The Nigerian Senate yesterday declined to confirm four nominees picked by President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground that the south-south and south-east regions of the country were not represented.
The President sent the list containing Moses Ndasule, Lawan Mamman, Galadanci Najib, and Adeleke Rafiu to serve on the board of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for legislative approval. The nominees were screened by the Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, which presented its report on the floor of the chamber during plenary.
Senator Chukwuma Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), the chairman of the committee presented the report. The committee recommended their confirmation on the basis of their “qualification, experience and suitability” for the job.
The committee chairman however, said “The committee observed that three out of the four nominees were from the north central, northeast and northwest geopolitical zones, with only one nominee from the southern part of the country, that is southwest.
“The committee notes that this is not in strict compliance with the Federal Character Principle as provided for in Section 14 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The committee makes this observation to guide the executive in future nominations,”
Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso (PDP, Kano Central) and Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North) rose to support the recommendation of the committee for the nominees’ confirmation, citing their “experience and competence.”
But Senator Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra Central) rose to oppose the nomination on the premise that it would send more wrong signals about the fight against corruption. He said it was wrong for members of the EFCC board to be appointed from the northeast and southwest zones, which had already produced the chairman and secretary of the commission.
“Mr. President, we have continued to say that there is need to accommodate all parts of Nigeria in activities of government, particularly in appointing people into agencies of government. That has been the practice in this chamber, and on this issue of fight against corruption, the EFCC is a very important commission because the fight involves all parts of Nigeria.
“People are investigated in all parts of Nigerian and the commission cannot fight corruption to the satisfaction of all Nigerians if some parts of the country are not represented on it,” he said, urging the Senate to be “bold enough” to step down the consideration of the report and return the nomination to the presidency.
Also Senator Mathew Urighide (PDP, Edo South), who supported Umeh, said the exclusion of the southsouth and southeast painted a picture that people from the zones were the “real criminals” in the country. He also called on the Senate to step down the consideration of the report until it reflected federal character.
Senate President Bukola Saraki asked the committee chairman to give more information on the composition of the EFCC board, The chairman said there were six positions, including chairman and secretary.
He said the positions could go round the six geopolitical zones of the country and give everyone a sense of justice. He described the “lopsidedness” as unfair to the excluded zones.
Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North) who is the Majority Leader said the committee’s recommendation should be approved because it did not breach the EFCC Act, which is silent on the zones from which members should be appointed.
The session eventually turned rowdy as more senators made heated contributions to the debate. This forced the lawmakers to go into a closed-door executive session.
On resuming plenary, Saraki said the senators had resolved to step down the report for further legislative work.