Top clashes between the Executive and Senate in 2017

OrderPaperToday – The year 2017 experienced series of clashes between the executive and legislature. While some of these bordered on issues of governance, others hovered around ego and the boundaries of separation of powers. In most or all of the cases, the electorate suffered for the fights invariably. Here are the top four feuds between the two arms of government in the outgoing year.

The Magu confirmation tango…

Although the prolonged non-confirmation of the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, commenced since 2016, the Senate has not failed to express its disgust about the contempt with which President Muhammadu Buhari has treated its resolution on the nominee. Magu was first presented in July 14 2016 when President Buhari through the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo wrote to the Senate. This was at a time the President left the country to the United Kingdom on a medical vacation. Magu was however rejected for the first time in December 15 2016 after a one hour closed door session. According to a prepared speech given by the Senate’s spokesman, Sen Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger), the decision was hinged on security reports, provided by the Department of States Services (DSS). But the President re-nominated Magu in a letter read on June 24 2017. A live appearance before the Senate was arranged and this time, Magu failed to impress and was subsequently denied confirmation yet again.

The red chamber in a bid to show its dogged resistance to Magu’s continued stay in office, threatened to suspend all confirmation of nominees from the executive. This has affected the nomination of Aisha Ahmad, a nominee presented for the position as deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since October 12, 2017; and Lanre Gbajabiamiala for the position of Director-General of National Lottery Commission. At any given chance, the Senate wastes no time to take a swipe at the EFCC boss. The recent involvement of the anti-graft agency between GTB and Innoson; and the clash between the NIA, DSS and EFCC amongst others, are cases in point.

Buhari’s letter on Osibanjo…

Another testy time between the executive and the legislature was when President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the Senate on 9th of May 2017 to delegate powers to Vice President Yemi Osinabjo as he proceeded on medical vacation. Instead of simply saying Osibanjo would act as president in his stead, Buhari’s letter said the VP would be “coordinating” the affairs of government. This did not go down well with senators who vented their anger as the infuriated federal lawmakers insisted on the application of section 145 of the constitution which stipulates the ascension of Osibanjo as the acting president. The letter from Buhari had read: “In compliance with section 145 {1) of the 1999 constitution as amended, I wish to inform the distinguished Senate that I will be away for a scheduled medical follow-up with my doctors in London. The length of my stay will be determined by the doctor’s advice. While I am away the vice president will coordinate the activities of the government.” But Section 145 of the constitution reads: “Whenever the president transmits to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the vice president as acting president.”

Sen. Mao Ohuanbunwa (PDP, Abia) expressed the sentiments of most senators this way: “I don’t think in our constitution we have anything like coordinating president or coordinating vice president. It is either you are vice president or you are acting president and any letter should be unambiguous and very clear. So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because coordinating has no space or any place in our constitution. We have been having letters like this, you tell us who is the acting president and we know who to deal with as a Senate.”

Fashola’s endless tango…

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had several frictions with the national assembly particularly the Senate during the course of the year 2017. From budget ‘padding’ allegations and counter-allegations to alleged corruption in procurement and contracts award, the Senate almost always had an axe to grind with the Minister. On the 2017 budget, Fashola clashed with the senators when he faulted the lawmakers for altering allocations of his ministry. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje particularly told the minister to resign his job if he felt burdened by the volume of work in his ministry. As if to dress Fashola down, several allegations of fraud were raised in his sector, including a $385 million “monumental fraud” according to Sen. Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi). Only last December, the ministry’s 2018 budget proposal was questioned when discoveries of repetitious items were observed to the tune of N888m allocated for purchase of utility vehicles, among other items.

Veto angst…

The National Assembly experienced series of vetoed bills both from President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President Yemi Osibanjo in his capacity as the acting president. Bills that were not assented to by Osibanjo include: the National Lottery Amendment bill 2016; Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill, 2016; Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund Amendment Bill; and Currency Conversion Freezing Orders Amendment Bill.

The veto did not sink well with the lawmakers as they threatened to override the veto because it was termed a way of undermining the powers of the legislature. One of the senators who challenged this ruling was former senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers) who said: “The National Assembly has power to override the president’s veto. The way the constitution is framed, they have their roles to play; we have our own to play.” Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) also voiced his strong opposition to the veto. The bills were then forwarded to the National Assembly’s legal department for proper legal advice on the bill.

In a related development, President Buhari on November 22, 2017 refused to sign the University of Wukari Establishment Bill (2017); and Chartered Institute of Treasury Management Establishment bill 2017 due to “inconsistencies.” Little wonder the Senate on July 26, 2017 threw a massive support for the legislature to pass constitution amendment bills into law even without the assent of the President.

 

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