Court Affirms Senate Power To Reject Magu
The Senate has said it has been vindicated on the rejection of the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, who briefed journalists in Abuja on Thursday, announced that a Federal High Court had ruled that the upper chamber of the National Assembly had the powers to confirm or reject Magu’s appointment.
Sabi-Abdullahi made a copy of the ruling available to journalists on Thursday.
The suit, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/59/2017, was filed by a lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Justice John Tsoho of the FHC sitting in Abuja on January 15, 2018 ruled on the issues raised by the plaintiff before striking out the suit.
Delivering the ruling, Tsoho said, “The plaintiff raised two issues in the written address for determination, to wit: Whether or not the 1st defendant (Saraki) can reject a valid statutory appointment made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Office (of the Chairman) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in accordance with the provisions of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004 and whether or not the 1st defendant is bound by the provisions of the EFCC Act, 2004, with respect to the confirmation of any appointment made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the office of the Chairman of the EFCC.”
Tsoho, who expressed his doubts about the locus standi of the plaintiff, said, “Nevertheless, the court will consider the merits of the issues raised for determination by the plaintiff.”
The judge added, “Issue one borders on the power of the Senate in respect of statutory appointment under the EFCC Act referred to it by the President. The relevant provision relating to appointment of the Chairman of the EFCC is Section 2 (1) and (3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.
“Section 2 (3) provides as follows: The chairman and members of the commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
“Firstly, the use of the word ‘shall’ in legislation usually denotes mandatoriness. Therefore, while the plaintiff recognises the use of the word ‘shall’ as conferring mandatory and unqualified powers on the President to appoint the Chairman of the EFCC, sight must not be lost that the same word is used in respect of confirmation by the Senate of such appointment. Therefore interpretation of the word ‘shall’ should logically have the same effect regarding both situations.
“More importantly, the expression ‘subject to’ used in Section 2 (3) of the EFCC Act is very instructive. The expression ‘subject to’ has been interpreted to mean liable, subordinate, subservient, or inferior to; governed or affected by; provide that or provided; answerable for. It has been categorically stated that the phrase ‘subject to’ introduces a condition, a restriction, a limitation, a proviso.”
On the second issue, Tsoho stated that there was no doubt that the 1st defendant was bound by the provisions of the EFCC Act with respect to appointment of the Chairman of the EFCC by the President.
Tsoho added, “The point must be made that it is trite law generally, that where a plaintiff’s claim is unchallenged and uncontroverted, the court will accept the available evidence and act on it.”
Ojaomo had approached the court, through an originating summons, to seek relief that the Senate lacked the powers to reject Magu’s appointment.
Reacting to the judgment, the Senate’s spokesperson said, “We are pleased with this judgment and we want to salute Nigeria’s judiciary for always rising up to the occasion to protect our democracy and deepen our democratic processes.”
Sabi-Abdullahi added, “The Senate wants to say that we are convinced and hoping that by this judgment, the executive will be guided to uphold the rule of law and do the needful so that we can resolve this unfortunate situation in the overall interest of our people.”