Senate moves to limit president’s powers to sack EFCC chairperson
A bill that seeks to limit the president’s powers to remove the chairperson of the anti-graft agency, EFCC scaled second reading at the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill seeks to amend the EFCC Act to subject the termination of the appointment of the chairperson of the commission to the confirmation of the Senate “in order to guarantee the security of tenure.”
It is sponsored by the Senate Minority Whip, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North).
Leading the debate, Mr Utazi said one of the thrusts of the bill is the security of tenure for the chairperson of the commission. And to do so, he said, the Senate should be required to approve the removal of any chairperson by the president as it does in the appointment.
He said the National Assembly had ensured that the leadership of other anti-graft agencies like the ICPC and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) had the security of tenure by ensuring that their appointments and removal, as the case may be, were subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
“That was not the case with the EFCC,” he told his colleagues. “Therefore, in this proposed amendment, it is intended to bring the EFCC in conformity with the other two anti-graft agencies of government. This will engender optimal performance by the commission of the very important mandate assigned to it.”
He also said another proposed amendment is to restrict the appointment of the chairperson to EFCC staffers.
“As a new commission, it was understandable that its headship was appointed from outside of the commission, for obvious reasons,” he explained referring to the EFCC. “However, the turning point of the commission came when this administration which has as its mantra in the fight against corruption, took the pioneering and audacious step by looking inwards, in the commission to pick the first Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to head it.”
While he commended the president for the move, he said all that is required of the legislature is to amend the EFCC Act to restrict non-trained EFCC staff from the headship of the commission, going forward.
This, he said, will enhance professionalism in the service of this anti-graft agency.
Many senators spoke in support of the proposed amendments.
Rivers senator George Sekibo said the amendment is to basically establish continuity and consistency in the EFCC
James Manager (PDP, Delta) said if similar laws have been put in place for agencies like ICPC and NFIU, the same should be done for EFCC.
“For an important Commission like this, job security is very important,” he said. “We need to confirm any removal that is going to make the person appointed to be very firm so that he will not be scared of what to do and that is the essence of this amendment.”
“The other one is the issue of tenure of office and when you talk about the person who is leaving, who is to replace him? Is it from inside the service or from any other person outside the Commission?”
Ebonyi senator Sam Egwu, who also supported the bill, cringed at the second proposed amendment. He said while the current EFCC chairperson is smart and intelligent, the next in command might not be.
“If we find ourselves in a situation where the second-in-command to take over is not as sharp as the outgoing one, there will be problem. If we restrict the chairmanship of EFCC, we may be limiting ourselves because of this amendment.”
While I applaud this bill wholeheartedly, I think we should be very careful of the amendment on restricting the leadership of EFCC.”
On his part, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, also praised the bill but worried that a competent person could be kicked out because of another person’s interest.
“What we need to do is to ensure that while picking from inside, we should know it is a political appointment at that point. That kind of appointment is not a career,” he said.
The bill was thereafter read for the second time and referred to the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes for further legislative work. The panel is to report back within four weeks.
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