President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the senate exonerating Acting Chairman of the Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal from allegations of corruption levelled against them.
The president’s letter was read at plenary on Tuesday by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in which Buhari also urged the legislative arm to reconsider Magu for confirmation as substantial chairman of the anti-graft agency.
The letter stated that both men were cleared of any corrupt wrongdoing after an investigation by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, based on a directive from the President.
‘Senate report biased’
Buhari in his letter faulted the interim report of the Senate, which in December, 2016, indicted the SGF of using his private company Roller Vision Limited to bid for contracts, and accused the Senate of bias, insisting, that the SGF and his company were not given any chance to defend themselves during the public hearing on mounting humanitarian crisis in the North East.
He also claimed in the letter that only three, out of the nine Adhoc committee members signed the interim report.
The current report as presented to the presidency in its own right does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the Senate rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
President Buhari maintained that based on the loopholes in the report, he could not in good conscience, act on the resolution or sack Mr. Lawal. He said he could not also hand him over to any anti-graft agency for prosecution.
Buhari in the lengthy letter, said: “The signing of the interim report by three out of 9 members of the committee, makes it a minority report of the Senate committee and not a committee report being an interim report, thus, presenting a challenge for the presidency to determine the weight to attach to the report as currently presented.
“I have also observed that the Senate Adhoc interim committee report and the votes and proceedings of the Senate have not in its own right established that Engr. Babachir Lawal was ever given an opportunity to appear before the committee and defend himself.
“It is also on record that the company linked to him Roller Vision Engineering Limited was also not invited at any time before the committee to defend itself against the allegations which eventually formed the fulcrum of the Senate’s case against the company.
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“You are invited to note that non application of principles of fair hearing by the Senate Adhoc committee is a clear contravention of section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and against all principles of rule of law as initiated in the Nigerian legal system as well as the roles of the National Assembly committees on handling of public petitions.
“Consequently, I am of the view that baring other consideration that may arise as a result of subsequent investigation of Engr. Lawal by the interim Adhoc committee. The current report as presented to the presidency in its own right does not meet the principles of fair hearing and compliance with the Senate rules for conduct of investigations in matters relating to abuse of office by public officers.
“In replying on the foregoing, I am not able to approve the recommendation to remove and prosecute Engr. Lawal on the basis of the Senate Adhoc committee report dated 15th, December, 2016.”
Buhari’s claims did not come without any counter argument from some Senators. Soon after the Senate President, Saraki who presided during the legislative business of the day read the letter, the Red Chamber was temporarily thrown into chaos.
‘Anti-corruption war is fake’
Relying on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules, Senator Shehu Sani who doubles as the chairman of the Adhoc committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, lampooned President Buhari and declared that “this letter is a funeral for the anti-corruption war of the current administration of President Buhari.”
Senator Sani claimed that the President was being deceived by people within the corridors of power to sign the letter. He said some ‘miniatures’ in the presidency wrote the letter to the Senate and only compelled Buhari to append his signature.
When the President wants to fight corruption within judiciary, the National Assembly and other areas, he uses insecticides, but when he wants to fight corruption within the presidency, he uses deodorants.
Sani said President Buhari’s approach to the fight against corruption is biased, arguing that he adopts a different approach whenever his cabinet members are accused of corruption, while he maintains a strong stance whenever public servants in the National Assembly, judiciary and other areas are accused.
He said: “It is shocking to me that such a letter came from the president with such claims and lies. They lied by saying that we did not invite the SGF. We invited the SGF and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the office of the SGF. I have the letter.
“We made paid advertorial in three national newspapers. The SGF was listed as one of those to be invited. If they want to cover up their track, that is their business.
“That is another lie that three out of nine members signed the interim report. With me, I have a letter of seven signatures of members of the committee. But they omitted my name from the names even though I am the chairman.
“It shows how people within the presidency deceive President Buhari to sign such a letter. When the President wants to fight corruption within judiciary, the National Assembly and other areas, he uses insecticides, but when he wants to fight corruption within the presidency, he uses deodorants.”
An attempt by Saraki to stop Senator Sani, was resisted by other lawmakers who protested the move. “You said you wanted to raise a point of order. Why are you digressing,” Saraki asked.
Continuing, Senator Sani said: “As far as I am concerned, the report of the Committee is credible. It is unfortunate that we are in a political environment. We live in a country where the presidency is full of angels and saints. But the larger society is full of demons and sinners.”
Reacting, the Senate President, Saraki, urged the committee to reflect some of the points raised by President Buhari in its final report which is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.
In the December 14th, 2016 interim report, the Senate called on President Buhari to immediately sack Babachir and also called on anti-corruption agencies to investigate and possibly prosecute him.
‘DSS report on Magu dumped’
Also on Tuesday, President Buhari, dumped the recommendations of the Department of State Services (DSS), which in October, 2016, indicted Mr. Magu.
Proving people wrong, Buhari resubmitted Magu’s name to the Senate to be confirmed as the substantive chairman of the Commission.
It is in the above context that I therefore request to grace your indulgence of this Distinguished Senate to favourably accept my re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha for the position of EFCC Chairman, having received adequate clarification considering the matter relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision.
Emerging from an executive session which lasted for over an hour, Saraki, read the official communication from President Buhari.
Buhari, in the letter, noted that anti-corruption war is at the heart of his administration and insisted that Mr. Magu was fit enough to lead the way, despite the report of the DSS.
He said Magu in his response to the allegations raised in the DSS report, adequately addressed them. He said based on Magu’s response, he had to re-forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive chairman of the EFCC.
Buhari in the letter, wrote: “As the Distinguished Senate, you will recall the prosecution of the anti-corruption war in all aspects of our polity is a programme to which my administration has committed itself since our inauguration on May 29th, 2015. In undertaking this campaign, we have been guided by the need for urgency, consolidation and improvement of our present statutory framework for addressing the scourge of corruption in our country as well as taking the benefits of institutional memory and present capacity in taking the campaign forward.
“It is the above context you will agree with me that there is a need to maintain a current momentum and capacity of the EFCC since May 29th, 2015. It is in the above context that I therefore request to grace your indulgence of this Distinguished Senate to favourably accept my re-nomination of Ibrahim Magu Mustapha for the position of EFCC Chairman, having received adequate clarification considering the matter relied upon by the Senate in arriving at its decision.
“Mr President of the Senate, I make this request for a favourable reconsideration by this Distinguished Chamber against the backdrop of the critical role of the Senate in driving the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration, through a proactive legislative agenda and adequate appropriation support for the important work of the agency such as the EFCC”.
Since it was not listed on the day’s Order Paper, it was debated by lawmakers. No Point of Order was raised on the issue by any Senator.
On December 15th, 2016, the Senate, after an executive session, announced the rejection of Magu. Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Sabi who spoke to newsmen afterwards, based the action of the Red Chamber on a damning report by the DSS.
The first letter, which urged the Senate confirm Magu as the substantive head of EFCC, was written in mid June by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who acted as president, while Buhari was away in UK on a medical vacation.
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