On Tuesday evening, Shehu Sani, a former Senator, taunted the Senate under the leadership of Ahmad Lawan.
In a tweet he posted after ex-Service Chiefs were confirmed as non-career diplomats, the former lawmaker jocularly said they would “thank their God” that they weren’t grilled by the senate under Bukola Saraki.
The Ex Service Chiefs would thank their God that it’s not Our 8th Senate.
— Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) February 23, 2021
While supporters of former Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin; former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; former Chief of Air Staff, Ibok Ibas; and former Chief of Naval Staff, Abubakar Sadique, rejoiced, critics attacked the senate.
But while the dust raised over the confirmation of the ex-service chiefs was yet to settle, the Senate confirmed yet another appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari. This time, Abdulrasheed Bawa got the nod of the upper legislative chamber as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He was confirmed barely a week after President Muhammadu Buhari nominated the 40-year-old as replacement for Ibrahim Magu, the former EFCC boss, who was removed over allegations of corruption.
While the Senate took just a week to confirm Bawa, it was not the same for Magu. In November 2015, Buhari had appointed Magu as EFCC Chairman, following the sacking of Ibrahim Lamorde, the anti-graft agency’s ex-Chairman.
At the time, the President had sent Magu’s name to the eight senate for screening and confirmation but the red chamber rejected his request, citing “major infringements” in the nominee’s conduct, key of which was the report of the Department of State Security (DSS).
The DSS had released a report where it accused Magu of “corruption, gross violation of human rights and possession of undeclared pieces of property.”
Magu had denied the allegations. He also refused to comment on the report, so as to prevent a possible face-off between the EFCC and DSS, which are sister agencies.
Buhari had re-nominated him for confirmation and the Senate, however, rejected him a second time. The then-lawmaker who represented Kogi West Senatorial District at the Senate, Dino Melaye, was one of the senators who vehemently opposed Magu’s confirmation.
Senator Melaye had argued that based on the report released by the DSS, Magu had “failed integrity test”, and as such cannot be confirmed as a substantive Chairman of an agency like the EFCC.
In spite of the fact that Magu was rejected twice, President Buhari gave him the support to continue. He, therefore, held the position in acting capacity for five years.
The development had generated serious controversies. Critics and skeptics of the government berated Buhari over his support for Magu. Same way, others mocked and dismissed the much-voiced opinion of Buhari’s administration in regard to the fight against corruption.
Magu was, however, suspended in July of 2020. His suspension necessitated especially yet another weighty allegation against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Following Magu’s suspension, Muhammed Umar stepped into the plate as Acting Chairman of the Commission. Umar held this position, until Bawa’s appointment nomination and eventual confirmation.
When he appeared before the senate, Bawa denied the allegations levelled against him, especially that of selling off seized assets when he was zonal head of the commission in Port Harcourt. Different petitions were sent to the senate ahead of Bawa’s screening but the anti-graft czar scaled the hurdle in less than three hours.
No doubt, the short period with which Bawa was confirmed as EFCC Chair will dominate public debates in the coming days, with those for and against putting in their best to justify their stance.
Lawan has on different occasions rejected the notion that he presides over a rubber stamp legislature.
Addressing some protesters who raised the issue in July 2019, the senate president said, “During my campaign, I was called a potential rubber stamp Senate President to the Executive; maybe because I am close to the President, or because I believe in his cause.”
“There is no time that I will ever be a rubber stamp. Yes, I believe in President Buhari as a person and I believe in my party, the APC, but I believe that our problems as Nigerians are Nigerian problems.
“They are neither APC nor PDP problems, they are Nigerian problems that require Nigerian solution. So, we have to work together.
“We will be there for the executive arm of government all the time in moving this country forward.
“We are going to challenge the executive in a manner that is decent but decisive. As a minister, you have to do your ministerial job well. We will make government appointees to do what is required of them.
“We are not here for self-serving. We came here with a lot of experiences to impact positively in our country. We are here and we will remain focused to make this government work.”
Whatever impression you have of the senate, it has so far acted within its purview and that’s what the law says.