Even though the matter of whether Nigeria’s military chiefs must by screened and approved by the National Assembly had long been settled by the courts, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Monday claimed that the Service chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari do not need any clearance by the upper legislative chamber.
Mr. Buhari had told the new Service Chiefs shortly after their appointments Monday that their nominations would be sent to the National Assembly for confirmation.
“Legally, you are in acting capacity until the National Assembly accepts you,” the President said.
“It is only then that you will take the oath of office. Thereafter, we will sit down and talk in more detail.”
Ostensibly based on the President’s comment, and perhaps based on the fact that the last set of Service chiefs were screened and approved by the Senate, a citizen, Chinedu Peters, tweeted at Mr. Saraki at 5:25 p.m. on Monday urging him and his colleagues to immediately call off their recess to clear the new military chiefs.
I hope @bukolasaraki & the senate will as promised come out of their break to confirm the appointment of the new service chiefs immediately
— Chinedu Peters (@chinair) July 13, 2015
“I hope @bukolasaraki and the Senate will as promised come out of their break to confirm the appointment of the new service chiefs immediately,” Mr. Peters tweeted at Mr. Saraki, using the handle @chinair.
But responding to the tweet at 7:08 p.m. same day, Mr. Saraki said the appointment of service chiefs was a prerogative of the President, and that the Senate had no role to play in the process.
“@chinair Appointment of service chiefs is an exclusive function of Mr President. Senate can only approve Ministerial, parastatals etc,” the Senate President said, using his handle @bukolasaraki.
@chinair Appointment of service chiefs is an exclusive function of Mr President. Senate can only approve Ministerial, parastatals etc
— Bukola Saraki (APC) (@bukolasaraki) July 13, 2015
PREMIUM TIMES checks indicate Mr. Saraki is wrong, and Mr. Buhari right.
A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, had on July 1, 2013 ruled that any appointment of Service chiefs by the president without approval of the National Assembly is unconstitutional and illegal.
Justice Adamu Bello declared the appointments of the service chiefs without National Assembly’s approval as null and void because they did not conform to Section 18 (1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20, Laws of the Federation.
The case, instituted by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had challenged the practice of appointing military chiefs by the President without seeking the approval of the National Assembly.
Mr. Keyamo had argued in court that the appointments of service chiefs, which are political appointments, could not be different from other political appointments that require the confirmation of the National Assembly such as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; ministers, and so on.
Based on that judgment, which has not been appealed till date, former President Goodluck Jonathan sought and got the approval of the National Assembly in January 2014 when he appointed Alex Badeh as Chief of Defence Staff, Kenneth Minimah as Chief of Army Staff, Usman Jibrin as Chief of Naval Staff and Adesola Nunayon Amosu as Chief of Air Staff.
Mr. Saraki was already a Senator during the period, and it is unclear why he is now claiming that the National Assembly has no role to play in the appointment of the new Service chiefs.
The Senate President could not be reached to comment for this story. He is said to be away in Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj.
His spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, is yet to return calls made to him Monday morning.