•VP absolves FG in seizure of Patience Jonathan’s $5.8m
By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
The Presidency has publicly backed acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to continue in office.
Penultimate week, Senate rejected Magu as substantive chairman of the anti-graft commission and communicated its resolve to President Muhammadu Buhari.
On Tuesday night, Buhari’s deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo told newsmen in an interview at the Presidential Villa that Magu enjoys his confidence and that of the president.
“I’m fully in support of Magu as the EFCC chairman, just as the president is. It is up to the Senate to make their judgement. If our candidate is rejected…we can represent our candidate.”
In rejecting Magu, Senate stated clearly it was no longer disposed to considering his name as a nominee for the office and that the president should present a fresh candidate.
At the media parley, Osinbajo referred to a submission of Senior advocate of Nigeria and rights activists, Femi Falana, that the president should not have re-sent Magu’s nomination to the Senate for confirmation.
“I fully agree with Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Mr. Magu for confirmation,” he said making reference to the Section 171 of the Constitution.
The Vice President said although the EFCC Act requires that an EFCC chairman be confirmed by the Senate, part of Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which is superior to the act, does not mandate such Senate confirmation.
The vice president also described the Department of State Services (DSS) action of writing a report against Magu to the Senate as “a robust expression of our institutions of government.”
He said it shows that the administration does not interfere in the works of its security agencies, making reference to the United States of America where the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wrote a report against President Donald Trump.
“He (President Buhari) has not interfered with what the DSS wants to say,” the vice president noted.
Osinbajo also disclosed that president Buhari merely studied the DSS report and reviewed Magu’s response which he found satisfactory.
“The president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said, ‘I am satisfied with what Magu said.”
The controversy over Magu, who is opposed by majority of senators, some of whom have corruption cases, is one of the issues affecting the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
The Federal Executive Council recently set up a committee headed by Mr. Osinbajo to discuss with the National Assembly leadership and try to end the rift. The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also got involved in the negotiation when it met with its Senate caucus last week.
At a meeting between the APC leadership and the party’s National Assembly caucus, some senators allegedly requested the corruption trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki be dropped for smooth working relationship with the executive.
Saraki is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for perjury.
The Senate President has, however, denied any wrongdoing and said he believed the trial would soon collapse.
In a related development, Osinbajo absolved the federal government of any role in EFCC’s freezing of former First lady, Patience Jonathan’s domiciliary account with Skye Bank, which contains $5.8 million.
The vice president has, however, advised Mrs. Jonathan to file a contempt charge against the bank if she feels aggrieved.
The former first lady claimed the money in the account are legitimate; some of which she got as gifts over several years and has accused the anti-graft agency of persecution.
Late last year, Mrs. Jonathan sued the EFCC, demanding $200 million after the commission froze accounts of three companies containing about $15.5 million.
Regardless, she insisted the money was hers and the accounts were wrongly opened in the names of companies she had no links with and had asked that they be rectified before she left government.
It also emerged that the EFCC has appealed a court order which unfroze Mrs. Jonathan’s account.
“We have appealed the order,” EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren said, yesterday