The former attorney-general of the federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN, yesterday called for the merger of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Miscillaneous Offences Commission (ICPC), as the Senate again confirmed seven ministerial nominees as ministers.
That brings to 14 the total number of nominees so far confirmed.
Adoke also cleared Nigeria’s former leaders allegedly fingered in the Halliburton scandal, saying that there was no evidence to prosecute them for complicity.
Adoke was the major highlight of the exercise, where he and the former ministers of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Arch. Mohammed Musa Sada (Mines and Solid Minerals Development), Mr. Labaran Maku (Information and Communication), Alh. Yusuf Sulieman (transport) and new nominees, Hajiya Zainab Maina and Mrs. Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi were confirmed as ministers in a voice vote.
Adoke also chided governors for wilfully dissolving local government councils without recourse to any known law. ‘Their actions are not known to any law and, unfortunately, nobody has challenged them. If I am reappointed as the AGF I will take it up with any one of them who does that,” he said.
Responding to questions on the anti-graft agencies, the former AGF declared that it is appropriate that the ICPC and EFCC are merged to be able to fight corruption effectively.
“First and foremost, the act establishing the ICPC is to fight official corruption while the act setting up the EFCC is to fight economic crimes and money laundering. But, regrettably, the operators of the two agencies have not properly understood the extent of their powers or their statutory mandate and so it’s been overlapping and when we at the Ministry of Justice try to guide them, they see it as interference.
“It will be appropriate to merge these two agencies together for purposes of effective fight in the war against corruption,” he said.
On the charge that he withdrew high-profile cases allegedly involving some government officials and influential individuals, Adoke rolled out some cases to deny the allegations.
According to him: “For instance, on the Kenny Martins case when I came on board, I said that the cases should go through the whole hog in court and the case was dismissed for want of evidence. So it is not true that I withdraw the case of Kenny Martins from court.”
In the same vein, the former minister of national planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, lamented the alarming rate of unemployment, describing it as a time bomb. Responding to questions during his screening, he disclosed: “One of the problems we have identified is the mass unemployment that we have. The figure that was established by the unemployment survey that we did was about 21.1 per cent, that is, national and when you look at state figures, some of the states are very alarming. They have about 39 per cent unemployment and the unemployment figures are more worrisome in some states, but generally it is the youths, the population is between 14 and 25.
In one of the highlights of the session, the Senate waived its rule against “bow and go” for Hajiya Zainab Maina. After she reeled out her resume, she was inexplicably asked to take a bow and go. No one asked her a question.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is poised for a showdown with the presidency over what it alleged to be an undermining move by President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Wednesday sent a list of 20 special advisers to the Senate for approval without forwarding same to the House in accordance with section 151 (2) of the constitution.
Section 151 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reads: “The president may appoint any person as a special adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions. The number of such advisers and their remuneration and allowances shall be prescribed by law or by resolution of the National Assembly.” Raising a constitutional point of order on the matter during Thursday’s sitting, leader of the minority Hon Femi Gbajabiamila expressed displeasure that the president did not deem it right to obey the provisions of the constitution by presenting the list to both chambers for approval as stated in the constitution.
Recalling other times when relevant communication had been forwarded to the Senate and the House bypassed against constitutional provisions, he said, “I hope it is not deliberate but just an oversight”. The legislators had expressed similar concern when President Jonathan sent a list of special advisers to the Senate for approval and did not forward it to the House for concurrent approval. He had asked for additional aides after his office was elevated from that of the vice president to the president upon the death of the former president, Umar Musa Yar’ Adua.
The deputy speaker, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, who took over the job of presiding over the day’s session after the speaker left the chamber, however, stated that it must have been an oversight on the part of the executive, and directed the clerk to deal with it appropriately.