By Harrison Arubu
The Senate on Tuesday stepped down confirmation of four nominees as members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Board.
Also suspended was the confirmation of the Chairman and members of the Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The decision followed a rowdy session over “lopsidedness” in the EFCC nomination made by President Muhammadu Buhari since 2016.
The nominees are Moses Ndasule, Lawan Mamman, Galadanci Najib, and Adeleke Rafiu.
They were screened by the Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, which presented its report on the floor of the Red Chamber during plenary.
In the report presented by its Chairman, Sen. Chukwuma Utazi (PDP-Enugu North), the committee recommended their confirmation on the basis of their “qualification, experience and suitability” for the job.
However, Utazi said the committee observed that the nomination did not reflect the Federal Character Principle as the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones were excluded.
“The committee observed that three out of the four nominees were from the North Central, North-East and North-West geopolitical zones, with only one nominee from the southern part of the country, that is South-West.
“The committee notes that this is not in strict compliance with the Federal Character Principle as provided for in section 14 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The committee makes this observation to guide the Executive in future nominations,” Utazi said.
Senators Rabiu Kwankwanso (PDP-Kano Central) and Barau Jibrin (APC-Kano North) supported the recommendation of the committee for the nominees’ confirmation, citing their “experience and competence”.
However, trouble started when Sen. Victor Umeh (APGA-Anambra Central), rose to oppose the nomination on the ground that it would send more wrong signals about the fight against corruption.
Umeh said it was wrong for members of the EFCC board to be appointed from the North-East and South-West zones, which had already produced the chairman and secretary of the commission respectively.
Umeh said, “Mr President, we have continued to say this that there is need to accommodate all parts of Nigeria in activities of government, particularly in appointing people into agencies of government.
“That has been the practice in this chamber, and on this issue of fight against corruption, the EFCC is a very important commission because the fight involves all parts of Nigeria.
“People are investigated in all parts of Nigerian and the commission cannot fight corruption to the satisfaction of all Nigerians if some parts of the country are not represented in it.”
He urged the Senate to be “bold enough” to step down consideration of the report and return the nomination to the Presidency.
Sen. Mathew Urhoghide (PDP-Edo-South), who supported Umeh, said exclusion of the South-South and South-East was painting the picture that people from the zones were the “real criminals” in the country.
Urhoghide also called on the Senate to step down consideration of the report until Federal Character was reflected in the nomination.
Asked by President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki, to give more information on the composition of the EFCC board membership, Utazi said there were six positions, including the chairman and secretary.
He noted that the positions could go round the six geopolitical zones of the country, and give everyone a sense of justice, describing the “lopsidedness” as unfair to the excluded zones.
The Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe North) said the committee’s recommendation should be approved on the ground that it did not breach the EFCC Act, which is silent on the zones from which the members should be appointed.
The session later went rowdy as more senators made heated contributions to the debate.
This forced the lawmakers to go into a closed-door executive session that lasted for about 15 minutes.
On return to plenary, Saraki said the senators had resolved to step down the report for more legislation work.