The Senate, yesterday, said it was not ready to make a U-turn on the indictment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal. He was on December 14, 2016 indicted by the Senate, following the recommendations of an interim report of its Ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, headed by Senator Shehu Sani.
The President sent two letters to the Senate which were read by Senate President Bukola Saraki, yesterday.
One of the letters was the resubmission of Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu’s name, for confirmation.
This is even as the Senator Sani said the two letters were a death knell for Buhari’s anti-graft war.
The Senate’s position followed Buhari’s claims that the SGF was not given the chance to defend himself and clear his name during the public hearing on North-East crisis.
Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, who addressed newsmen after their closed-door session which lasted for over an hour, said the December 14, 2016 resolutions of the Senate stand.
Sabi said contrary to claims made in President Buhari’s letter, which cleared the SGF of any wrongdoing, the Senate gave everyone accused in the North-East humanitarian crisis a fair chance to defend himself or herself.
Buhari, in his letter addressed to Saraki, faulted the interim report and accused the lawmakers of bias. He insisted that the SGF and his alleged company, Roller Vision Limited, were not given any chance to defend themselves during the public hearing on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East.
He also claimed in the letter that only three of the nine ad-hoc committee members signed the interim report.
Buhari maintained that based on the loopholes in the report, he could not in good conscience, act on the resolution or sack Mr. Lawal. He said he could not also hand him over to any anti-graft agency for prosecution.
Buhari’s claims did not come without any rebuttal by Senators. Soon after Saraki, who presided during the legislative business of the day read the letter, the Red Chamber was temporarily thrown into chaos.
Lawmakers protested and insisted on speaking on the issue. They were, however, ignored by Saraki. As agreed by Senators during their session, Senator Sani spoke.
Relying on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules, Senator Sani declared that “this letter is a funeral for the anti-corruption war of the current administration of President Buhari.”
Senator Sani claimed that the President was being deceived by people within the corridors of power to sign the letter. He said some ‘miniatures’ in the Presidency wrote the letter to the Senate and only compelled Buhari to append his signature.
Sani said President Buhari’s approach to the fight against corruption is biased, arguing that he adopts a different approach whenever his cabinet members are accused of corruption, while he maintains a strong stance whenever public servants in the National Assembly, judiciary and other areas are accused.
Meanwhile, there was uneasy calm in the Senate, yesterday, following Buhari’s re-submission of Magu’s name.
Emerging from an executive session which lasted for over an hour, Saraki, read the official communication from President Buhari.
Buhari, in the letter, noted that the anti-corruption war is at the heart of his administration and insisted that Mr. Magu was fit enough to lead the way, despite the report of Department of State Services (DSS).
He said Magu, in his response to the allegations raised in the DSS report, adequately addressed them. He said based on Magu’s response, he had to re-forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive chairman of the EFCC.
But speaking on the issue, Senator Sabi said Buhari did not address any of the allegations contained in the October 3, 2016 report submitted to it by the Senate.
Though Senator Sabi did not state in clear terms the next line of action of the Red Chamber, he, however, maintained that lawmakers did not err by declining to consider Buhari’s letter of Magu’s confirmation.
Traditionally, the Senate does not consider any matter usually before any competent court of law. Already, a Lagos-based lawyer, Ebun-Olu. Adegboruwa, has asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to restrain Magu from parading himself as the Acting Chairman of EFCC.
In the lawsuit filed on January 16, Adegboruwa is also asking the Senate not to entertain any further request from President Buhari for the confirmation of Magu.
The Lagos Federal High Court has fixed February 13 to hear the suit. As it stands now, it is unclear whether or not the Senate will bypass the pending court case to entertain the request from President Buhari.
Questions have, however, been raised over the alleged desperation by the Presidency to ensure that Magu is confirmed.
For instance, it was learnt that Magu’s confirmation letter was personally delivered at the Maitama home of the Senate President by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang by 10pm on Sunday, January 22.
The letter was written by President Buhari on Tuesday, January 17, the same day he wrote to the National Assembly, to inform it of his plans to embark on medical leave in the United Kingdom.