A Senate’s Overreach

Apparently angered by what it perceives as the executive’s dilatoriness over the matter of EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu following his non-confirmation, the Senate has literally been threatening fire and brimstone. Last week, it directed the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo to either sack Magu or risk suspension of further confirmation of any nominations into public offices. It also wants the acting President to withdraw the statement credited to him that the Senate does not have the power to confirm certain nominees.

Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers State) capped the resolution with a threat: “…I don’t want to talk about gross misconduct, but the moment you are playing with the Constitution and laws, it means you are playing down on Nigerians who make the laws”. To this, the Senate President lend his voice: “These resolutions of the Senate must be acted upon by the acting president; otherwise we will take appropriate action.”

If we are not used to costly tantrums by our parliamentarians, we would have treated the threat of unspecified actions against Osinbajo as one of such jokes meant to douse tension in a troubled polity. For a parliament that has ordinarily lost its value, this latest tantrum is least surprising; for while the resort of threat would be in line with the character of a parliament that has long lost its rationale, that the highest lawmaking body in the country would, like some bunch of school children, consider abdicating its functions to fight their turf wars takes parliamentary activism to a new low.

To start with, the acting President has done nothing that can be remotely suggestive of breaking the law on the basis of which the parliament could resort to the threat of sanction. Yes, we are mindful of the fact that the Senate has twice rejected Magu’s confirmation; and the acting President was quoted to have argued that heads of agencies like the EFCC do not have to go to the Senate for confirmation – the plank of his argument being that the EFCC Act is inferior to the Constitution and that the provisions of Section 171 which mandates certain categories of appointments to be confirmed by the Senate is inapplicable to the office of the EFCC chairman. As far as we can see, the issues, as well as the debates that they have spawned, are matters of public interest that Nigerians have voiced diverse opinions.

However, suffice to say that on the first, the Senate, up till now, has not pointed out any law that precludes the President from either re-nominating Magu or any regulation automatically voiding his occupancy of the office on being rejected by the Senate. As for the second, much as the Senate may find that position unsettling, the matter seems to us as one of the constitutional imports that would require the apex court – as against the senators in their chambers – to resolve.

In the circumstance, it seems to us that the Senate will do well to spend quality time on serious issues of governance, against what has become their penchants for endless motions, driven more by ego and nothing else. If they have nothing better to do, the least we expect is that they spare the nation the needless and unhelpful overreach.