Magu: Presidency gets legal advice, to approach S’Court

  • As Reps produce report on Judges homes’ raid; want DSS, Evidence laws amended

The Presidency will soon approach the Supreme Court to make a pronouncement on the lingering crisis between the executive and the National Assembly over the powers of the President to appoint some heads of government agencies without recourse to the Senate based on the provisions of Section 171 of the Constitution.

A Presidency source, who disclosed this to journalists in Abuja, on Sunday, said the development was based on legal advice made available to the government on the different interpretations of the law on the matter.

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, had, in an interview in April, ruled out the possibility of President Muhammadu Buhari replacing the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate twice.

He had said he aligned himself with the argument of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, that Senate confirmation was not needed for the EFCC chairman based on the provisions of Section 171 of the Constitution.

Osinbajo’s statement drew the anger of Senators, who, penultimate Tuesday, resolved to step down all requests for confirmation into executive positions from the Presidency.

A source in the government said on Sunday that the legal advice, prepared as a working document in the Presidency regarding the differences in the constitutional interpretations on matters of certain federal appointments, recommended that a judicial pronouncement, preferably by the Supreme Court, would settle the matter.

He said although the Presidency believed that Section 171 was clear that certain appointments did not require Senate’s consent, it (the Presidency) was not behaving as if its interpretation of the law had become a policy.

The source stated that the Presidency was persuaded that its interpretation was the correct one, but it was conscious and aware of the fact that only a proper judicial ruling on the matter would make it a settled policy on point of law.

He added that the advice unearthed a ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter, where the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, before his elevation as the CJN, had ruled in line with the view of the Presidency on the matter.

Onnoghen was quoted to have ruled that wherever and whenever the Constitution speaks, any provision of an Act/Statute on the same subject matter, must remain silent.

“The divergent positions being held by the executive and the legislature on the subject of confirmation is one that requires timely and ultimate resolution. Such resolution could only be reached through judicial process.

“Such interpretation would lay to rest the lingering crisis between the two arms,” the source stated, quoting the recommendation made in the legal advice.

Specifically on Magu, he said the advice concluded that “the rumblings in the discourse on the confirmation of the EFCC chairman have more to do with politics that with the law.”

In the meantime, a panel of the House of Representatives is proposing to repeal the Evidence Act 2011 primarily to make evidence obtained during an illegal search on persons or their properties inadmissible in court.

Findings by The PUNCH on Sunday in Abuja indicated that the panel specifically proposed the repeal of Sections 14 and 15 of the Act to clearly provide that any evidence, tendered by security agencies or other authorities arising from an illegal search on persons or properties, be inadmissible.

It also sought the amendment to the National Security Agencies Act to “clearly state the powers of the Department of State Services to investigate corruption cases that affect national security.”

These recommendations and several others were contained in the report of the ad hoc committee of the House, which investigated the October 2016 invasion of the homes of some Supreme Court justices by operatives of the DSS.

In Abuja, the DSS raided the residence of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta.

Two judges of the Federal High Court, Justices Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba, also had their houses invaded by the DSS.

The raids were also carried in some states across the country, including Rivers and Kano states.

The operatives said they were acting on petitions alleging corrupt acts against the judicial officers.

Following the incident, which generated nationwide controversies, the House had set up the panel “to investigate all cases of invasion of property and arrests of persons for reasons outside the general duties of the DSS since May 29, 2015.”

The panel was chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kaduna State, Mr. Garba Datti-Muhammad.

In its report to the House, the committee noted that in other climes, including the US, any evidence obtained during an illegal search was not admissible.