Why Senate is stalling on Magu’s confirmation

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is set to verify claims by members of the National Assembly regarding their asset declarations.

A source privy to the development said verification of assets of most of the ministers, heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs), service chiefs and the inspector-general of police has been concluded.

The source added that it is now the turn of the members of the National Assembly and judiciary for their assets to be verified.

Our reporter gathered that a top member of the House of Representatives is said to have been discovered to own a multi-million naira mansion in Abuja outside what he declared to the CCB. The discovery was made during the 2016 budget padding controversy.

There are also a number of other lawmakers who had made claims contrary to the CCB Act, a situation, according to sources, that make them uncomfortable as the acting EFCC chairman may have got information from the CCB for their investigation.

The CCB and the EFCC are sister agencies of the federal government in the anti-corruption fight, and the alleged access of Magu to the declaration forms of the lawmakers is causing disquiet among the federal lawmakers as they fear that after his confirmation as EFCC chairman, he would come after those who have made fraudulent declarations in their assets form.

Our reporter learnt that this is one of the major reasons the senators are reluctant to confirm the EFCC boss as the substantive head of the anti-graft agency.

The recent amendment of the CCB/CCT Act by the National Assembly, which transferred supervisory power over the Bureau and Tribunal from Presidency to the Assembly, is another reason why the Bureau is said to be irked and may launch an onslaught against the federal lawmakers.

Meanwhile, five months after President Muhammadu Buhari had requested the Senate to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly is yet to consider the presidential request without any explanation.

Speculations are also rife that senators were not willing to accede to the president’s request, causing Magu to continue to lead the anti-graft agency in acting capacity for over a year now.

Our reporter checks, which spanned weeks of investigation, have revealed the real reasons behind the senate’s refusal to either screen and confirm the anti-corruption boss or reject him.

Reliable sources confided in our reporter that the Senate’s stance was hinged on the fact that it wanted to use Magu’s confirmation as the EFCC chairman as a bargaining chip to let some influential senators, currently under investigation or trial, off the agency’s hook.

The sources added that the Senate did not help matters as its recent actions of confirming other presidential nominees, which were only recently sent to it, into various positions in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), etc, for the effective functioning of the agencies have shown that the Red Chamber has an axe to grind with EFCC.

They further alleged that the investigation and trial of some senators are the reasons the screening and confirmation of Magu is being stalled in the Red Chamber and that the EFCC chairmanship nominee is being pressured to discontinue the administrative or judicial actions against the lawmakers as a condition for his confirmation.

However insiders said Magu is not a willing to give any commitment on the matter, a situation that may cause the Senate to continue to look the other way on the president’s request.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the presidency had sometime in July this year written to the Senate, seeking the screening and confirmation of Magu as EFCC chairman.

Senate President Bukola Saraki read the letter at plenary of Thursday, July 14, 2016.

The letter was signed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity then as acting president when President Buhari travelled to the United Kingdom for a 10-day medical leave.

Buhari appointed Magu acting chair of the EFCC after the removal of Ibrahim Lamorde on November 9, 2015, and, eventually if he is confirmed by the Senate, he will be the fourth head of the anti-graft agency after Nuhu Ribadu, Farida Waziri and Lamorde.

Before his appointment as the acting EFCC chair, Magu was the head of Economic Governance Unit of the commission.

When contacted, the spokesman of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi (APC, Niger), could not be reached as his mobile phone was switched off, but his deputy, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa) told our reporter that the allegation was untrue.

“It’s not true; it’s not true, it’s not true and I can’t be part of it,” repeatedly said.

The spokesman of the Senate president Alhaji, Yusuf Olaniyonu, told our reporter that he was unaware of any reason stalling Magu’s confirmation in the Senate and he would not want to be dragged into any “speculation”.

Also, for his part, the EFCC spokesman, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, declined comment, citing the sensitive nature of the matter.

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