The presidency on Tuesday gave the clearest indication yet that it would not succumb to the Senate and remove Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the anti-graft EFCC.
The Senate recently refused to screen presidential nominees for the position of the resident electoral commissioners, saying it would not do so until Mr. Magu is removed as Acting EFCC Chairman. The Senate had twice rejected the president’s request to confirm Mr. Magu.
But speaking in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES and other journalists and activists on Tuesday night, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said Mr. Magu enjoys his confidence, and that of the president.
“I’m fully in support of Magu as the EFCC Chairman just as the president is…” Mr Osinbajo said.
Speaking on the Senate rejection, the vice president said “it is up to the Senate to make their judgement. If our candidate is rejected, …, we can represent our candidate.”
The Senate, while rejecting Mr. Magu the second time had said it would no longer consider him if his name is sent again by the president.
But Mr. Osinbajo gave the clearest indication yet that Mr. Magu may remain in acting capacity as EFCC Chairman for the duration of the Buhari administration.
“I fully agree with Mr. (Femi) Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Mr. Magu for confirmation,” he said making reference to the Section 171 of the constitution.
The Vice President said although the EFCC Act requires that an EFCC chairman be confirmed by the Senate, part of Section 171 of the constitution, which is superior to the act, does not mandate such Senate confirmation.
The vice president also described the State Security Service’ action of writing a report against a presidential nominee (Mr. Magu) to the Senate as “a robust expression of our institutions of government.”
He said it shows that the administration does not interfere in the works of its security agencies, making reference to the U.S. where the FBI wrote a report against the U.S. President Donald Trump.
“He (President Buhari) has not interfered with what the DSS want to say,” Mr. Osinbajo said.
Mr. Osinbajo said President Buhari merely studied the SSS (also called DSS) report and reviewed Mr. Magu’s response which he found satisfactory.
“The president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said, ‘I am satisfied with what Magu said.”
A PREMIUM TIMES review of the SSS allegations had shown that most of them were inaccurate.
The controversy over Mr. Magu, who is opposed by majority of senators, some of whom have corruption cases, is one of the issues affecting the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
The Federal Executive Council recently set up a committee headed by Mr. Osinbajo to discuss with the National Assembly leadership and try to end the rift. The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, also got involved in the negotiation.
At a meeting between the APC leadership and the party’s National Assembly caucus, some senators had requested the corruption trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki be dropped for there to be a smooth working relationship with the executive. Mr. Saraki is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration with many of the evidence used against him believed to have been sourced by the EFCC.
The Senate President has, however, denied any wrongdoing and said he believed the trial would collapse.