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…says NASS members should elect their leaders for stability
President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki has disclosed that the failure of the Presidency to follow laid down procedures and parliamentary conventions was responsible for the refusal of the Senate to confirm the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The Senate President spoke yesterday at the orientation programme for Senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect of the 9th National Assembly held in Abuja. Saraki, who responded to questions on the powers of the Senate to confirm certain appointments made by the executive, explained that while it was the responsibility of the parliament to confirm appointments there were procedures that ought to be followed by the executive.
Saraki said that the appointment of Magu as EFCC Chairman could have been confirmed but for the failure of the Presidency to explore the established procedures including lobby and consultations. According to him, after the Senate rejected the nomination of Magu twice and gave its reasons, the President ought to have explored a “political solution” by consulting with the leadership of the Senate if it had superior reasons for insisting it must be him or nobody else. Saraki said that following the rejection of a nomination, the executive arm of government had a duty to find a replacement and present same to the Senate.
“When the Executive makes appointment, there is issue of lobby. This is why we want a particular nominee. It is done even in America. In cases like the EFCC chairman, there is always the need for political solution and dialogue to solve the issue. “The truth really is that the issue of confirmation whether ministerial or other appointments, is done by the entire Senate. Generally, we have an unwritten practice that we would get the input of senators from the state where the appointee hails from before we start the screening process in the Senate.
“By the powers of the Senate if such a nominee is rejected, then it is upon the executive to find a new replacement. The issue really is that the Senate has the powers to reject a ministerial nominee. “In the case of the appointment of the Chairman of the EFCC, the powers of the Senate are very clear in the constitution. For any nominee, we are guided by the constitution. It is an appointment made by Mr. President, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, which means the Senate has the powers to either say yes or say no.
“In a situation where the Senate rejects, it is up to the executive at that time to send in a replacement or in some cases, when we have appointment rejected and the executive will re-present before the Senate but if the senators again, took a decision to reject the nominee, the appointment stands rejected,” he said. On why the Senate did not go to court for a pronouncement to confirm its powers to confirm the EFCC chairman, Saraki explained that there were over 12 cases pending in court on the issue with some of the cases pending in court for over two years.
“There are 17 cases in court that have been on now for two years and for one reason or the other, those cases have not moved. I cannot explain what happened. They are cases that have to deal with asking the courts to give judicial interpretations to who has the powers to do one thing or the other. I am sure by the time the judiciary gives the interpretations, there is no doubt about it that it will be clear that it is the Senate that has the powers “In things like this in a democracy, there must be a political solution, there must be dialogue. I think that is the most important thing.
The Senate has the power of confirmation. It is how to manage those issues that are the challenges. There will be many like that in the 9th Assembly. The question is how the executive and the legislators will work together and find a solution. It is how the relationship between the two arms of government.
“There is also a wrong perception that the leadership of the Senate has those powers. The powers of the presiding officers are in the members. It is the members that decide the leadership of the National Assembly. Most of the decisions especially confirmation, are usually taken by the members. In other countries, the executive there are seen to be lobbying the legislators. When they have a candidate, they will go and lobby to get in their preferred choice appointed,” he said.
The President of the Senate who also commented on the ongoing tussle for the leadership of the 9th Assembly, advised lawmakers to play the game according to the rules. He described as unnecessary the external endorsements and heavy media hype surrounding the election of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly. He said the election of presiding officers was an internal affair which lies in the hands of the parliamentarians.
In a veiled reference to the flurry of endorsements of prospective candidates for the leadership positions in the Senate and House of Representatives, Saraki said that inauguration and election of presiding officers would only take place on the floor of the two chambers of the National Assembly. He therefore advised senatorselect and members-elect that they should ensure that they were in the chamber on the day of inauguration.
It will be recalled that the members of the Senator Ahmad Lawan for Senate President group, attended a meeting at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, to strategise on how to elect their candidate, only to hear that Saraki had been elected before they could rush back to the National Assembly.
“The point I am making is that we should not make too much news on the process of electing a presiding officers. What is important is for the members of the Senate to decide who is the best to lead them so that they can have stability,” he said. Saraki also stressed that the independence of the parliament was not negotiable, noting that the legislature is the bedrock of democracy as well as the closest arm of government to the people. He asserted that the parliamentarians must be free to elect their leaders without external interfere, as a pragmatic step to ensuring stability in the legislative body.
He noted that legislators are held in a position of trust by the people, and that the responsibility of lawmaking is a great one, stressing that the role is clearly defined, as well as geared towards safeguarding freedoms and ensuring socio-economic development of the country. Saraki reminded the politicians that the constitutional roles of the parliament are: to oversight other arms of government, make laws and ensure constituency representation, urging them to lead the way in asserting the principles of separation of powers.
He said: “In its constitutional role, the National Assembly carries out oversight, makes laws and ensures constituency representation. “In carrying out constitutional functions, lawmakers must always recognise that the independence ofthe legislature is non-negotiable.
It is an independent and co-equal arm of government. Therefore, it behooves members of the National Assembly to lead the way in asserting the principle of Separation of Powers, thus ensuring accountability in governance.
“To achieve that, it is expected that members will carry out their duties in a manner that commands that respect from other arms of government as well as the people you represent.” Saraki further urged them to be courageous enough to follow their mind in decision-making, and should be guided by what is right. Also speaking at the event, the preferred candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), for the post of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, promised that he would carry the opposition lawmakers along if eventually elected in June. He said: “We are reaching out to all our colleagues regardless of their political persuasions; after we are supposed to work together. It is not just going to be a Senate for only the APC members. It is a Senate that will consist of the APC, PDP, and YPP. “Therefore, we need everybody to support the genuine and laudable course of making Nigeria better. I will ensure that our administration is able to deliver laudable projects for Nigerians and the best way to achieve this is for all of us to work together.