The Senate, on Tuesday, criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s defence of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly insisted on its demand for the removal and prosecution of the SGF, who the Senate accused of awarding contract to a firm where he was a director in the humanitarian crisis in the North-East.
Buhari had, in separate letters to the Senate, urged the lawmakers to confirm Magu as the Chairman of the EFCC while picking holes in the Senate’s allegations of corruption and misconduct against Lawal.
Six months after Buhari wrote the Senate, asking for legislative approval of Magu’s appointment, the lawmakers, on December 15, 2016, rejected the nomination based on a “security report” by the Department of State Services.
The DSS, in its report, specifically said Magu was not fit for the EFCC chairmanship, alleging that his activities had made him ineligible to hold the office.
The Senate, after rejecting Magu’s nomination, had communicated the rejection to the President.
The Senate had also called for Lawal’s resignation, probe and prosecution over alleged wrongdoings in the management of funds and contract awards in the presidential committee on the North-East rehabilitation under his watch.
The decision was based on the interim report by the Senate Committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, headed by Senator Shehu Sani, which was released on December 14, 2016.
The lawmakers called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal, who is overseeing the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, for allegedly owning one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.
Lawal was alleged to have resigned his directorship of the company after becoming the SGF and after the company had executed the contract.
The SGF had denied the allegations, saying what the Senate said was “balderdash.”
Buhari, in his response to the communications from the Senate, which was read by Senate President Bukola Saraki during the plenary on Tuesday, said the report on the SGF was in the interim, which showed that the probe by the panel had not been concluded.
The President, however, argued that the Senate did not invite Lawal during its investigative public hearings, which was against the principle of fair hearing.
Buhari’s letter on Magu read in part, “I write with reference to your letter, no NASS /85/R/016, dated December 15, 2016, wherein you conveyed to me the resolution of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reached on the same Thursday, December 15, 2016, in respect of my earlier request for the confirmation and appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu Mustapha, the nominee, as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“I have taken due note of the contents of the aforesaid resolution as it concern 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 and addressed to the Senate via a letter dated October 3, 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.”
The President recalled that “the prosecution of the anti-corruption war in all aspects of our polity” was a programme to which his administration had committed itself since its inauguration on May 29, 2015.
The President added, “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 29, 2015. It is in the above context that I, therefore, request to crave the indulgence of this distinguished Senate to favourably accept my renomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha for the position of the EFCC Chairman, 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.”
In a separate letter on Lawal, which was equally read by Saraki at the plenary, Buhari’s letter read, “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 authorities, S/075/02/016, was an interim report as against a final report which ought to have been presented to the Senate in plenary for adoption as a binding and final report before submission to the Presidency, given the weight of the allegations made in the report.”
The President also pointed out that the Senate committee comprised nine members, saying, “The review of the interim report shows 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.”
Buhari further said he also observed that the committee’s report and the votes and proceedings of the Senate had “not, in its own right, established that Engr Babachir Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee and defend himself.”
He added that it was also on record that the company linked to Lawal, Rollervision Engineering Limited, “was also not invited at any time before the committee to defend itself against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.” Read More