EFCC Chairmanship: SERAP describes Senate’s rejection of Magu as invalid

Magu Arriving the National Assembly

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has questioned the “constitutional validity of the nomination and confirmation processes leading to the rejection for the second time of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

In a statement on Thursday signed by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “The rejection of Magu as Chairman of the EFCC by the Senate of Nigeria on the pretext of conflicting and inconsistent reports on him by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, is a slap in the face of Nigerians who are victims of grand corruption.”

It would be recalled that Mr. Magu’s confirmation was first rejected on December 15, 2016 on basically the same grounds.

According to the organisation, “The entire process for the submission of Magu’s name for confirmation by the Senate, and the purported confirmation hearing by the Senate is utterly unsatisfactory. While it is true that the Senate has the right to either reject or accept the nomination of Magu as the Chairman of the EFCC, it has a constitutional duty to act reasonably, logically, and rationally. The Senate ought to have critically engaged with the two reports by the Department of State Services (DSS) and provided Magu with meaningful opportunity to be heard.”

The statement reads in part: “Rather than working together to promote and enhance the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the EFCC, both the presidency and ‘the Senate would seem to have failed to pursue this legitimate governmental purpose and international requirement, and implicitly, constitutional measure.”

“SERAP therefore urges President Buhari to demonstrate genuine political will to fight corruption by urgently resolving the contradictions and inconsistencies in his presentation of Magu for confirmation by the Senate, and to then take rational and reasonable measures to re-nominate him for confirmation. We also urge the Senate to carry out its duty to confirm Magu in line with constitutional and international requirements and without any political or ulterior considerations whatsoever.”

“The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international anti-corruption and human rights obligations demand no less.”

“By the combined effect of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, there is a pressing duty on the Nigerian government to establish and maintain an effective and independent body to prevent and combat corruption. There is in fact an implicit duty on all branches of government to take reasonable step to create independent and strong anti-corruption mechanisms in order to advance, promote and fulfil human rights.”

“But by providing conflicting and inconsistent reports to the Senate on Magu’s confirmation, the government of President Buhari has not taken a logical, fair, and reasonable constitutional and international measure to promote, advance, establish and maintain an independent and effective EFCC.

“And the Senate on its own part would seem to have acted mala fide by picking and choosing the least favourable DSS report to reject Magu’s nomination. The proper and reasonable action the Senate should have taken in the circumstances of this case would have been to invite the leadership of the DSS to appear before it to explain the manifest contradictions and inconsistencies in its reports.”

“SERAP also contends that in the exercise of its legislative function, the Senate is bound only by the Constitution, and must act in accordance with, and within the limits of, the Constitution. The Senate therefore cannot, in the exercise of its confirmation power, act capriciously or arbitrarily.”

“SERAP believes that the constitutional processes of nomination and confirmation are manifestly designed to enhance the independence, ability and capacity of the EFCC and other anti-corruption bodies to prevent, combat and investigate corruption. But the messy and apparently orchestrated nomination and confirmation processes have now made the EFCC vulnerable to an undue measure of political influence and interference, and would in the long run prevent the anti-corruption body from exercising its functions properly and effectively.”

“The Senate must come clean and explain to Nigerians why it failed to invite the DSS to clarify its two reports or invite someone from the presidency to explain why Magu was re-nominated, and in fact to justify why it sent two reports in the first place. It is in the interests of justice and public engagement that Nigerians hear those explanations from the Senate as to why it chose the least favourable report to reject Magu.”

“The requirement of independence is intended to protect the leadership and members of anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC from undue influence.  This is necessary to ensure that these agencies can discharge their responsibilities properly and effectively, especially because corruption largely involves the abuse of power. Without the necessary independence, anti-corruption bodies like the EFCC cannot carry out their functions effectively and free from any undue influence from any of the branches of government.”

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