There was uproar at the Senate yesterday over President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued support for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
In two separate letters read by Senate President Bukola Saraki, President Buhari pointed out perceived flaws in the resolutions of the upper legislative chamber last December against Babachir and Magu.
Among the complaints is that the Senate committee breached the rule of fair hearing by refusing to invite Babachir to any of its sections. The presidency also alleged that the report on which the lawmakers based their decision was interim not the final report.
The uneasy calm in the chamber as Saraki read the letter suddenly broke into uproar when he attempted to cut short a remark by the chairman of the ad hoc committee that investigated and indicted the SGF, Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central). The lawmakers resorted to chanting “Go ahead! Go ahead!! Go ahead!!!” to encourage Sani to continue his remark despite Saraki’s interjection.
When calm returned, Sani described the president’s letter against the Senate’s resolution on Babachir as “a funeral service of the anti-corruption war”.
According to him, the anti-graft campaign is so selective to the extent that when it has to do with the National Assembly, the judiciary and other segments of the society, the president uses insecticides but when it concerns anybody in the executive arm of government, he uses deodorants.
The lawmaker and civil rights activist said: “It is unfortunate that we have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic presidency and a devilish and evil society. We must in every respect fight corruption within the kitchen as we do in the veranda; if we don’t do that, then we are being hypocritical. This letter does not in any way reflect the spirit which we espouse as a people fighting to cleanse and fumigate this country of corruption.
“It is shocking to me that such a letter can come from the presidency with such misinformation and outright distortions. They lied by saying that the committee didn’t invite the SGF; the committee invited the SGF and the letter was acknowledged by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the SGF, Mr. Aminu Nadehu
“To make sure that we buttress our point, we made a paid advert in three or four national dailies: this one was published on December 2, 2016 and the SGF is clearly mentioned as one of those expected to come and appear before the National Assembly.
“If they have the intention of simply reaching a pre-determined conclusion by covering up on the issues raised by the committee, that is one thing.”
On the president’s allegation that the report that indicted Babachir was signed by only three of the nine members of the committee, Sani said:
“That was also a second lie coming from the presidency. I have a copy of the interim report which was initially signed by seven of the nine members of that committee and I am going to submit it to the Clerk of the Senate. Even if it is nine and then three people signed, we still have a quorum, but here I have seven people.
“I will say also that I listened to the list of the names that were read and they omitted the chairman which is myself. I know I am not very big in frame but I believe my name shouldn’t have been omitted.”
Condemning the president’s response further, Sani said: “This shows clearly how the SGF and his minions in the presidency misinformed the president to sign this letter. Secondly, I will say this clearly, this letter is a funeral service for the anti-corruption fight.
“ Mr. President, I stand by the report of that committee and it is very clear to us: if we can allow this committee’s report to be shredded into pieces, then I think it would be in order for us to open all the 138 prisons in this country for all the convicts and awaiting trial inmates to go scot-free.”
At an earlier closed-door session that lasted for two hours, the senators took their turns to condemn Buhari’s response to the resolutions against Babachir and Magu.
It was learnt that the lawmakers particularly condemned why Buhari refused to address the issues raised in the DSS security report on Magu. “Is it that the report never existed or that it has been withdrawn?” a senator queried.
The lawmakers faulted the manner in which the Buhari’s letter was delivered in sharp contrast with the normal tradition of message delivery to the Senate.
“The letter was dated 17th of January but it was sent to the Senate president at 10:00 p.m. of 22 January. It was delivered to Saraki by hand and not through the normal message delivery channel to the Senate. Why the gap? Could it have been written by someone else and backdated?” another senator wondered.
It was pointed out at the closed-door session that the Senate would be breaching its rule if it went ahead to screen Magu.“The Senate rule forbids it from considering any matter upon which a judicial decision is pending. Why can’t we wait until the matter is decided upon by the court?” a lawmaker said.
The Senate said it would stand by its resolutions.Briefing journalists shortly after the session yesterday, Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdullahi Saabi Aliu, said the Senate had taken note of the fact that the president did not address the issues raised in the security report upon which the chamber refused to consider the nomination of Magu.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had fixed February 13 to hear a suit filed against Magu, challenging his continued stay in office as EFCC acting chairman.