The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, clarified his earlier statement on the raging controversies surrounding the continued stay of Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the power of the Senate to screen and reject presidential nominees.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Malami said his comment that the power of the senate to screen presidential nominees was never discussed at the Federal Executive Council should not be misconstrued to mean that ‘the presidency disowned itself.’
“It has come to my notice that a number of media organisations have been distorting and misreporting the proceedings of yesterday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) press briefing, and suggesting that the Presidency ‘disowned’ the Acting President on a matter relating to a presidential nomination,” the attorney general claimed.
“As the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, I would like to make it categorically clear that: The President – and in this case the Acting President – is the Presidency, and therefore cannot be disowned by the Presidency.
“All matters relating to Presidential Appointments and Nominations are strictly a matter for the Presidency to handle. They are not for the Federal Executive Council, and are therefore not discussed at FEC level. This was the point I made yesterday at the press briefing, and which was unfortunately distorted by the media,” he added.
Although the chief law officer claims his views were distorted by the media, his latest statement marks a departure from the response he earlier provided on Wednesday.
At the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting, a journalist asked Mr. Malami a clear question. “Has the Senate gone beyond its powers to actually screen nominees from the president?” Leon Osigbe of Tribune newspaper asked.
As the chief law officer of the country, Mr. Malami could have responded by saying the content of his Thursday night statement, which now appears an afterthought.
Rather, on Wednesday afternoon, he distanced the Federal Executive Council from the stance of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the matter.
“The fundamental consideration about the alleged statement is the fact that 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,” Mr. Malami said.
“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 Federal Executive Council,” he added.
In his reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson also said Mr. Osinbajo’s stance was a personal opinion of the acting president and not that of the Executive.
Mr. Osinbajo had stated his stance in April in an interview with journalists and activists while responding to a question on the continuous stay of Mr. Magu as EFCC chairman despite Senate rejection.
“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 said, making reference to Section 171 of the constitution.
That statement by the Acting President angered the Senate which said Mr. Osinbajo was questioning its constitutional powers to confirm presidential nominees and therefore suspended actions on new confirmation requests by the presidency.
On Thursday, the Acting President restated that Mr. Magu would continue in office as EFCC chairman despite the Senate’s actions.
Despite Mr. Malami’s clarification on Thursday, however, he still failed to answer the question by the journalist which was put to him as the chief law officer of the country: “Has the Senate gone beyond its powers to actually screen nominees from the president?”
While the Executive continues to obfuscate its stance on the question, the Senate insists it has constitutional powers to screen presidential nominees including Mr. Magu and maintains its resolution not to attend to other nominees until the matter is resolved and the EFCC chairman removed.