The Senate versus Buhari – What is the capital worth of Ibrahim Magu?

By Emmanuel Ado

Hate or like the the National Assembly, we must come to terms with their powers as contained in the constitution to make laws for good governance of the Federation, to appropriate funds and to approve certain categories of appointees for Mr. President. Section 4, of the 1999 Constitution as amended, empowers the National Assembly to make laws for good governance of the federation.

For appropriation, the powers of the National Assembly are clearly spelt out in Sections 4, 59 and 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution. And Section 59 confers on the National Assembly the last word on the budget. Section 80 (4), states that “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except approved by the Nation Assembly. Section 171 subsection 2 of the constitution confers the powers to confirm appointments to the National Assembly, most of which are exclusive to the Senate.

But the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo a lawyer and a very senior one at that, who ought to know and obviously knows the limits of the Executive’s powers, working with the likes of Femi Falana mischievously created the “organized disorder” just to save Ibrahim Magu, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who had done Bola Tinubu, the benefactor of the Vice President huge favor in the past. But they have in the process created a huge crisis between the Senate and the Executive.

For certain the Executive knows the logical step to take when ever it is in doubt, which is to head to the Supreme Court for interpretation, which would have saved Nigeria the unnecessary crisis that their decision on Magu and other issues has thrown Nigeria into.

Is Falana’s interpretation of the Constitution sacrosanct? Does his interpretation have the force of law? The answer is no! So why has the Executive that has headed to the court on issues that are clearly irrelevant bluntly refused to head to the court get an interpretation on the issue of Magu and the constitutionality or otherwise of constituency projects? Are they afraid that the court would rule against them and they will have to dispense with “their Magu”? It is a big shame that Falana, sees absolutely nothing wrong in his advice that Executive can keep Magu, as long as it wants (no tenure) to the detriment of a cordial executive and legislature working relationship. Now that the Senate is taking its pound of flesh, the common man is at the receiving end.

According to the Gospel by Falana, the Executive acting under section 2 subsection 3 of the EFCC Act sent the letter of confirmation of Magu to the Senate in error. But assuming the president didn’t need Senate confirmation for Magu and he wrote asking for it, whose fault is it that the President didn’t get an informed legal opinion?The irony is that this was only discovered because candidate Magu flunked the screening twice.

The question is, can the Executive address such a fundamental error in the manner it is going about it – assuming the powers of the court? Common sense and decency demands that it withdraws Magu, who in the first place was mortally and severely damaged not just by the security reports sent to the Senate by the Executive, but by several other mistakes of the executive. If candidate Magu was confirmed would Nigerians have been inundated with these legal positions, that are clearly informed more by political interest, than public good? The grave yard like Charles De Gaulle is quoted have said is full of indispensable men. And Magu for sure is not indispensable.

The Vice President by his actions – acting on Falana’s self serving gospel rather than on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court is clearly responsible for the political impasse between the Senate and the Executive, which has dire consequences for the economy that is just creeping out of recession.

In 2016, the economy had contracted by about 1.7%, more due to lack of capacity, than the fall in the price of crude oil. An imaginative economic team could have done much better, managing the situation than Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance and her Budget and Planning counterpart have done.

A team that has had three (3), disastrous budgets, simply because it couldn’t generate revenue and couldn’t package a loan request is utterly useless. The effect being about 16 million unemployed Nigerians, and continued infrastructure deficit etc. The favour that the World – Iran, North Korea and Donald Trump have done Nigeria, that led to increase in price of crude oil would amount to near zero, due to self inflicted wounds.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Monetary Policy Committee (MOC), couldn’t hold its scheduled meeting because it lacks quorum. The Senate though willing and capable has refused to carry out its responsibilities, because the Vice President and his apologists having ruled that it lacks powers to act, can override its decision, like it did in Magu’s case. So the Senate unsure of what other fresh arguments Osinbajo would or might throw up has wisely decided to act with caution on the confirmation of the MPC nominees. It is amazing that the executive hasn’t asked the nominees to resume since according to the gospel of the Falanas’ of this world the Senate lacks powers of confirmation.

The Senate has shown itself good students of Mao Zedong, who said that “politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics, with bloodshed”. So far the indications are that the impasse hasn’t adversely affected the economy, because the MPC in the first place wasn’t expected to change the key rates – presently at 14%,  but going forward if the situation continues Nigeria might backslide into recession, as the modest 2.1% growth might not be achieved. Though the “over stressed Governor” of Central Bank Godwin Emefiele has assured that the bank will maintain “key monetary policy variables” the fact remains that there are concerns by investors. But Emefiele can’t give same assurance on the crisis lack of Budget, which will hopefully spur economic growth will trigger.

The United States, like Nigeria just had a show down with the Congress due to policy disagreements, but they have been talking and reaching compromises. Agreed that on all, if not most of the issues that have triggered the crisis that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is wrong – from its manifest lack of capacity to prepare a detailed budget to its failure to implement constituency projects contained in the Appropriations Act another area of friction, which by the way is an impeachable offense,ultimately what is needed is political brinkmanship. But typical Nigerian style the executive sees the Senate as beneath it, so it is not talking to it and it won’t also head to the court to resolve the issues.

In the coming days there will be sponsored demonstrations against the Senate . But rather than sponsored demonstrations, the executive must climb down from its high horse and negotiate with the Senate. The conclusions that the Senate is fighting for independence is largely responsible for the attitude of the executive, but that’s far from the truth. The Senate has lost nothing asserting its powers, rather Nigerians and Nigeria which is just recovering from its worst economic downturn in 25 years has everything to lose. If the MPC – the interest rate setting body is not considered important, surly the budget is, so it will be in the interest of the executive to resolve the problem.

But how well has Magu performed that would warrant the executive expending huge political capital on him? The United States of America Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs – International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume 11 on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes of March 2017, was scathing. The EFCC was described as more brawn, than brain.The implied implication is that it lacks what it takes to fight corruption. And key is urgent strengthening of public institutions, to prevent the large scale corruption that the agency tantalizes us with day in,day out. And this is hard work, and so very uninteresting to the agency.

The political stalemate would definitely have its repercussions, especially if things are not sorted out by the next meeting. This is the first time in at least two years that a scheduled MPC meeting didn’t take place. And the 2019 Elections which is looking more like a war going by the high stakes would compound economic matters, but beyond that Nigeria though politically “unstable,” would not witness a coup as it has put the ghost of military adventurism behind it.

The question at the end of the day is the capital worth of Ibrahim Magu? Is Magu worth a longstanding political standoff? Is he worth the delay of the 2018 budget?

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