If we don’t do that, then we are being hypocritical. This letter does not in any way reflect the spirit which we espoused as a people fighting to cleanse and fumigate this country of corruption,” Sani submitted.
In his letter, Buhari in his reaction to the Senate’s rejection of Magu as substantive EFCC chairman on December 15, 2016, said he had studied the resolution of the Senate and having listened to Magu’s response to the security report indicting him, he was satisfied with his response. He therefore implored the Senate to clear him.
“I have taken due note of the contents of the aforesaid resolution as it concerns the nominee, particularly the conclusion of the Distinguished Senate not to confirm the nomination of Mr. Magu due to a security report on the nominee issued by the Department of State Services (DSS) and addressed to the Senate via a letter dated 3rd October 2016.
“Upon receipt of this said resolution, I took administrative steps within the executive arm of government to ensure the speedy clarification of issues relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision.
“These steps included a request for the response of the nominee to the allegations contained in the report out of the desire to ensure that the credibility of our anti-corruption campaign is not compromised or called to question.
“As the Distinguished Senate, you will recall the prosecution of the anti-corruption war in all aspects of our polity is a programme to which my administration has committed itself since our inauguration on May 29th, 2015.
“In undertaking this campaign, we have been guided by the need for urgency, consolidation and improvement of our present statutory framework for addressing the scourge of corruption in our country as well as taking the benefits of institutional memory and present capacity in taking the campaign forward.
“It is in the above context you will agree with me that there’s a need to maintain the current momentum and capacity of the EFCC since May 29th, 2015. It is in the above context that I therefore request to crave your indulgence of this Distinguished Senate to favourably accept my re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha for the position of the EFCC, having received adequate clarification considering the matter relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision.
“Mr. President of the Senate, I make this request for a favourable reconsideration by this distinguished chamber against the background of the critical role of the Senate in driving the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration through a proactive legislative agenda and adequate appropriation support for the important work of the agency such as the EFCC.
“I use this opportunity to reassure the distinguished senators of my determination to pursue a synergy between the executive and the legislative arms in our common mission to bequeath a more prosperous and value-driven country to the generation after us,” Buhari said.
On the SGF, he said he had also studied the Senate resolution on the report of the ad-hoc committee which indicted Lawal, describing it as hasty because it was an interim report.
According to him, the Senate should have waited for the final report of the committee before drawing its conclusions.
Buhari also said the report could not stand the test of time because it was only signed by three of the nine members of the committee which he said implied the support of a minority group in the committee for the report.
Buhari therefore told the Senate that in view of the flaws in the report, he could not honour their request for Lawal’s sack.
“Following a receipt of your letter, I setup a review team to consider the recommendations from the Senate committee. I have also conducted further investigations based on Engr. Lawal’s response to the allegations and issues raised in the Senate’s resolution.
“I have come to the following conclusion that I believe will guide the Senate in the proper review of its interim report and eventual resolution.
“The report forwarded to the presidency by the Senate which informed the decision that Engr. Babachir Lawal should resign and be prosecuted by the relevant authority was an interim report as against a final report which ought to have been presented to the Senate in the plenary for adoption as a binding and final report before submission to the presidency, given the weight of allegations made in the report.
“The Senate committee set up to investigate the mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-east comprised of nine members, namely: Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Mohammed Hassan, Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Theodore Orji, Senator Yahaya A. Abdullahi, Senator Mallam Aliu Wakili and Senator Issac M. Alfa.
“The review of the interim report showed that the interim report was only signed by only three out of the nine members, namely, Senator Solomon Adeola, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi and Senator Isaac M. Alfa
“The signing of the interim report by three out of nine members of the committee makes it a minority report of the Senate committee and not a committee report being an interim report, thus presenting a challenge for the presidency to determine the weight to attach to the report as currently presented.
“I have also observed that the Senate ad-hoc interim committee report and the votes and proceedings of the Senate have not in its own right established that Engr. Babachir Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee and defend himself.
“It is also on record that the company linked to him, Rholavision Engineering Limited, was also not invited at anytime before the committee to defend itself against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.
“You are invited to note that the non-application of the principle of fair hearing by the Senate ad-hoc committee is a clear contravention of Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, and against all principles of the rule of law as initiated in the Nigerian legal system, as well as the roles of the National Assembly committees on handling of public petitions.
“Consequently, I am of the view that baring other consideration that may arise as a result of subsequent investigation of Engr. Lawal by the interim ad-hoc committee, the current report as presented to the presidency in its own right, does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the Senate’s rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
“In replying to the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Engr. Lawal on the basis of the Senate ad-hoc committee report dated 15th December, 2016,” Buhari concluded.