The Presidency has begun moves that will end the ongoing friction between Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the Senate over the approving powers of the Senate on federal appointments.
Both the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, yesterday, confirmed the reconciliatory process.
Shehu said that the remarks made by the Acting President about the screening of nominees by the Senate were misconstrued.
The presidential spokesman, however, assured that concrete steps were already being taken to resolve the matter.
Osinbajo was recently quoted as saying that executive appointments did not require legislative approval based on Section 171 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The comments by the Acting President, on Tuesday, sparked off protest from lawmakers when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read a letter from Osinbajo asking the upper chamber to confirm the nomination of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila as chairman of the National Lottery Commission.
Following the Acting President’s comments, the Senate had, on Tuesday, asked that an embargo should be placed on confirmation of executive appointments pending the time the powers of the legislature will be recognised, especially the removal of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Addressing State House Correspondents after the FEC meeting which was presided over by Osinbajo at the presidential villa, the Information Minister noted that the matter was discussed at the Council, particularly on finding amicable resolution to the crisis.
Mohammed noted that the executive has a special mechanism of handling such issues when they arise.
According to him, “the fact of the matter is that we have a very excellent mechanism for resolving whatever issues is between us and the National Assembly. That is being addressed.According to the media aide, in compliance with the provisions of the law, the executive arm has been sending the names of its nominees to the National Assembly for screening and it will continue to do so.
“Whatever may be the problem between the executive and the National Assembly, we have an excellent mechanism for resolving it. I don’t think we need to go to specific statements as to what was said by A or B.
“We believe that government is not one arm, but the legislative, executive and judiciary arms, whatever might be the problem, we are resolving it and we are addressing it.”
Mohammed did not, however, disclose the mechanism and details of the steps being taken to resolve the impasse between the two arms of government.
In an interview yesterday, Shehu noted that the remarks credited to Osinbajo about screening of nominees for appointments did not originate from the Acting President.
“Our understanding is that some remarks made by the Acting President some months ago when he was the Vice President, because the President was around at that time, an opinion he gave is being misconstrued. A senior lawyer in the country offered an opinion, in which he said some categories of public officers traditionally cleared by the National Assembly need not to go through that process, that those ones can be appointed by the presidential fiat; they don’t have to go through screening. But several months ago, in his position as Vice President, Professor Osinbajo gave a personal opinion saying what this lawyer said makes sense,” Shehu explained.
He said the government or members of its cabinet have not taken any decision on the issue.
“There is no official position by the government of Nigeria and the Federal Executive Council never sat down to take a decision to say that some categories of officials will not be sent to the National Assembly any longer or that the authority of the Senate under the constitution to screen and pass nominees has never been questioned by the government or the FEC,” he said.
He said all parties involved in the matter will soon meet with a view to resolving the impasse.
“From the time the Vice President gave that opinion to now, more than 20 nominations have been forwarded to the Senate and quite a number of them have been screened, sworn in and are now occupying positions. So, therefore, this is not a big issue as some people want to make it. The party, government and the National Assembly will sit on a roundtable and this matter will be discussed and resolved. I assure you,” he stated.Speaking on the issue, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) explained that the issue of whether the Senate has any approving powers over appointments made by the Executive as presented by Osinbajo did not, at any time, feature in the deliberation of the council.
The Justice Minister, who was joined by Mohammed, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bello Mohammed at the briefing, said that “the fundamental consideration about the alleged statement is the fact that at no point ever did FEC sit down to arrive at the decision in one way or the other as far as the issue of nomination or otherwise is concerned.”
“So, I do not think it constitutes an issue for the FEC to make any clarification about, because it has never been considered by the FEC. So the Minister of Information will throw more light on the matter,” Malami noted.While speaking on the anti-corruption agenda of the Federal Government earlier, the Minister of Justice told reporters that FEC approved a new anti-corruption strategy that would ensure enforcement and sanctioning of persons found guilty of corruption in the country.
He said the strategy is intended to strengthen the enforcement and sanctions.
The AGF said: “Well, as you are all aware, anti-corruption is one of the major points and major drive of this administration and arising from that, the government had, overtime, recorded very positive progress and development in that direction.The council also, yesterday, approved contracts worth N900 million for infrastructural developments in some districts of Abuja.
“As it relates to the idea of the prevention of corruption, a lot of policies were put in place and they have proven to be successful.
“Policy relating to Bank Verification Number, Single Treasury Account, policy relating to whistle blowing; policy relating to open government partnership and associated policies have all proven (to be) very effective in establishing transparency, accountability and blockage of linkages associated with corruption.
“So, arising from this understanding, ministries, department, agencies, legislature, judiciary, civil society group and religious bodies have all come together at a forum and developed a National Anti-Corruption Strategy which is intended to be a guide or a roadmap for the enhancement and sanctions, processes associated with anti-corruption.”
Breakdown of the approval, according to the FCT Minister, include N242 million for engineering infrastructure design for ring roads, N184 million for Kabo District housing engineering design contract, and N241 million sewage line contract, as well as N233 million for water treatment and connecting pipelines engineering design contract in line with the Abuja Water Master Plan.