The Presidency has reiterated its preparedness to contest Senate’s insistence on confirmation of certain federal appointments at the Supreme Court.
Following Senate’s stance against the executive’s position that all categories of nominees are not mandatory to be sent for confirmation, the Presidency has opted for the apex court to seek interpretation of Section 171 of the Constitution, upon which it relied in stating that certain federal appointments should not require the confirmation of the Senate.
It said the refusal by the Senate to confirm the appointment of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, had more to do with politics than with the law.
This is the position of a legal advisory prepared by judicial and legal experts as a working document in the Presidency on the differences in the constitutional interpretations on matters of certain federal appointments
It was learnt on Sunday night that a team of legal experts put together by the Presidency recommended that it retained its position, while awaiting a judicial pronouncement, “preferably by the Supreme Court, is what will settle the matter”.
The Senate had on July 4 passed a resolution suspending all issues relating to the confirmation of nominees and urged Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to respect the constitution and laws as they relate to nominees’ confirmation.
But the presidency’s legal advisory, concluded that a judicial pronouncement, “preferably by the Supreme Court, is what will settle the matter.”
A government source noted that though it was the view of the Presidency that certain federal appointments should not require the confirmation of the Senate based on Section 171 of the Constitution, the present administration had continued to send such appointments to the Senate pending the ultimate judicial interpretation of the matter.
According to the source, “The advisory which affirms the powers of the President to appoint in acting capacity into positions such as the EFCC chairmanship, also notes that in the recent past, the ministerial nomination of Late Prof. Abraham Babalola Borishade (Ekiti State) by President Olusegun Obasanjo was rejected repeatedly by the Senate. In fact, it would be recalled that this particular nomination was presented four times in 18 months before it was eventually confirmed by the Senate.
The source, who sought anonymity, said the advisory unearthed a ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter where the current Chief Justice of the Federation, before his elevation as CJN had ruled in line with the view of the presidency on the matter.
He said it was inaccurate to say the Federal Government or the Presidency had started to act unilaterally on its own interpretation of Section 171
He said: “This is because, even after the Acting President, (who spoke when he was Vice President in support of the view of some leading lawyers) the Presidency has continued to send nominations to the Senate both while the President himself was around and while away by the Acting President.
“Since the time the Acting President spoke and when Senate recently expressed its disagreement we have been sending nominations severally including into the INEC and other boards and commissions. So we are clearly not acting unilaterally based on our own interpretation of the law, even though we believe firmly we are right
“Here is the point, the presidency believes that Section 171 is clear that certain appointments do not require Senate consent, but the presidency is not already behaving as if it’s interpretation of the law has become a policy.
“The presidency is persuaded that its interpretation is the correct one, but we are conscious and aware of the fact that only a proper judicial ruling on the matter would make it a settled policy that sits right with the rule of law. That is why we have not stopped sending all manners of nominations to the Senate, most of which the Senate has actually confirmed, even well after the Acting President spoke.
“In fact the conclusion of the legal advisory on the matter is very clear that a judicial pronouncement preferably by the Supreme Court is what will settle the matter. According to that legal advisory 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 crises between the two arms.”