17 July 2017

Nigeria: Presidency Moves to End Stalemate Over Magu, Approaches Supreme Court

Abuja — There were indications yesterday that the presidency may have initiated moves to end the executive- legislature impasse over powers on certain federal appointments by approaching the Supreme Court to seek legal interpretation of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that the decision of the presidency to seek legal interpretation on the matter is based on a legal advisory prepared by judicial and legal experts constituted by the State House legal department as a working document in respect of the differences in the constitutional interpretations on matters of some federal appointments like that of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), which is still keeping the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the commission at bay.

The Senate had penultimate week resolved to suspend all issues relating to the confirmation of nominees submitted by the executive over what it described as attempt to whittle its legislative powers.

The Red Chamber said the decision would remain until the issues of confirmation as contained in the Constitution and the laws of the federation were adhered to, even as it also urged acting President Yemi Osinbajo to respect the constitution and laws enacted by the National Assembly as related to confirmation of appointments

A top presidency official who disclosed the planned legal battle to LEADERSHIP yesterday said the presidency believes strongly that it is not accurate for the lawmakers to say it has started acting unilaterally on its own interpretation of Section 171 of the constitution.

According to him, although it is the view of the presidency that certain federal appointments should not require the confirmation of the Senate based on Section 171 of the Nigerian Constitution, the Buhari administration feels it can continue to send such appointments to the Senate pending the ultimate judicial interpretation of the matter.

On the advisory prepared by the legal team of the presidency, the source who did not want his name in print because of the sensitive nature of the matter said, "In fact, the advisory unearthed a ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter where the current Chief Justice of the Federation, before his elevation as CJN had ruled in line with the view of the presidency on the matter.

"Here is the point, the presidency believes that Section 171 is clear that certain appointments do not require Senate consent, but the presidency is not already behaving as if it's interpretation of the law has become a policy.

"The presidency is persuaded that its interpretation is the correct one, but we are conscious and aware of the fact that only a proper judicial ruling on the matter would make it a settled policy that sits right with the rule of law. That is why we have not stopped sending all manners of nominations to the Senate, most of which the Senate has actually confirmed, even well after the Acting President spoke."

"In fact the conclusion of the legal advisory on the matter is very clear that a judicial pronouncement preferably by the Supreme Court is what will settle the matter" he enthused.

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