The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has said going by the constitution, any minister, who openly disagrees with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, risks being sacked for insubordination.
Sagay said this in a statement on Thursday.
The PACAC chairman therefore berated the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), for taking a separate stance from Osinbajo over the refusal of the Senate to confirm the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
A few hours after Malami had said Osinbajo did not consult the Federal Executive Council before saying the executive did not need Senate confirmation for Magu to function, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, described the acting President’s comment as a ‘‘personal opinion.’’
Malami, who is also the Minister of Justice, had, while briefing State House correspondents after the weekly FEC meeting on Wednesday, said Osinbajo’s statement that Magu did not need Senate confirmation was a personal opinion and not that of the body of ministers.
However, Sagay said Malami was out of order because the constitution stated clearly that the opinion or decision of the President or acting President was final and could not be questioned by any minister.
Also, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership believed those opposing the acting President could be saboteurs in the Presidency while a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Norrison Quakers, pointed out that a situation where officials of government disagree with the head of that government was dangerous.
Sagay explained that any minister, who openly disagreed with the President or the acting President, deserved to be sacked going by Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that executive powers of the Federation shall be vested in the President, not in the Executive Council of the Federation.
He argued that ministers and the FEC had no executive authority outside what was granted them by the President or Acting President.
The PACAC chairman, a senior advocate of Nigeria, added, “The Executive Council of the Federation, also known as FEC, cannot have views that are separate or different from those of the President, or where applicable, the Acting President; otherwise, that will constitute gross insubordination and misconduct that can lead to dismissal.
“Therefore, the slant being given to the statement of the Attorney General of the Federation, namely; that the Executive Council of the Federation is entitled to meet in order to express an opinion or view on a matter on which the President or Acting President has already expressed his views or opinions is wrong, misleading and totally unconstitutional.”
Also, the CACOL feared that there could be saboteurs in the Presidency, who were not comfortable with the fight against corruption and who would want Magu removed.
The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “Some of those ministers appointed by President Buhari are those who will not support him to fight corruption hands down. There are several executives in the Presidency who will be sabotaging the bids of the President and the acting President.
“We know that the ascendancy of this administration to power rests on its readiness to fight corruption. The EFCC chairman has been able to demonstrate courage, standing eyeball-to-eyeball with people who feel they are larger than life.’’
In his reaction, another SAN, Mr. Norrison Quakers, said the development was not healthy for the polity as it portrayed the Federal Government as a house divided against itself.
Quakers stated, “Quite frankly speaking, this is not healthy for the polity; it strikes at the heart of our constitutional democracy.
‘‘Therefore, if he (acting President) expressed any opinion, it should not be seen as a personal opinion.
“This development portrays the Federal Government as a house divided against itself.”
Quakers, who recalled that even before Buhari proceeded on his medical vacation in the United Kingdom, he had, through his spokesman, stated that Magu would continue to act as the EFCC chairman.
He explained that Osinbajo’s position was not at variance with Buhari’s position.
He added, “As the Chief Law Officer of the nation, the AGF is not expected to toe any political line on any issues but to state the position of the law.
‘‘It is not healthy for a member of the Federal Executive Council to speak against the acting President, to say that what the acting President said was his personal opinion.”
However, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Dele Adeogun, said the differences between the executive and the legislature over Magu’s position should be subjected to judicial interpretation rather than for the legislature to say it would no longer screen any appointee sent to it by the executive.
Presidency to retain Magu as EFCC chair, says el-Rufai
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on Thursday, declared that the Presidency had decided that it would retain Magu as the head of the EFCC.
El-Rufai, who represented Osinbajo at the inauguration of the Kaduna office of the EFCC, noted that as long as the President Buhari – led administration lasted, Magu would not be removed.
“I had a discussion with the President (Buhari) on the Magu issue. He said he has every confidence in the work that the commission, led by Magu, is doing, and as long as he (Buhari) is President, you (Magu) remain the chairman of the EFCC.
“For those who believe that Magu is their nightmares, he will remain there for the next two years. I spoke with the Acting President last night (Wednesday) and he affirmed what the President said,” el-Rufai said.
He added that he had recovered over N500m without making any noise from past government officials and contractors in the state, stating that the corrupt officials would be handed over to the commission for prosecution.
Magu, in his address at the event, called for the establishment of ‘special’ prisons for corrupt Nigerians at the Sambisa Forest, said to be the stronghold of the terror sect, Boko Haram, in the past.
He said this would be possible if only the judiciary would cooperate with the commission.
Magu said, “We want to call for the establishment of a prison in Sambisa Forest in order to keep away corrupt people from our midst.’’
FEC didn’t disown Osinbajo, says Malami
But the AGF, on Thursday night, alleged that his statement that Osinbajo’s comment on Magu was not the position of FEC, was distorted.
Malami said in a statement posted on the Facebok page of Aso Rock Villa on Thursday that he did not say that FEC disowned Osinbajo as reported.
He stated, “All matters relating to presidential appointments and nominations are strictly a matter for the Presidency to handle. They are not for the Federal Executive Council, and are therefore not discussed at FEC level. This was the point I made yesterday at the press briefing, and which was unfortunately distorted by the media.”