Senate has refused to confirm President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees into the board of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, ICPC, for violating the federal character principle as captured in the nation’s Constitution.
This was even as complaints of lopsidedness in the nomination stirred rowdiness that forced the upper legislative chamber into emergency executive session that lasted 30minutes where the lawmakers resolved to drop the two reports by the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, chaired by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP-Enugu North, on the conformations.
Those rejected for the EFCC appointment were: Ndasule Moses from North West, Lawan Mamman (North East), Galadanci Imam Najib (North Central) and Adeleke Adebayo Rafiu, from South West respectively.
Those in the ICPC who were also rejected include: Bolaji Owasanye (South West), Grace Chinda (South South), Okolo Titus (South East), Obiora Igwedibia (South East), Olubukola Balogun (South West), Adamu Bello (North West), Hannatu Muhammed (North West), Abdullahi Maikano Saidu (North Central), and Yahaya Umar Dauda from North Central.
The debates degenerated into rowdiness when Senator Utazi, presented the report of the committee to the Senate in plenary, on the ground that the Executive failed to comply with Federal Character Act in the appointments of the nominees.
While presenting the report, the chairman had commented that the committee observed that the South East and the South South were excluded in the EFCC nominations by the President.
Senator Utazi also expressed concerns that the nominations of President Buhari was lopsided and therefore outrightly negated the provisions of Section 14(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which deals with federal character.
He pointed out that, out of the four nominees by the President, three are from the North, while only one is from the South, noting that the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is already representing the North East, while the secretary to the commission, Olanipekun Olukoyede, is already representing the South West.
The committee chairman also noted that the composition of this commission is not in accord with the provision of Section 14(3) of the Constitution which deals on federal character.
Immediately he finished his presentation, Senator Victor Umeh, APGA-Anambra Central vehemently opposed the consideration of the report by the Senate, without first addressing the anomaly in the nomination.
He said: “I want to draw the attention of the Senate to paragraph 4 of this report. I have looked at the CVs of the four nominees and I want to say that they have very rich background, experience and education to work in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“But I find paragraph 4 on page 6 of this report very worrisome. The Committee noted that three out of the four nominees are from the North Central, North East, North West and South West geopolitical zone.
“We know that the Acting Chairman of this Commission is from the North East; so they are now four from the North if you go by the Committee report.
“Just two weeks ago, this Senate confirmed the Secretary to the Commission. That Secretary is from the South West, and we also have another member from the South West. The South East and the South South are obviously not accommodated in the Commission.
“There is need to accommodate all parts of Nigeria in activities of government particularly in appointing people to agencies of government. The EFCC is a very important institution in the fight against corruption, and the fight involves all parts of Nigeria.
“People are investigated from all parts of Nigeria. It will not be nice if we are carrying out investigation on anybody from any part of this country and certain sections are not represented in the Commission”.
Senator Umeh therefore, urged the Senate to step down the consideration of the report until the issue of lopsidedness or exclusion was properly addressed to give a sense of belonging to all sections of the country.
His comment attracted agitation from other senators, especially those from the South-East and South-South while efforts by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC-Enugu North to convince the senators that the EFCC and ICPC Acts did not make it compulsory for the President to spread the appointment across the zones of the country, failed.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP-Abia South, also joined Umeh in calling for the suspension of the consideration of the nominees until it was corrected.
He said: “When I stand to talk I do hope we put the interest of Nigeria first. Each and everyone of us is affected. No consideration should be given to this paper”.
In his contribution, the Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, APC-Yobe North, bewho sympathized with the situation, however, urged the Senate to go strictly by the committee’s report and confirm the nominees, saying that the imbalance could be corrected in future.
Meanwhile, Senator Ali Ndume, APC-Borno South, blamed the chairman of the committee that screened the nominees, saying that Utazi should have drawn the attention of the Senate leadership to the matter, that all the zones were not properly represented, instead of bringing a report to the floor and turning round to oppose the content of the report.
He argued that since Utazi is from the South East, he should have done something on the issue before presenting the report to Senate.
At this point, it was noted that Utazi was angry and wanted to respond to Ndume. He and Senator Isah Misau, PDP-Bauchi Central, wanted to speak at the same time just as others were shouting at the background for or against the report.
Senator Misau was heard saying: “We must not divide Nigeria” while Senator Utazi was heard saying: “I have the floor, Marafa go and sit down”.
The uproar, which lasted for about 10 minutes, prompted the lawmakers to go into a closed-door session abruptly.
More altercation and outcry by the senators resulted in a rowdy session, which forced the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to call for a five minutes emergency closed-session, during which the senators resolved to reject the nominees for failing to meet with the federal character principle.
Briefing journalists after the report presented by the committee was rejected, Senator Umeh said that he raised an observation against the nominees because they did not reflect federal character and joy that he was against the nominees.
He said that the committee report captured that the nomination did not comply with the principles of equity and fairness, adding that if the report of the committee was passed, it would have been miscarriage of Justice and against the spirit of oneness.