Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has called on the executive arm of government to terminate the “rein of impunity” in the national assembly.
Falana said this in a statement on Wednesday, while reacting to the controversies that have trailed the senate of late.
He said the upper legislative chamber’s refusal to consider the appointment of 27 resident electoral commissioners (RECs) because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s reluctance to sack Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was an act of impunity.
The Senate had rejected the appointment of Magu as EFCC chairman, citing a Department of State Services (DSS) report as the reason for its decision.
“Pursuant to the powers conferred on it under section 3 (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 the senate has refused to confirm the appointment of Mr Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the (EFCC),” he said.
“However, President Buhari has decided to allow Mr Magu to continue to head the EFCC in an acting capacity. The decision of the president cannot be faulted by virtue of section 171 (1) (d) of the constitution which provides that the president is vested with the power to appoint the head of any extra ministerial department to hold office in an acting capacity. Such appointment does not require the confirmation of the senate.
“Completely aggrieved by the decision of the president to exercise his constitutional powers in the circumstance the senate has decided not to confirm the 27 newly appointed resident electoral commissioners until Mr Magu has been removed from office.
“In asking for the removal of Mr Magu the senate said that the anti-graft czar has been terrorising the senate. Should the senate resort to such cheap blackmail because the embattled EFCC helmsman has refused to compromise the prosecution and investigation of about 15 senators alleged to have been involved in serious economic and financial crimes? Why should the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki not be terrorised for the criminal diversion of N3.5 billion from the London/Paris Club loan refund?
“Before now, sharp disagreements between the national assembly and the executive had been submitted to the courts for judicial resolution in line with the rule of law… In view of the settled state of the law on summoning of critics by the national assembly and suspension of legislators the senate is advised to reverse its illegal decisions and quickly return to the path of constitutionalism in the interest of lasting democracy in the country.
“However, if the senate remains intransigent the executive branch of the government should adopt decisive measures to terminate the unending rein of impunity in the national assembly.”
Falana also criticised the senate for summoning Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), for allegedly making critical remarks about it.
He said the senate had no power to summon Sagay.
“In the atmosphere of impunity which has enveloped the senate the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay has been ordered to appear before the senate for having the temerity to criticise the senators,” he said.
“In the case of El Rufai v House of Representatives (2003) 46 WRN 12 the court of appeal held that the respondent lacked the power to summon the appellant over a defamatory statement made by him as the power of investigation conferred on legislators is not for personal aggrandisement.”
The rights lawyer also said the senate’s suspension of Ali Ndume’s was illegal.
The senate suspended Ndume, a senator from Borno state, for allegedly bringing the chamber to disrepute.
“The purported suspension of Senator Ali Ndume is the height of the serial illegality in the senate. In Hon Dino Melaye & Ors v House of Representatives (unreported) the federal high court declared the indefinite suspension of the plaintiffs illegal and unconstitutional on the ground that a legislator could not be suspended for more than 14 days,” Falana said.
“But in House of Assembly v Hon Danna the Court of Appeal held that a legislative house in Nigeria is not competent to suspend a member even for a single day as it is a violation of the democratic rights of members of his/her constituency.”