The Senate has suspended the confirmation of four new members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Senate president, Bukola Saraki, announced this after the lawmakers emerged from a closed-door session following a heated exchange during the confirmation of the nominees.
Mr Saraki said the lawmakers had been agreed that the confirmation of the EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) nominees should be suspended for further legislative input.
The EFCC members are Ndasule Moses, Lawan Mamman, Galadanci Najib, and Adeleke Adebayo.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in July 2016, written to the Senate seeking confirmation of the nominees as members of the commission.
The decision on Tuesday to suspend the nominees’ confirmation came after a lengthy argument among the lawmakers.
The red chamber was earlier thrown into a rowdy session as lawmakers disagreed over the appointment of the nominees.
The Chairman of the committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, had presented a report of the committee to the lawmakers.
He, thereafter, stated that the nominees possess the experience, integrity and professional competence to discharge the duties of the nomination they were voted into.
He also added that three of the nominees are from the North-central, North-east, and North-west geopolitical zones and only one is from the South-west.
“The committee notes that this is not in strict compliance with the federal character principle enunciated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 14 of the Constitution. The committee makes this observation to guide the executive in future appointments,” he said.
Two senators, Rabiu Kwankwaso (PDP, Kano) and Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano), supported the recommendation of the committee and urged the Senate to consider the report.
However, just as the upper chamber was about to go into the committee of the whole to consider the report, Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra), stood up to condemn the report, stating that in all the recent appointments into the commission, the South-east had been marginalised.
He explained that the Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu is from the North-east, the recently confirmed Secretary of the Commission, Olanipkekun Olukoyede, is from the South-west and two of the nominees are from the North.
“We have continued to say that there is need to accommodate all parts of Nigeria in the activities of government, particularly in appointing people to agencies of government. That has been the practice in this chamber.
“The fight against corruption involves all parts of Nigeria. People are investigated from all parts of Nigeria. It will not be nice if we begin to constitute a commission that will fight corruption to the satisfaction of all Nigerians and some parts of Nigeria are not represented in the commission.”
While accusing the executive of not playing along with the federal character principle, Mr Umeh asked that the report be stood down until the nomination is reviewed.
“There should be no sacred cows and there should be no preferential treatment. The Senate should be bold enough to return this nomination to the president with observations,” he said.
Supporting his colleague, Matthew Uroghide, explained that the distribution of the nominees across the geo-political zones of the country is wrong. He also asked that the report be stood down “until the executive sends nomination that shows federal character principle.”
On his part, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, urged the Senate to go ahead and consider the recommendations of the committee.
“I don’t want to blame our committee. Whatever we do, we are guided by the laws. I advise that we go by what the committee has presented. Let’s pass this as presented.”
In response to Mr Lawan, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) urged his colleagues to put the interest of Nigerians first when considering such issues.
“A situation has been pointed out and it is not right to say let us go strictly by the law. This nomination is against the federal character principle. We must stand down and reconsider this nomination.”
At this point, lawmakers were heard shouting “no”
“Colleagues who may disagree, you may use your powers today, but don’t come back regretting tomorrow because everyone is affected by this. I am saying no consideration should be given to this paper,” Mr Abaribe continued.
In an attempt to calm the already rowdy chamber, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, asked his colleagues to “show sensitivity and consider the report.”
Next was Ali Ndume who stood up to speak.
“These nominees after submission by the president was referred to the committee,” said Mr Ndume (APC, Borno).
“The committee should have done its work as soon as it realised this. We don’t have to come here. This is the job of the committee. Why do we have to do this here?”
This time, the chamber was thrown into pandemonium as lawmakers were seen rising from their seats and yelling at each other – a rowdiness which lasted for a while.
At this point, both Mr Utazi and Isah Misau wanted to speak.
Mr Misau could be heard saying: “We must not divide Nigeria” while Mr Utazi was heard saying: “I have something to say. I have the floor, Marafa go and sit down.”
“You have a rowdy floor,” another senator said.
Efforts by Mr Saraki to calm the angry lawmakers were unsuccessful. This prompted the lawmakers to go into a closed-door session.