Published On: Mon, Mar 20th, 2017

Senate and rationalism

For the second time in less than three months Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC appeared before the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly for screening and subsequent confirmation as substantive chairman. Magu was twice unlucky as he was said to have failed to cross the screening hurdle.

That development which could seriously jeopardize Magu’s job did not demoralize him; he left the hallowed chamber with his head held high and in defiant mood despite a demoralizing proclamation by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki which put Magu’s job on the line. He has stipulated that Magu cannot continue to serve in that capacity with his overwhelming rejection by the majority of senators through voice vote. Magu had, however, stepped out of the premises of the National Assembly a triumphant figure, vowing to redouble and revitalize his effort in fighting the pervasive corruption, no matter whose ox is gored in that patriotic move.

The action of the Senate was received by mixed feelings. While in some quarters it was severely criticized for the irrational manner it was conceived and executed, others welcomed it with glee and jubilations. In addition, political pundits have also blamed some state governors for masterminding the whole affair.

They have pointed out that the governors, in cohort with a handful serving senators currently being investigated by the EFCC, were not happy with Magu for daring to probe the missing nineteen billion Naira from the more than three hundred billion Naira released to the governors out of the five hundred billion Naira refund from the rebates of Paris-London clubs debt repayments. Already, the probe of the missing nineteen billion Naira by Magu had put the governors on their toes, rendering them edgy.

In the same vein, some of the serving senators, majority of who were former state governors, came under the powerful beams of the EFCC searchlight and many of them were regular guests of the much dreaded anti-graft agency. If due diligence had been followed in the investigations majority of them would have been docked and jailed a long time ago.
In fact, it was widely agreed that most senators are unfit to occupy their seats on account of alleged involvement in acts of immorality, malfeasance and high level sleaze.

A former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, unceremoniously removed from that exalted police ostensibly for his support for Magu’s confirmation, had clearly opined that he and some of his colleagues have no business in the Senate having been previously indicted with one form of offence or the other. He even had the effrontery to urge the Senate President to stand aside on moral grounds since he is currently on trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. This is the bane of our society which is greatly deficient in morally upright people with clear conscience and high sense of probity.

It is only in Nigeria that indicted government officials would stay put comfortably in office even if the accusations against them was grievous.
For that reason many people were baffled by what they called provocative remarks by Dr. Saraki over the fate of Magu after his eventful appearance in the Senate on Wednesday. Unmindful over his status as an accused person, Dr. Saraki’s’ contention that Magu cannot return to his job was unfortunate as it was debatable.

Many legal luminaries have pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari might represent Magu’s name again and the Senate could have a change of heart as was in the case of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo and his ministerial nominee, Afe Babalola who was rejected twice but was eventually confirmed after the third attempt. Other lawyers have also contended that for Magu it was the end of the road and President Buhari has to forget about him and send another nominee to the Senate.

However, it is not possible to predict President Buhari’s disposition on this matter; he may insist on Magu, or replace him with another so as to put paid to this embarrassing saga which can in the future deteriorate into nasty and unwanted episodes between his government and the Senate. But there are those that believe any move by President Buhari to represent Magu to the Senate would tantamount to an infringement of a constitutional provision which could be termed as impeachable offence.

Whatever that means will remain to be seen. Nigerians are awaiting further actions of the Senate and the anticipated reaction of the presidency. Besides, the reaction of the people who sponsored the Senators to the National Assembly is what really matters especially on the prevailing imbroglio between the Senate and Hamid Ali.

Whatever may happen afterwards it will be expected that the Senate will rely on reason as the best guide for belief and action in dealing with situations that involve anti-corruption drive so as not to stall it. Ultimately the people are surely going to judge what was right and not who is right between Magu and Hamid Ali on one hand, and the Senate on the other.