The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Wednesday said Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s statement on the confirmation of acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, was a personal opinion.
Also on Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), declared that the position of Osinbajo on Magu was not a decision of the Federal Executive Council.
Osinbajo had, in an interview in April, ruled out the possibility of President Muhammadu Buhari replacing 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 has drawn the ire of Senators, who, on Tuesday, resolved to step down all requests for confirmation into executive positions from the Presidency.
The senators also asked the acting President to withdraw the statement “without further delay.”
Shehu explained that the statement was Osinbajo’s personal opinion, which he made as the Vice-President when Buhari, who is currently receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom, was still in the country.
The presidential spokesmen stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja.
He said, “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 go through that process, that those ones can be appointed through presidential fiat; they don’t have to go through screening.
“But several months ago, in his position as Vice-President, Prof. Osinbajo gave a personal opinion, saying what this lawyer said makes sense.”
Shehu added that the Federal Government had not taken a decision that some nominees would no longer be sent to the National Assembly for confirmation.
He said since Osinbajo gave the opinion, over 20 nominees had been sent to the Senate for confirmation.
Shehu however assured all stakeholders that the current face-off would be resolved through dialogue.
He said, “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.
“The authority of the Senate, under the Constitution to screen and pass nominees, has never been questioned by the government or the Federal Executive Council.
“From the time the Vice-President gave that opinion till 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.
“Therefore, this is not a big issue as some people want to make it. The party, government and the National Assembly will sit at a round table and this matter will be discussed and resolved.”