The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), on Thursday backed Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s position that the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, would remain in office.
Sagay said the presidency’s position was anchored on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, which he said supersedes the EFCC Act.
But, another lawyer Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), believed the provision of the EFCC Act was valid, and that there would have been no conflict with the Senate if the executive had complied with the law.
Two other SANs, Prof Koyinsola Ajayi and Norrison Quakers, called for caution and dialogue.
They spoke in separate telephone interviews with our correspondents.
To Sagay, Section 2 (3) of the EFCC Act which provides that the commission’s chairman’s appointment was subject to Senate confirmation was void.
“The Section is absolutely void. A court doesn’t need to pronounce it void. Every Nigerian can interpret the Constitution, and the lawyers particularly can interpret it. There is no judge on any Bench in Nigeria today that qualified before me. I am more qualified than all of them and I qualified long before them. What are they interpreting that I cannot?
“The truth is that the provision in EFCC Act and any other Act that says the President must get clearance from the Senate before appointing the heads of these agencies or an extra-ministerial body is null and void.
“The Constitution has clearly provided for the President to so appoint without any reference to the Senate. That is the law of this country. The fact that we have been practicing invalid law does not mean we cannot wake up one day and do the right thing,” Sagay said.
On whether the EFCC Act’s provision needs to be amended, he added: “No. You just ignore it. It doesn’t exist in law. It is invalid, it is null and void.”
Sagay, however, said it was not a bad idea for the Supreme Court to be called upon to resolve the impasse.
“It is not a bad idea for the Supreme Court to be asked to intervene. But I’m telling you this is my interpretation. Any other interpretation that is contrary to this is dishonest. It means they have some private agenda that is contrary to the interest of Nigerians in the face of clear provisions of the Constitution,” he said.
Sagay praised Osinbajo for backing Magu.
He said: “Since the passage of our first leaders, like Awolowo, Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello, we have not been lucky enough to have highly principled, consistent, committed men of great integrity and honour like President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo. Perhaps the only other previous administration close to the present one is the Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo administration.”