Nigeria News

Does the senate has powers to screen or just to confirm ministers

A Facebook friend of mine wrote that:

“From Section 147(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
‘Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is CONFIRMED by the Senate, be made by the President.’

The Senate has NO power to SCREEN ministerial Nominees.

The DSS, The Police, EFCC and ICPC are the bodies authorized to screen. The job of the Senate is to Believe what these bodies have done already and CONFIRM.”

The following are also some comments from the post:
“Once the person's name gets to the Senate, it means those entrusted with the powers to screen and do the background check on them, have done their jobs well and found them worthy for confirmation. The Senate cannot reject one whose name has reached it.”

“The nominees have been subjected to all the necessary background check by DSS, EFCC et al. That is the screening. The Senate on that day is to confirm them. Confirm means you are endorsing them by believing that the above agencies have done their jobs well. Every other thong on that day is formalities.”

“And … the Senate has 21days from the day the nomination letter was received to confirm the Ministers and if they return them, the President will simply use his veto power. Check it out in Section 147(6).”

Interesting conversation I must say.

This is my take. I checked the meaning of the word CONFIRM online and this is what I saw, CONFIRM means: “establish the truth or correctness of (something previously believed, suspected, or feared to be the case).” I hold that it is impossible to establish the correctness of something previously believed without first investigating the thing. Thus it is impossible to CONFIRM without first SCREENING even what has been previously screened. Interpreting the word CONFIRM otherwise will lead to absurdity. The framers of the constitution clearly do not envisage such clumsy interpretation of section 147(2).

And there is nowhere in section 147 or any other section that empowers the DSS, EFFC, ICPC and The Police to screen the ministers and send to the senate to just CONFIRM. The decision to screen the ministers albeit a good one is solely the decision of the president. As far as section 147 is concerned, that screening is unknown to the senate and the senate is under no obligation to bring such a screening under its contemplation.

The DSS, EFCC, and the Police are even departments and agencies of the executive arm of government, that ipso facto defeats the import of section 147 which is framed on the principle of separation of powers and its checks and balances. The executive nominates ministers, then screens them, sends them to the senate and expect the senate to just ask them “How una dey?” and send them back to be given portfolios? This position is nutritious in political fanaticism and shenanigans but suffers from legal kwashiorkor.

Any screening done by DSS, Police et al is done by the executive arm of government and subject to the confirmation of the senate. Before the senate confirms it must believe the report of the executive arm and believe is a product of discovery. Nothing stops the senate from undergoing a voyage of discovery to find out what they want to believe before they believe and then confirm. I will be doing violence to commonsense if I hold otherwise.

In another remove, someone held that all the president has to do is to wait patiently for 21 days and veto the senate. He cited section 147(6). Let’s look at that section “An appointment to any of the offices aforesaid shall be deemed to have been made where no return has been received from the Senate within twenty-one working days of the receipt of nomination by the Senate.” This promising assertion has every good thing except sound legal logic. This cannot be the mind of the framers of the constitution, for it will, again, lead to absurdity of the highest proportions. It will mean that the whole senate confirmation thing is a huge kindergarten joke.

“…if no return has been received from the senate…” is referring to a situation where the senate fails to get back to the president with a YES or NO answer. If the senate says YES it will be YES, if they say NO it will be NO. That is the import of section 147(6). Ask the ministerial nominees who have been going to lobby the senators and they will tell you they understand what I’m talking about. If it is just wait for 21 days and no matter what the senate does you will become minister why are they bothering themselves lobbying to be screened and confirmed?

The legislature is the first estate of the realm. The senate is a powerful body in the first estate of the realm. Even if we don’t like the faces of some of the senators, this cannot detract from their mighty powers under the law and our legal imaginations cannot also reduce such powers.

First Baba Isa writes from Abuja


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.