Malami, Shehu dismiss Osinbajo’s comment on Magu as ‘personal opinion’

Malami, Shehu dismiss Osinbajo’s comment on Magu as ‘personal opinion’
July 06 12:24 2017

In what appears to be a clear case of division in the executive arm of government, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, have said Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s comment on the screening of acting chairman o the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, was his personal opinion and not the official position of government.

Osinbajo had, in an interview in April, ruled out the possibility of President Muhammadu Buhari replacing Magu, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate on two occasions.

He had agreed with the argument of prominent lawyer, Femi Falana, that Senate confirmation was not needed for the EFCC chairman based on the provisions of Section 171 of the constitution.

The Senators had on Tuesday asked Osinbajo to withdraw the statement and also resolved to stop screening nominees for executive positions.

Shehu told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday 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.

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 made 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 clarified that 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.

Also speaking on the matter to State House correspondents on Wednesday, Malami said since the council did not at any time take the decision, there was no need to make any clarification about Osinbajo’s statement.

The AGF said this while responding to questions for council’s position on the face-off between the Senate and the Presidency after the weekly FEC meeting presided over by Osinbajo.

“The fundamental consideration about the alleged statement is the fact that at no point ever did the Federal Executive Council 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 Federal Executive Council to make any clarification about because it has never been considered by the FEC.”

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on his part, said there was an “excellent mechanism” in place to resolve whatever disagreement that might arise between the executive and the National Assembly.

“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 includes the legislative, executive and judiciary arms. Whatever might be the problem, we are resolving it and we are addressing it,” he said.