Presidency Seeks Supreme Court’s Interpretation on Magu’s Tenure

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AFTER being brushed by the Senate over a suggestion that it is not mandatory for it to send all categories of nominees to the Senate for confirmation, the Presidency has finally opted to seek judicial interpretation of Section 171 of the Constitution, which it relied on in making the comment.

But while taking the contentious matter to the Supreme Court, the Presidency confirmed, on Sunday, July 16, night, that it would continue to forward names of its appointees requiring National Assembly’s confirmation to the Senate.

Already, it was learnt that a team of legal experts put together by the Presidency on the controversial matter, had recommended that it retained its position until a judicial pronouncement was made by the nation’s apex court on the issue.

A top Presidency official, who spoke on matter on Sunday night, insisted that the Presidency derived its strength from an existing ruling by Walter Onnoghen, current chief justice of Nigeria, who once said that “wherever and whenever the Constitution speaks, any provision of an Act/Statute, on the same subject matter, must remain silent.”

The source said that although it was the view of the Presidency that certain federal appointments should not require the confirmation of the Senate, based on Section 171 of the Nigerian Constitution, the Muahammadu Buhari administration would continue to send such appointments to the Senate, pending the ultimate judicial interpretation of the matter. The official said the position was based on a legal advisory prepared by judicial and legal experts as a working document in the Presidency regarding the differences in the constitutional interpretations on matters of certain federal appointments.

The official, who spoke in confidence, said: “In fact, the advisory unearthed a ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter where the current chief justice of the federation, before his elevation as CJN, had ruled in line with the view of the Presidency on the matter. The Presidency official said it was inaccurate to say the Federal Government or the Presidency had started to act unilaterally on its own interpretation of Section 171.

“This is because, even after the Acting President (who spoke when he was Vice President in support of the view of some leading lawyers), the Presidency has continued to send nominations to the Senate, while the President himself was around and while away, by the Acting President.

“Since the time the Acting President spoke and when Senate recently expressed its disagreement we have been sending nominations, including those for  INEC and other boards and commissions.

“So we are clearly not acting unilaterally based on our own interpretation of the law, even though we believe firmly we are right. “Here is the point: The Presidency believes that Section 171 is clear that certain appointments do not require Senate consent but it is not already behaving as if its interpretation of the law has become a policy.

“The Presidency is persuaded that its interpretation is the correct one, but we are conscious and aware of the fact that only a proper judicial ruling on the matter would make it a settled policy that sits right with the rule of law. “That is why we have not stopped sending all manner of nominations to the Senate, most of which the Senate has actually confirmed, even well after the Acting President spoke.”

On the issue of , Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman, the legal advisory also concluded that “the rumblings in the discourse on his confirmation have more to do with politics than with the law.”

—  Jul 17, 2017 @ 11:50 GMT

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