There was a rowdy session in the Senate on Tuesday over the four members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The senators were divided as the lawmakers from the South-East and the South-South protested the exclusion of the two geopolitical zones by the President in his nominations.
But the senators from the North, particularly the All Progressives Congress members, argued that the Senate should proceed with the confirmation of the nominees.
The division led to a resolution to suspend the confirmation for more legislative input.The nominees whose names were submitted to the Senate for confirmation are Ndasule Moses (North-Central), Lawan Mamman (North-East), Galadanci Imam Najip (North-West) and Adeleke Adebayo Rafiu (South-West).
The Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes led by Chukwuka Utazi had presented a report on the nominees to the plenary.
The committee recommended their confirmation on the basis of their “qualification, experience and suitability” for the job.
However, Utazi said the committee noted that the nominations did not reflect the Federal Character principle as the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones were excluded.
He stated, “The committee observed that three out of the four nominees were from the North-Central, North-East and North-West geopolitical zones, with only one nominee from the southern part of the country, that is South-West.
“The committee notes that this is not in strict compliance with the Federal Character Principle as provided for in section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The committee makes this observation to guide the Executive in future nominations,” Utazi said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that after the committee had presented its report, senators Rabiu Kwankwaso (PDP Kano Central) and Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano North) supported its recommendation that the nominees should be confirmed based on their “experience and competence.”
However, trouble began when Senator Victor Umeh (APGA-Anambra Central), rose to oppose the nominations because they would send more wrong signals about the fight against corruption.
The senator noted that “while the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is from the North-East, the recently confirmed Secretary of the commission, Olanipkekun Olukoyede, is from the South-West and two of the nominees are from the North.”
Umeh said, “Mr President, we have continued to say this that there is a 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 Nigeria and the commission cannot fight corruption to the satisfaction of all Nigerians if some parts of the country are not represented in it.”
He added, “This makes a total of four people from the North. The South-East and South-South are not accommodated in this commission.
It is important that we include all regions in governing roles and in the fight against corruption, as it involves us all. All geopolitical zones should be included in this commission.”
He urged the Senate to be “bold enough” to step down consideration of the report and return the nomination to the Presidency.
Senator Matthew Urighide (PDP-Edo-South) supported Umeh, saying the exclusion of the South-South and the South-East would paint a bad picture.
Urighide also called on the Senate to step down consideration of the report until federal character was reflected in the nomination.
He stated, “Let us delegate people to look at the distribution of these appointments. I suggest that this matter be stood down while it is looked into.”
Eyinnaya Abaribe from Abia State also argued that the confirmation should be stepped down and nominees be returned to the President for reconsideration.
Asked by the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, to give more information on the composition of the EFCC board membership, Utazi said there were six positions, including the chairman and secretary.
He noted that the positions could go round the six geopolitical zones of the country, and give everyone a sense of justice, describing the “lopsidedness” as unfair to the excluded zones.
The Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe North), however, said as far as the nominations were concerned, no law was breached.
He said that they did not breach the EFCC Act which, he argued, was silent on the zones from which the members should be appointed.
Senator Ali Ndume also said the issue should not have been raised on the floor of the Senate since the chairman of the committee who is from the South-East did not raise the issue.
The chamber was thrown into pandemonium as the senators rose from their seats and yelled at each other, while the rowdiness lasted.
Efforts by Saraki to calm the angry lawmakers were unsuccessful. This prompted the lawmakers to go into a closed-door session, which lasted for 25 minutes.
It was at the session held behind closed doors that they agreed the confirmation be suspended for further legislative input.