Nigeria’s House of Representatives, on Wednesday ordered the arrest of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu for consistently refusing to appear before it.
This is in connection to a petition by former first lady, Patience Jonathan alleging harassment by the anti-graft agency over the freezing of her accounts by the Commission.
Disobedient: Magu was given up till yesterday, October 4th, to appear before the panel but the EFCC boss rejected all invitations.
Frustrated: Angered by Magu’s refusal, the panel ordered that Magu be arrested and presented before it on November 7.
According to Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Petition, Magu’s refusal to attend is an affront to the Parliament.
“There is a need to say that people should work within the confines of the law because nobody is above the law. EFCC has consistently absented itself from this hearing. If it were here, perhaps we would have dispensed with this investigation. What the EFCC is doing is not only unfair but disrespectful to the parliament,” he said
Arrest him: At its resumed sitting on Wednesday, Kingsley Chinda, a member of the panel, moved a motion that a bench warrant be issued against Magu to appear before the panel on the next adjourned date which was supported by all the members present. Consequently, the chairman of the committee ruled that a bench warrant be issued against Magu.
We can all agree on a few things:
1. We all wish our National Assembly was better. Too many times members have not acted in ways that show they have the best interest of Nigerians at heart.
2. However, the National Assembly has the constitutional right to summon the chairman of the EFCC. His refusal to respond to their summon is an affront on that institution.
Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution are clear that the legislature has powers to investigate “any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly.” Section 89 (1)(c) says the National Assembly can:
(c) summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, and examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, subject to all just exceptions; and (d) issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the committee in question, and order him to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in compelling his attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or neglect to obey the summons, and also to impose such fine as may be prescribed for any such failure, refused or neglect; and any fine so imposed shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.
A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may require.
The position of the EFCC chairman may be a powerful one but it is not one for which the laws of the country do not apply. Magu may disagree with the position of the lawmakers on the Patience Jonathan affair but once he is summoned, the position of the law is that he must make himself available. He has refused to do that and an arrest is now in order.