Nigerian senators on Tuesday criticised Acting President Yemi 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 Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairman of the EFCC after his nomination was rejected twice by the upper legislative chamber.
At the resumed plenary after the Eid-el-Fitr holidays, Senate President Bukola Saraki said Mr. Osinbajo must respect the laws of the country and the powers of the parliament as enumerated in the Constitution.
The senators backed a series of resolutions against the executive, including one that demanded an immediate retraction of Mr. Osinbajo’s comment, which some of them said was antithetical to a democratic system.
Mr. Osinbajo had sent a request for confirmation of Lanre Gbajabiamila as the Director-General of National Lottery Commission.
Sani Yerima, APC-Zamfara West, prayed that senators should not treat the request because Mr. Osinbajo had dismissed the powers of Senate to confirm nominees.
“Acting President must respect the Constitution and laws enacted by the National Assembly as relating to the confirmation of nominees,” Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West, said while contributing to the motion.
Mr. Melaye also demanded that “the Senate should suspend all issues relating to the confirmation of nominees,” according to a text of proceedings live-tweeted by the Senate handle.
The senators also stopped all confirmation hearings for nominees forwarded by Mr. Osinbajo until all contentious issues surrounding their powers to confirm appointees are resolved.
Other senators took turns to rebuke Mr. Osinbajo and the executive at large for alleged disregard of legislative authority.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, demanded that the law must be obeyed.
Olusola Adeyeye, APC-Osun Central, also said Mr. Osinbajo should not place himself above the law, adding that Nigerians must choose strong institutions over strong individuals.
Kabir Marafa, APC-Zamfara Central, said Mr. Osinbajo must retract his comments, a prayer that was granted after being seconded by Bassey Akpan, PDP-Akwa Ibom North-East.
Laolu Akande, spokesperson for Mr. Osinbajo, did not immediately respond to requests for comments by PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Osinbajo drew the ire of lawmakers when he said in April that the Senate’s powers to confirm nominees were limited.
“I fully agree with Mr. (Femi) Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Mr. Magu for confirmation,” the acting president said, citing Section 171 of the Constitution as his authority.
The acting president was declaring the administration’s full support for Mr. Magu, about a month after the anti-graft official was rejected a second time by the Senate.
Senators insisted that Mr. Magu, who has been functioning in an acting capacity since 2015, step down and warned the executive that they won’t even consider listing him up for confirmation hearing if his name is forwarded again.
On the two occasions, the senators officially hinged their decision to reject Mr. Magu on a security report compiled by the State Security Service, a sister law enforcement agency which is also under the control of the executive. Many of the lawmakers are however being investigated or prosecuted for corruption by the EFCC, a situation many believe is influencing their actions against Mr. Magu.
Mr. Osinbajo has not forwarded Mr. Magu’s name again for confirmation, but his refusal to remove Mr. Magu and nominate another candidate for the position has continued to unsettle the lawmakers, who see the stalemate as an affront.
Mr. Magu has said he was prepared to die fighting corruption and rejected calls for his resignation.
The executive is also sparring with the legislature on matters of appropriation.
Last month, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo drew scriticism from Speaker Yakubu Dogara after he reportedly suggested that the power of the legislature to rework appropriation bills was limited.
The speaker said the parliament has absolute constitutional powers to make changes to the budget, admonishing the acting president to seek a judicial interpretation if he sees any ambiguities.
“A declaration as to which of the arms has the power and rights, in as much as it is related to the interpretation of the law, is the function of the judiciary and not of the executive,” Mr. Dogara said.
The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, backed the acting president, saying the legislature should not be making far-reaching amendments to budgets.