Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said that despite the rejection of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate, the Presidency is fully behind him.
Osinbajo made this known during an interview with select journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari did not find the indictment by the Department of State Services, DSS, a strong enough reason to replace Magu.
The DSS report had described Magu as corrupt and would constitute a liability in the anti-corruption campaign of the current administration.
But Osinbajo said that President Buhari once again demonstrated his transparent nature by allowing the DSS report to fly in the first instance.
According to Osinbajo, the President could have interfered with the report if he wanted to, but allowed it to be presented to the Senate so that Magu could clear his name.
He said: “We should commend the president for not interfering with what the DSS said. The DSS came up with a report and the man who was accused refuted it.
“He explains and gives a reason. When that happened, the president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said ‘I am satisfied with what Magu said.
“He then decided to retain Magu as the nominee for EFCC. I don’t see any reason why that should be contested. The president has not interfered with what the DSS said.
“If he wanted to interfere, he would have ordered the DSS to keep quiet.
He didn’t do that, but he said ‘I don’t think the DSS report is meritorious enough to withdraw his nomination.
“The president reserves the right to say, ‘this is who I want’.
“I’m fully in support of Magu as the EFCC chairman just as the president is.” Osinbajo also noted that Nigeria is not the only country where Presidential nominees were being opposed and rejected by the legislature.
He cited an example with the United States of America, where a number of nominees by President Donald Trump were opposed by the Senate, adding that such opposition does not necessarily mean that the candidate will be withdrawn.
“You see the American example… There are various reports. People come up with all sorts of things,” Osinbajo said.
“Look at Jeff Sessions (US attorney-general) for instance, there were many reports. Some accused him of being racist, some of this and that, but he is in office today,” he said.
The Vice President also re-echoed the position of senior lawyer, Femi Falana, that President Buhari does not need the confirmation of the senate in order to retain Magu as head of the EFCC, as there was no law to that effect.
He said: “It is up to the senate to make their judgement, and it is up to us to say what we want to do.
“If our candidate is rejected, we can re-present him. No law says we can’t re-present him.
“And again, there is the other argument, whether or not we need to present him for confirmation and that’s a compelling argument from Femi Falana.
“His argument is that under the constitution, section 171, and if you look at that section, it talks about the appointments that the president can make.
“They include appointments of ministers, ambassadors and heads of agencies such as the EFCC.
“In that same section 171, the constitution rightly said that certain appointments must go to the senate such as ministerial and ambassadorial appointments.
“Those of heads of agencies like the EFCC do not have to go to the senate. That’s what the constitution says.
“But the EFCC act, which of course as you know is inferior, says that EFCC chairman should go to the senate for confirmation.
“I am sure that even a pocket book lawyer knows that when a legislation conflicts with constitution, it’s the constitution that prevails.
“I agree with Mr Falana that there was no need in the first place to have sent Magu’s name to the senate, but we did so and it was rejected by the senate, but I believe that it can be re-presented.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong about the fact that senate has rejected him. Senate has acted in its own wisdom to say ‘No, we don’t want him’, and we can say, ‘This is our candidate… we like the gentleman and we want him to continue.”