Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says he is fully in support of Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Speaking at the presidential villa in Abuja during an interview with journalists from select media organisations, Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari did not find the indictment by the Department of State Services (DSS) as a strong reason to replace Magu.
The senate had rejected Magu, on two different occasions, based on the report of the secret police.
The DSS had labeled Magu as corrupt, saying he was unfit to lead the EFCC.
But Osinbajo said the president could have interfered with the DSS report if he wanted to, but that Buhari decided to hear Magu’s own account, after which he felt convinced to retain the anti-graft czar.
“We should commend the president for not interfering with what the DSS said. The DSS came up with a report and the man who was accused refuted it,” he said.
“He explains and gives a reason. When that happened, the president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said ‘I am satisfied with what Magu said’.
“He then decided to retain Magu as the nominee for EFCC. I don’t see any reason why that should be contested. The president has not interfered with what the DSS said. If he wanted to interfere, he would have ordered the DSS to keep quiet. He didn’t do that, but he said ‘I don’t think the DSS report is meritorious enough to withdraw his nomination.’
“The president reserves the right to say, ‘this is who I want’. I’m fully in support of Magu as the EFCC chairman just as the president is.”
Osinbajo buttressed his point by saying that it is not only in Nigeria that lawmakers reject nominees based on reports.
He said despite the mounting opposition against the nomination of Jeff Sessions, attorney-general of the US, he is currently serving in the administration of President Donald Trump.
“You see the American example… There are various reports. People come up with all sorts of things. Look at Jeff Sessions (US attorney-general) for instance, there were many reports. Some accused him of being racist, some of this and that, but he is in office today,” he said.
Osinbajo also expressed support for the view of Femi Falana, a lawyer, who said Buhari does not need the confirmation of the senate to retain Magu.
“It is up to the senate to make their judgement, and it is up to us say what we want to do. If our candidate is rejected, we can represent him. No law says we can’t represent him. And again, there is the other argument, whether or not we need to present him for confirmation and that’s a compelling argument from Femi Falana,” he said.
“His argument is that under the constitution, section 171, and if you look at that section, it talks about the appointments that the president can make. They include appointments of ministers, ambassadors and heads of agencies such as the EFCC. In that same section 171, the constitution rightly said that certain appointments must go to the senate such as ministerial and ambassadorial appointments. Those of heads of agencies like the EFCC do not have to go to the senate. That’s what the constitution says. But the EFCC act, which of course as you know is inferior, says that EFCC chairman should go to the senate for confirmation.
“I am sure that even a pocket book lawyer knows that when a legislation conflicts with constitution, it’s the constitution that prevails. I agree with Mr Falana that there was no need in the first place to have sent Magu’s name to the senate, but we did so and it was rejected by the senate, but I believe that it can be represented. I don’t think there is anything wrong about the fact that senate has rejected him. Senate has acted in its own wisdom to say ‘No, we don’t want him’, and we can say, ‘This is our candidate… we like the gentleman and we want him to continue.”
Two weeks ago, the upper legislative chamber halted the confirmation of residents electoral commission (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in protest of the decision of the executive to keep Magu.