Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Senate May Confirm Farida Today

The Senate will today screen and confirm the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs Farida Mzamber Waziri, after over one week of horse trading and politicking over the controversies surrounding her appointment.

The Senate last week put on hold the screening and confirmation of the new EFCC boss on grounds that she may have assumed duty before her name was sent to the Senate for confirmation and screening.

Senate president David Mark had directed the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics to find out whether the new EFCC chairman had actually assumed duty as the chairman of the anti-graft agency as being speculated in some sections of the media.

The Senate had also raised observations on the language used by the attorney-general of the federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), who according to the Senate president, had created the impression that it was the prerogative of the president to appoint the EFCC chairman and then send the name to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

It was the position of the senators that such appointment violated the provisions of the 1999 constitution and also eroded the powers of the Senate which is to screen and confirm the nominations of the president before appointments.

The Senate president had also warned senators against being sentimental about the appointment of the EFCC chairman, stressing that the due process of law must be followed in all appointments.

Meanwhile, the Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organisation, has petitioned the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) over the appointment of Mrs. Farida Waziri as EFCC chairman by President Yar'Adua without confirmation by the Senate, which is contrary to section 3 of the EFCC Act and Nigeria's international obligations.

In the petition dated 26 May, 2008, and signed by SERAP's executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation asked UNODC's executive director, Mr. Antonio Maria Cota, to use his good office as the guardian of the UN convention against corruption, to which Nigeria is a party, to prevail on the Nigerian government to reverse its decision and comply fully with its national and international anti-corruption commitments and due process.

The organisation said, "Recently, President Yar'Adua appointed Mrs Waziri as new chairman of the EFCC without first submitting her name to the Nigerian Senate as required by section 3 of the EFCC Act, which provides that the chairman and members of the commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the president and the appointment shall be subject to the confirmantion of the Senate. The Senate has rightly condemned Mrs Waziri's appointment and demanded full compliance with due process of law but the Nigerian government has said it would go ahead with the appintment regardless. In fact, senior officers of the EFCC have been asked to hand over to Mrs Waziri on May 26, 2008."

In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP, the organisation said it believed "the deliberate failure by the Nigerian government to comply with the clear provisions of the EFCC Act is not only a nagation of due process and the rule of law, but also amounts to a fundamental breach of the country's international obligations under the UN convention against corruption to promote and strengthen the independence of anti-corruption institutions like the EFCC.

"As a state party to the UN convention against corruption, Nigeria voluntarily assumes a clear obligation to act in good faith and to diligently strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively, and to ensure that national anti-corruption institutions are granted the necessary indepence to enable them carry out their functions free of any undue influence.

However, SERAP is seriously concerned that apart from acting in bad faith, and violating its international obligations, what Nigerian government has done also amounts to political interference in the work of the EFCC, and is capable of serioulsy undermining the credibility of one of the few active and effective anti-corruption institutions in Nigeria," the organisation further argued.

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