A Federal High Court in Abuja has upheld the powers of the Senate to confirm or reject the statutory nomination of a candidate for the position of Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Senate, hailing the judgment as a vindication of its position, thursday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to substitute the acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, with a credible candidate, in line with the judgment.
Hon. Justice J.T Tsoho, in a ruling delivered January 15, said the expression “subject to” used in Section 2(3) of the EFCC Act, introduces a condition, a restriction, and therefore translates that the import of the section is that the appointment of a chairman made by the president is dependent on confirmation by the Senate.
Tsoho gave the ruling in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/59/2017 instituted by one Oluwatosin Ojaomo, with the Senate President and the Attorney General of the Federation as the first and second defendants respectively.
Ojaomo sought a declaratory order of the court that the first defendant (Senate) does not possess the statutory power to reject the appointment of Magu as chairman of the EFCC, according to the Act establishing the commission.
According to the judgment, Ojaomo is a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and is currently a legal practitioner.
He also urged the court to interpret the provisions of Sections 2(1)(a)(i) (ii)(iii) and 2(3) of the EFCC Act, 2004, with respect to the appointment of the chairman by the president, and subsequent confirmation of the appointment by the Senate.
Ojaomo, in the suit filed on January 24, 2017, sought the determination of whether or not the Senate can reject a valid statutory appointment made by the president for EFCC chairman.
According to a copy of the judgment made available by Senate spokesman, Senatar Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the defendants did not file any reaction to the originating summons.
Although Justice Tsoho struck out the suit on the basis of doubtful locus standi on the part of the plaintiff, he considered the merit of the issues raised for determination.
“The first defendant can therefore reject a statutory appointment of a chairman of the EFCC made by the president, if there is a good basis for doing so. Issue one stands resolved.
“It should be realised that the provision of Section 2(3) of the EFCC Act empowers the Senate, headed by the first defendant, to confirm an appointee to the Office of the Chairman of the EFCC by the president.
“The Senate is thus conferred with the authority to ensure the choice of only suitable and credible persons for appointment to that office.
“The submission of the plaintiff, however, gives the impression that the Senate only exists to rubber stamp the president’s appointment of a chairman.
“Such viewpoint runs counter to the proper intendment of Section 2(3) of the EFCC Act and is misconceived. Issue two is also resolved,” the judge ruled.
Hailing the judgment yesterday, the Senate spokesperson while briefing National Assembly reporters, said it is one that protects Nigeria’s democracy.
“By this judgment, we hope the executive will be guided by the rule of law and do the needful so that we can move forward. There is nothing personal, but when you stick to the rules of engagement, it is good for everyone,” Abdullahi said.
He added that the inability of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to form a quorum to hold its meetings would soon be resolved if the president does the “needful”.
“There are cases (nominations) we have rejected that were replaced by the executive,” the spokesman added.
The Senate has withheld confirmation processes for nominees whose agencies are not listed in the Constitution, pending the legal determination of its powers to confirm the nomination of the EFCC chairman.
The impasse followed the inaction of the executive over the rejection of Magu’s nomination twice by the Senate and comments credited to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo that the nomination for the EFCC was not listed in the Constitution, and therefore did not require the confirmation by the Senate.