After several episodes of the drawn battle for supremacy and a needless flex of power muscles between the Executive and the Legislative, the presidency has made a move to resolve the crisis. The presidency has set up a committee to negotiate and lobby the house in a bid to seek lasting peace to the issue between the two arms. The committee will also try to repair the working relationship between the executive and the 8th senate.
Announcing the constitution of the committee yesterday after the weekly Federal Executive Committee (FEC) meeting, the Minister of Information And Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that the executive had become concerned by the way the relationship between the two arms had deteriorated in recent months. The minister stressed the importance of a cordial relationship between the two creations of the law as the only way they can ensure progress, and delivery of dividends of democracy to the citizenry.
The suspension of the confirmation of INEC Resident Electoral commissioners by the Senate which cited the refusal of the President to sack the acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu whose appointment as the substantive chairman was rejected for the second time on March 15 as the basis, is the latest event in the fracas between the two bodies since the beginning of February.
In another of such events, the Senate drove away the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Alli Hameed, for failing to appear before the house in his uniform. They have also recommended the removal of the customs boss, while criticising the action of the Attorney General of the Federation for writing the house a letter on Hameed’s behalf. The Secretary General of the Federation, Babachir Lawal has also failed to appear before the house in the ongoing investigation into alleged mismanagement of funds allocated for the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast. Most recently, the Senate, on Wednesday 29th March, summoned the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, over comments made regarding the suspension of the confirmation of the INEC officials. The renowned legal practitioner has since stated that he would not be honouring the summon as the senate lack the power to summon him.
These events have resulted in the unnecessary extension of debate on the 2017 budget which has been with the house since December 14, 2016. It is, thus, commendable that the president has now seen the need to break the show of force and negotiate with the senators who would not mind ensuring the president does not fulfil his manifestoes. The 8th senate, as it has largely shown, has nothing to lose by engaging in power play; the weight is on the presidency. So, it is wise and necessary for the President to find a way to ensure that he achieves his goal.
Nonetheless, it is particularly baffling that the president has allowed the case of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC to degenerate into this mess. With the law of the country silent on what comes next after a second rejection, all the president had to do to keep Magu as the Acting Chairman of EFCC was put out a statement to that effect. The inability and ineffectiveness of the presidency in handling its own affairs has given the senate the opportunity to further expose the lacuna within the executive.
It needs to be stated that it is within the power of senate to summon a public servant who works in any set up with a certain amount of money voted for in the budget. Thus the failure of the Secretary General of the Federation to appear before the house as well as the insistence of the presidency in keeping an overaged permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education beyond her retirement age is disregarding of the constitution.
In resolving these outstanding issues, the president, in addition to an expected success of the reconciliation committee in dialogue with the legislators, must put his house in order, and ensure a functional executive arm of government where everyone is reasonably subject to constituted authority.