The endorsement by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo of the continuous stay of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman was not a collective decision, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said on Wednesday.
Addressing journalists after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday, Mr. Malami said the Federal Executive Council never discussed the continued stay and possible re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the anti-graft agency.
The Nigerian Senate had twice rejected Mr. Magu’s nomination as EFCC chairman, officially basing their decisions on a report compiled by the State Security Service, SSS, accusing Mr. Magu of impropriety; although many Nigerians believe the non-confirmation was because many of the senators are being investigated or prosecuted by the EFCC.
Earlier on Tuesday, the upper legislative chamber criticised Mr. Osinbajo for allegedly questioning their constitutional authority to confirm the nomination of appointees by the executive arm.
Senators also expressed concern about the refusal of the Executive to drop Mr. Magu as the acting chairman of the EFCC.
Mr. Osinbajo had in April while speaking in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES and other journalists and activists said Mr. Magu enjoys his confidence, and that of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I’m fully in support of Magu as the EFCC Chairman just as the president is…” Mr. Osinbajo said.
Speaking on the Senate rejection, Mr. Osinbajo said “it is up to the Senate to make their judgement. If our candidate is rejected, …, we can represent our candidate.”
When asked for comments by State House correspondents after the FEC meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Malami said Mr. Osinbajo’s stance was a personal decision never discussed at FEC.
“The fundamental consideration about the alleged statement is the factthat at no point ever did the Federal Executive Council sit down to arrive at the decision in one-way or the other as far as the issue of nomination or otherwise is concerned.
“So, I do not think it constitutes an issue for the Federal Executive Council to make any clarification about because it has never been considered by the FEC,” he said.
Mr. Malami, Nigeria’s chief law officer, has been in the eye of the storm over his role in and dedication to the anti-corruption fight of the Buhari administration. Last month, an anti-corruption adviser to President Buhari accused Mr. Malami of not being committed to the anti-corruption war, a major promise of the president during campaign. Mr. Malami, who is believed to be opposed to Mr. Magu as EFCC chairman, denied the allegation.
The Acting President’s office is yet to react to Mr. Malami’s claim. However, a presidency source confided that what Mr. Malami said was true.
“(Keeping Magu despite Senate rejection) was a decision reached between the president and his vice to sustain the anti-corruption war. I think they never took it to FEC,” the source said.
BUHARI’S SPOKESPERSON REACTS
Speaking on the stance of the AGF and the Acting President, President Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu said, “Our understanding is that some remarks made by the Acting President some months ago when he was the Vice President, because the President was around at that time, an opinion he gave is being misconstrued.
“A senior lawyer in the country offered an opinion, in which he said some categories of public officers traditionally cleared by the National Assembly need not to go through that process, that those ones can be appointed by the Presidential fiat; they don’t have to go through screening. But several months ago, in his position as Vice President, Professor Osinbajo gave a personal opinion saying what this lawyer said makes sense,” Mr. Shehu explained, making reference to Mr. Osinbajo’s support of the stance of human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on the matter as reported.
“I fully agree with Mr. (Femi) Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Mr. Magu for confirmation,” Mr. Osinbajo had said, making reference to the Section 171 of the constitution.
Mr. Shehu confirmed that the government and indeed the FEC had not taken any decision on such an issue.
“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 Federal Executive Council,” he said.
According to the presidential spokesperson, 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.
“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,” he said.
The presidential aide said all parties involved in the matter would soon meet to resolve it.
“The party, government and the National Assembly will sit on a round table and this matter will be discussed and resolved. I assure you,” he said.