The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, has fired blistering remarks at Nigerian Senators after they summoned him for reportedly describing the Senate as ‘childish and irresponsible’ and one ‘filled by people of questionable character’.
Mr. Sagay spoke on Wednesday, after the Senate resolved to summon him to appear before its committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions over comments credited to him by Punch Newspaper.
“They have no power or authority to summon me,” Mr. Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and law professor, said. “I am not in the category of persons they can summon.”
Mr. Sagay’s comment in the Punch was a reaction to the Senate’s refusal to proceed with confirmation of 27 persons President Muhammadu Buhari nominated as Resident Electoral Commissioners.
The lawmakers stopped the confirmation in protest against the refusal of the President to sack Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission despite his repeated rejection by the Senate.
The Senate, Tuesday, suspended the confirmation process for two weeks within which they demanded Mr. Magu’s sack.
But Mr. Sagay was reported by Punch on Wednesday to have said: “That action is childish and irresponsible. Do they think Buhari is a man that can easily be threatened? My God! How can people of such character occupy the highest legislative office in the country? Nigeria is finished.
“It is a great mistake and they will regret it.”
The Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah, on Wednesday read Mr. Sagay’s comment to his colleagues who subsequently resolved to summon the senior lawyer to appear before the committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions to explain his statement.
In reaction to the Senate’s decision to summon him, Mr. Sagay said the resolution was unconstitutional.
“They ought to know that I do not come within the category of persons they can summon,” said Mr. Sagay.
“I would advise them to tell their lawyers to check the Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution. Through that, they will know I don’t come within that category.”
“They don’t have authority to summon me. I am outside the group of persons they can summon. I am not a civil servant, I don’t belong to any commission or any…”
The parts of the Constitution cited by Mr. Sagay empowers the Senate or House of Representatives to direct investigation into the conduct of affairs of ‘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.’
Then, the law further provides that such shall only be exercised by the National Assembly for the purpose of making laws ‘within its legislative competence’; amending laws; and exposing “corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated for it.”
Then, Section 89 establishes ways by which the National Assembly can enforce Section 88 paraphrased above.
Asked if his work as the chairman of the presidential anti-graft committee does not fall within the category mentioned in the Section 88 of the Constitution, Mr. Sagay said, “That’s why I said they should look at the Constitution. My work comes totally outside of their power.
“I’m not going to give those details now; but if they are foolish enough to insist on my coming, at the appropriate time and at appropriate venue, all the details will come out. But now let me just make general statement: they have no power or authority to summon me. Period!”