The Senate on Tuesday mandated its committee on Federal character to investigate the President’s bid to sack the Commissioner of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Muhammadu Gwaska.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on November 14, 2011 forwarded a letter to the Senate requesting its approval to remove Mr. Gwaska as a member representing Nasarawa State from the commission, accusing him of gross misconduct.
“Alhaji Gwaska has consistently refused to respect lawful directives; absented himself from duty without authorisation; unlawfully retained two official cars and some strategic official files of the commission in his private custody and has remained unwilling to subject himself to constituted authority, thus creating an unconducive atmosphere for the commission, which may encourage rancour in the system with its attendant negative effect on the efficiency and service delivery.”
Abdul Ningi, representing Bauchi State, said the request of the President is a demonstration of his determination to instil discipline in the public service.
“The President should be seen not only to bark but to also bite. This will make public officers to sit up.”
Ita Enang representing Akwa Ibom said the situation is an opportunity for the senate to assert its constitutional power and sanction a public officer who has failed to discharge his duties.
“This is the first time this 7th Senate would exercise its power to remove a member of a commission. We have always focused on confirmation of the President’s nominees; but now it’s time to take care of our other responsibilities.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the senate is empowered to initiate sanctions against an errant public officer without having to wait for the executive.
“What the President has just done is to call our attention to this misconduct. This means that in the course of oversight functions, we can initiate the process if we find an officer erring and then forward it to the executive for implementation.”
Conversely, George Akume, representing Benue, cautioned the senate and urged it to verify the allegations leveled against Mr. Gwaska before taking a decision.
“We have the power to carry out this request but we should conduct our own investigation before giving our approval.”
Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia), argued that there was no reason to doubt that the President’s request.
“The President cannot send this request if due process was not followed. We should take Mr. President for his words and go ahead and approve this request so that it does not look like we are second-guessing the President.”
Chris Ngige of Anambra said the senate must be seen to be just and fair in its decision on the matter.
“People can hate you and report you to the authority for removal. There is need to give the commissioner fair hearing. I do not doubt the President. There’s nothing stopping the President from attaching the report of a disciplinary committee to convince us that the allegations are correct,” Mr. Ngige said.
On his part, Kabiru Gaya, representing Kano maintained that the President’s request should undergo due legislative process.
“When the President forwards nominees for confirmation, we screen them. Therefore, when he requests for the removal of an officer, we should verify the matter.”
The Senate President while ruling on the matter said there is the need for all the arms of government to trust one another.
According to him, it is not right for the legislature to doubt decisions taken by the executive and vice versa, given that both arms are supposed to be viewed as doing what is fair and just too all Nigerians.
“There are two basic issues; the first is that we believe that the President has done a thorough job, but we need to confirm it. Secondly, it is whether this report is enough and it should suffice.”
“We will send this to our committee on Federal Character and they must determine the truth and bring back the report to us and I think this can be done within a week. Against next time, we must be cautious and the arms must learn to trust each other that what each arm is doing is fair to all Nigerians.”
David Mark asked the Dahiru Kuta-led Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs to conclude the investigation and report back to the senate within two weeks.