Nigerians Should Praise Senate For Rejecting Magu, Ohuabunwa Says

Member of the Senate representing Abia North Senatorial District, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, tells LEKE BAIYEWU about the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the lawmakers

The Senate, on Wednesday, rejected the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. How tenable is the reason cited for the decision?

First and foremost, I have always told people that (Ibrahim) Magu is representing the Executive and I know that before  a nominee is sent (to the legislature for confirmation), there must be a security check. Today, it is the executive that still appoints heads of security agencies, which include the Department of State Services. And if the executive and the Presidency are doing what they ought to do, they should resolve their differences in-house. Imagine the situation whereby the executive sent Magu to us (for confirmation) and the DSS wrote a security report on him which was also sent to us on March 14, reconfirming its earlier report as against the letter we got from the President (Muhammadu Buhari) saying that the issues raised (in the DSS report) had been resolved satisfactorily.  At our level, we were supposed to do a security check and this man (Magu) is supposed to be the czar – like the ombudsman. He should be a man without blemish. He shouldn’t be a man with a baggage (of allegations) hanging on him, especially in the area of corruption.

But Magu defended himself at the confirmation hearing. What else did he fail to do?

For me, it (his defence) was not satisfactory. He did not discharge himself so well. For me, he had the opportunity, really, to have shredded that report. But, unfortunately, he said that he did not know the Senate would raise the issue. Then, what else? The first time, why did the Senate stop his confirmation process? This is the first time we are rejecting Magu. The other time, we did not give him an audience at all because of the report. Based on that, he should have known that when he appeared before the senators, such issues might come up again.

What does the Senate expect President Muhammadu Buhari to do now?

For me, it is not over yet. He still has the opportunity. The law is clear on that. The President can re-present Magu if he wants to. But the point is that they (the Presidency) must resolve the issues (raised against Magu). You cannot expect me to do your bidding or business for you.

Magu said the DSS sent two conflicting reports to the Senate. Is it true?

What he was saying was that there were two reports. That is none of our business. We don’t have two reports before us. It is not an issue to gloss over. Security report is a serious matter. I think it behoves the President and the Presidency to resolve it. I believe that there must be something that is not clear yet.

If the DSS presented a report and the President wrote the Senate, asking it to go ahead with the confirmation, why is the letter not considered as superior to the report?

He did not address the issues one after the other. He only said we should confirm Magu. He didn’t even say he re-nominated Magu. And when he nominates someone, we also have the powers to call for security checks; out of that, the report came. The point is that the issue must be resolved.

Are you saying the issues surrounding Magu’s appointment are political?

Within them (the Executive), I believe so. Otherwise, the DSS is under the President and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is also under the President but they are in conflict. So, what is going on? Let them resolve their issues. When there is such report, you must address the issues raised, one by one. They are weighty allegations. Magu also has the right to go to court because it hinges on his integrity. The DSS wrote that Magu had failed the integrity test. The standard here (in the legislature) is that whoever is nominated for any position will require a security report from the DSS.

Two different persons signed the DSS report and the letter affirming the report. Why is the Senate not worried that the Director General of DSS did not append his signature?

Magu also challenged the signatory to the report. It does not matter whether the DSS boss signed the letter or not, because when you are requesting for information (from an organisation), definitely, there will be a desk officer and it is the responsibility (of that officer) to do that (sign the letter). I do not have any issue with that. If he is questioning the name (signatory), luckily, he is an investigator and heads an agency that can conduct investigations; he can find out if the report is genuine or fake. The report did not pass a death sentence. Magu has not been sacked from the EFCC. It is just that he was not confirmed as the head of the agency.

But President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said the implication of the rejection was that Magu ceased to be acting chairman of EFCC and Buhari should make another nomination.

It is left for the executive (to make another nomination), it’s not our responsibility, to decide on that. What we are saying is that certain things are implied in terms of sending a new nominee or not. I don’t want to delve into the functions of the executive. Appointment is a function of the executive, not ours (senate). It is for us to only confirm, which is a responsibility guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution. The Senate, for now, has rejected him. That the Senate rejected him does not stop the President from sending him back (to the Senate for confirmation again), if he feels strongly about him and there are new developments he wants to prove. We have had cases like that. I remember the case of one Prof. Babalola Borisade, former Minister of Aviation, who was rejected. When Onyema Ugochukwu was first presented as a nominee for the Chairmanship of Niger Delta Development Commission, he was rejected – not because of corruption but for some issues which were (later) clarified. We have seen so many instances where nominees were rejected the first time but when there were facts to resolve the issues or there were superior arguments, those nominees were eventually confirmed.

How will the Senate convince Nigerians that the rejection of Magu is not a move against the anti-corruption drive of the current administration?

If that report from DSS is correct, it means the Senate is also against corruption. What the Senate is saying is that, if the (DSS) report is true, we cannot let somebody like this (Magu)  to be at the helm of affairs of an anti-graft agency. The report was not from the Senate and we did not have to gloss over it; it is a serious matter. In any confirmation, security report is very important and (a positive one) gives the nominees a very high score – in addition to their presentation and ability to defend themselves. In screening, so many things are considered in scoring the nominee but the security report is so weighty. If the issue of security report is resolved, it will fetch the nominee about 60 to 70 per cent, especially for a nominee who is going for the position of anti-corruption crusader. The nominee should be seen to be spotless and there should not be any issue of corruption concerning the person at all. It should be somebody seen to be clean completely. This report did not come from the blues; it came from the DSS. If anybody is feeling bad about what the Senate did on Magu, the feeling should be the other way round – the Senate should be commended. The Presidency or Magu himself can go further. Magu is in the system; he is an investigator. He is a senior officer of the EFCC, even though he may not be its head. He has not been sacked. If by tomorrow a new person takes charge of EFCC, he will only be returned to his original position in the commission. He is first an employee and a member of staff of EFCC.

Is there any hope that a new nominee will not be blocked by the Senate?

That is left for the party in government. The politics is within the party and the Presidency. It is not Senate’s wahala (problem). The party in government should look inwards. This is not an appointment made by Nigerians; it is an appointment made by the President who is the head of the country but from a political party. All these people involved (in Magu’s case) are from the same side and they have to resolve their differences and let Nigerians have peace.

-Punch

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