A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the Senate is conferred with the authority to ensure the choice of “only suitable and credible persons for appointment to the office”.
The court gave the ruling in determining the suit challenging the Senate’s authority to deny an appointee to the office of Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the EFCC Act.
A copy of the judgement obtained by Channels Television on Thursday revealed that Justice John Tsoho gave the ruling on January 15, 2018.
A lawyer Mr Oluwatosin Ojamo had filed a suit in January 2017, questioning whether the Senate President and the Senate can reject a valid appointment made by the President as it relates to Acting ECFF Chairman Mr Ibrahim Magu, in accordance with the provisions of the EFCC Act.
Ojamo had also questioned if the Senate can refuse to confirm any appointment made by President Buhari to the office of the anti-graft agency.
Joined as respondents in the suit are Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
Justice Tsoho, however, held on Monday (last two weeks) that contrary to the plaintiff’s submission, section 2 subsection 3 states that the chairman and members of the commission other than the ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to a confirmation of the Senate.
He noted that the use of the word “shall” in a legislation usually denotes mandatories, while the plaintiff recognises the use of the word “shall” as conferring the mandatory and unqualified powers of the President to appoint the chairman of the EFCC.
The presiding judge also held that doing otherwise would give the impression that “the Senate only exists to rubberstamp the President’s appointment of a chairman for the EFCC, and such viewpoint is misconceived and runs counter to the proper interpretation of section 2 subsection 3 of the EFCC Act.”
The fitness or otherwise of Mr Magu to head the EFCC has been a major topic of dispute between the Senate and the Presidency for months.
Any expectation President Muhammadu Buhari had that the confirmation of Mr Magu, who he appointed as Acting EFCC Chairman on November 9, 2015, would be a smooth one faded away months into his tenure.
When the President wrote to the Senate on July 14, 2016, seeking Mr for confirmation, it took five months of delays and power play before a decision was taken.
On December 15, 2016, the Senate rejected Mr Magu’s nomination as the Chairman of the anti-graft agency, citing a report by the Department of State Security which deemed him unfit for the role.
The President, however, stuck with Mr Magu and re-nominated him in January 2017 for the role. Two months later, on March 15, 2017, the Senate again rejected him and asked the President to replace him.
Senate President Bukola Saraki declared at the time that with the second rejection Mr Magu ceased to be acting EFCC Chairman.
The Presidency, however, kept him in his role as acting EFCC chairman, a decision that angered the lawmakers, worsening an already frosty relationship between the two arms of government.