The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Olanipekun Olukoyede as the Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr Olukoyede, who is the current Chief of Staff to the acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was nominated as secretary to the commission by President Muhammadu Buhari, in a letter dated September 10, 2018.

The Senate had on Tuesday suspended Mr Olukoyede’s confirmation.

It resolved to stand down his confirmation after a member of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Isa Misau (PDP, Bauchi Central) accused some committee members of preparing a report without the consent of others.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, then directed the chairman and members of the committee to meet and deliberate on the issue and re-present the report today.

Mr Misau had also complained that only three of eight members of the committee signed the Endorsement Page of the report.

The lawmakers, however, confirmed the EFCC secretary amidst altercations between the chairman of the committee, Chukwuka Utazi, and some other members.

Prior to the confirmation, Mr Misau raised a point of order accusing Mr Utazi of disobeying the resolution made by the Senate on Tuesday. He said he and other members were still not invited to any meeting.

“There was a resolution of the Senate yesterday on the committee to sit down and look at the report so it can be considered today. I am a member of the committee. Senators Dino, Matthew, Monsurat, Mustapha are members of this committee. All of us are waiting to be called to deliberate on this report and we know that there are so many petitions concerning this nominee and this nominee is going to hold a very sensitive office in the EFCC.

“I think it not right for us to just do a shortcut in screening this individual. The rights of the committee members should be considered. If there is any petition against this man, let us look at it. The normal procedure is for the clerk to send a letter of invitation. I don’t know what the interest is.

“I was just sitting here and the chairman came with a document asking me and Dino to sign for him. I think what we are trying to do is not right. Let us step down this report, let the committee sit down and deliberate on it.

“Why are we avoiding the screening of this man? What is the interest? If the EFCC can do investigation on individuals, why can’t we perform our own rights?” he said.

In his response, Mr Utazi reiterated that invitations were before Tuesday sent out to all members of the committee and Mr Misau was absent.

“I’m not giving to making response to ‘trivalities’ and frivolities in this Senate. It is right to inform the Senate that the quorum of our committees is three. We gave notice of meeting on 24th of October. I sent it to the member who is trying to mislead this chamber here. It was also on the Order Paper of that day.

“On the same day, we were going for this meeting, I also informed our colleagues and when we got there, only three people were there. And we did the business of this committee and concluded our activities and came up with a report which we have here.

“Yesterday, I brought it up, the member who was absent, stopped the meeting. He was never there. He only participated in ICPC screening. We have a report here. Let the Senate do the needful and consider what we have done here,” he said.

Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi West) countered his argument and asked that the Senate suspend the confirmation for further deliberation.

“The resolution of this Senate yesterday, was for the committee to meet. This was not done.

“Utazi is an honourable Nigerian and on his honour, he knows that the committee did not meet yesterday. I will request that we carry out the resolution of the Senate which is that the committee should meet. Then we can now come back and make our presentation. If we are lawmakers, we cannot be lawbreakers.”

Mr Saraki, noticing the chaos emanating from the arguments, said based on the Senate’s procedure, the chairman and others present could form a quorum and also present the report

 “It was out of respect for our colleague that said he had not seen the report that we said we should stand it down for a day so that there will be further consultations. It does not mean that they had to agree.”

The floor was thrown into a rowdy session following his comment.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, thereafter called for calm as he said the debate was completely unnecessary.

“The procedure in this parliament since 1999 is that when a committee comes up with a report, the first thing to do is to lay it. At that point, if there is any problem, it comes up. Once it has been laid, it becomes the property of the Senate.

“What we need to do at this point is to discuss the report, then put the question and everybody votes the way he wants.”

Again, more noise ensued.

In an attempt to calm the angry senators, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, urged those against the report to vote accordingly.

“First of all, the quorum was met, if some of the colleagues were not present, they can object to anything they don’t want. And let me add that our colleagues who are against this are not completely against everything.

“Let’s pass this. If those who don’t want this report to pass, based on the recommendations, they can vote and carry the day,” he said.

Even though there was more noise and Mr Misau was heard asking the chairman of the committee what his interest was and why he was avoiding the meeting, Mr Saraki moved that the Senate resolve into committee of the whole and consider the nomination.

The Senate, thereafter, considered and confirmed Mr Olukoyede as the EFCC secretary.

Mr Magu continues to hold his position in an acting capacity after the Senate twice refused to confirm his appointment.

 

Credit – Queen Esther Iroanusi