The Senate has perfected plans to withhold the confirmation of nominees by President Muhammadu Buhari as part of the lawmakers’ strategies for a showdown with the Presidency, The PUNCH has reliably learnt.
This is notwithstanding the recent move by the Presidency to reconcile with the Senate.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly is considering placing an “embargo” on approval of appointments by the President until the legislature and the executive resolved the lingering crisis between them.
It was gathered on Sunday that the Senate would make the move based on the recent comment by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who said he agreed with human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), that Section 171 of the Constitution empowers the President to make some appointments without National Assembly’s approval.
An impeccable source in the leadership of the Senate told our correspondent that a constitutional crisis was brewing in the country.
According to the source, the legislature and the executive have conflicting interpretation of the Constitution on their powers and responsibilities.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said while an intervention by the judiciary would be needed, the executive should go to court and not the legislature.
The Presidency and the Senate had clashed over the retention of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission despite the rejection of his appointment by the legislature.
The Senate had, on March 28, 2017, suspended the consideration of the 27 nominees by the President as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission for two weeks.
The move was to protest the Presidency’s insistence on Magu as the acting Chairman of EFCC.
Osinbajo had ruled out the possibility of Buhari replacing Magu with another nominee, adding that the President did not find the DSS report, which was the basis for Magu’s rejection, as a strong reason to replace the EFCC boss.
He said despite being rejected twice, the government was still at liberty to renominate Magu.
Speaking to our correspondent on Sunday, the National Assembly source stated, “There is going to be a constitutional crisis in Nigeria because the Senate is now at a crossroads on what to do with the nominations made by the President for which he is seeking the confirmation by the Senate.
“Going by what Osinbajo said on Magu, it means that the nation’s Presidents from 1999, who sent nominations to the Senate for confirmation, had all breached the Constitution. Even Buhari, who has been sending nominations to the Senate, was not properly advised.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki had, at the plenary on Wednesday, read three letters from Buhari, seeking the confirmation of some of his appointments, including three non-career ambassadorial nominees,
The President, in another letter, sought confirmation of the appointment of five members for the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The President also wrote the Senate separately to seek the confirmation of the appointment of the Chairman, National Electricity Regulation Commission.
Also, the lawmakers have yet to screen and confirm the two ministerial nominees sent to the Senate by Buhari.
The source added, “They may not (be considered, including those of the CBN, NERC and others just sent to the Senate, because of the claims made by the Vice-President. He spoke as if he was speaking the mind of the President.
The source added, “They (Presidency) should proceed to court to seek endorsement for their position. It is their business to go to the court, not the Senate’s. The Vice President has already stalled the nomination and confirmation processes by his unguarded statements.
“He somehow agreed with Falana that there is no need for legislative confirmation for the appointments. With the Section 171 claim by the Vice-President, the Senate is now at a crossroads on whether to go on with the confirmation (of appointments) or adopt the new claim by the Presidency.
“The National Assembly follows established laws, which have been used for all dealings with the other arms of government. If they now have a contrary view, they should go to court.”
But a member of the Senate expressed his anger over the plan in an interview with our correspondent.
The All Progressives Congress lawmaker lamented that some recent decisions by the chamber were not enjoying the support of most members.
The lawmaker said, “Between you and I, that is rubbish. The issue of Magu is rubbish; the issue of (the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service) Hameed Ali is rubbish.
“If some of us insist on Magu’s removal and Ali should appear before the Senate in uniform, how does that put food on the table of Nigerians? And we are supposed to focus on what can improve the life of the average Nigerians; we are not doing that. But we are busy with Ali, Magu and other issues. It is so unfortunate.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached for comments on the latest development.
While he did not return our correspondent’s calls on Saturday, the lines indicated that they had been switched off on Sunday.
But the Vice-Chairman, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, said the Senate would address all issues relating to the relationship between the lawmakers and the Presidency.
He said, “By Tuesday, Senator Sabi (Abdullahi) will speak on the issue as reflected by the joint decision of the Senate. Nobody can take any individual position (on the matter); the Senate will take the position.”
When asked to speak as the deputy spokesman for the Senate, Murray-Bruce replied, “Sabi will take that position because I have not gotten any official communication from the Senate and I don’t have any opinion (on the matter).”
President Buhari had set up a reconciliatory committee chaired by Osinbajo, which has as members ministers, who were at a time, members of the National Assembly as members.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang; and Samaila Kawu (House of Representatives) are also members.
But while the Presidency said the panel had started to meet with the Senate leadership, Saraki had denied such meetings, saying the committee was not necessary.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, could not be reached for comments on Saturday and Sunday.