The president has no constitutional mandate to probe corruption

By Obi Nwakanma

Let us think of the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate as, like a co-pilot. His hands are on the same lever with the president of the senate, navigating the nation through the storms of nation-build. That is right: nation-building does not happen at the executive office, it happens in the chambers of the nation’s legislative houses. This is a fairly clear axiom of democracy: without the parliament, there is no republic. It is the parliament that legitimizes a free democratic state. It is the very source of all powers of governance.

The parliament of the land is the most powerful institution of state, not the office of president, as most Nigerians, still steeped in military-era mentality tend to think. The President is a servant of the elected, and constituted National Assembly. While the National Assembly is both the voice, the ears, and the eyes of the public in the system of democratic rule. They do not answer to any other person – neither to the courts nor to the president – but to the people. That is why, whenever there is a coup, the first institution that is abolished is the parliament of the land. For as long as the parliament is in session, the nation exists. But wherever a parliament is abolished, the nation goes into a hiatus. In that instance, the president answers to no one.

That is the meaning of absolutism. The only power parliament accounts to is the people. I need to emphasize this again. Which is why I was both startled and personally horrified this past week on reading the silly letter to the US Congress, the EU, the UK, and the UN, by the Deputy president of senate, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, complaining that Nigeria’s democracy is threatened. I am horrified that the Nigerian press that consented to dignify such a middling letter by publishing it, did not go, as part of its obligation to the public, to ask Mr. Ekweremadu what he expected the UN, the US Congress, the UK, and the EU to do with his letter of complaint. I do not especially recall that the Speaker of the UK Parliament wrote to Nigeria, or the AU, or the US Congress, or the UN when the “Yes” vote carried on the Brexit referendum, or whenever the Labour Opposition fought with the ruling Conservative party in the Commons.

Nor have I even heard, or seen any self-respecting African nation misusing its sovereign mandate so much as Nigerians in making such silly appeals to the “international community.” Yes, Africans now call Nigeria: “the big fool.” It is such a remarkable transition, from the “giant of Africa” to the “big fool of Africa” because Nigerian public officials are colonized, sanitized, hypnotized, and perhaps in fact, lobotomized so much that they misconstrue their place on the world stage. Nigeria is currently an inferior nation because she is run by inferior men and women.

Many of us feel utterly ashamed by the quality of individuals that we have managed to hand over the sovereign mandate, and it is my view that the full measure of Ike Ekweremadu as a legislator and politician can be taken in the weight and significance of his letter. The US Congress or the UK government or the UN does not have voting rights in Nigeria. Ike Ekweremadu did not write to his constituents whom he represents in Enugu, nor to the Nigerian people, whose views and actions, and interests, matter in this question. He did not write a straight and unambiguous letter to the president to back off. He did not write to his legislative colleagues to drive home the necessity of protecting the republic from the intrusion of a rampaging elephant in a China shop. He wrote to some alien powers whose opinions are really inconsequential to whatever might become of this rapidly evolving situation.

And I’m sorry to say that Ekweremadu’s letter only proves that he has no business wearing the shoes of mighty men. He has also proved the average Nigerian politicians utter disrespect of the Nigerian electorate from whom they derive their mandates. He has also demonstrated that he lacks a basic grasp of the nature of his own mandate as a senator of the republic. Perhaps I should outline this basically by saying that the president’s actions, for instance, in these anti-corruption probes, usurps the power of the legislature. President Buhari has no mandate to probe corruption or misuse of public funds. The only institution mandated by the constitution to probe any person or any institution of government is the National Assembly and the various Houses of Assembly.

Here is what the Nigerian constitution says without ambiguity: “ 85. (1) There shall be an Auditor-General for the Federation who shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of section 86 of this Constitution. (2) The public accounts of the Federation and of all offices and courts of the Federation shall be audited and reported on to the Auditor-General who shall submit his reports to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts. (3) Nothing in subsection (2) of this section shall be construed as authorising the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of or appoint auditors for government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly, but the Auditor-General shall – (a) provide such bodies with – (i) a list of auditors qualified to be appointed by them as external auditors and from which the bodies shall appoint their external auditors, and (ii) guidelines on the level of fees to be paid to external auditors; and (b) comment on their annual accounts and auditor’s reports thereon. (4) The Auditor-General shall have power to conduct checks of all government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly. (5) The Auditor-General shall, within ninety days of receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly and each House shall cause the reports to be considered by a committee of the House of the National Assembly responsible for public accounts. (6) In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution, the Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.” The National Assembly can also summon anybody before it, including the president of the republic, as well as cause the removal of anybody from office by impeachment, including the president or his Attorney General. The National Assembly can mandate the Attorney General to try the president for treason, if it finds the president to be a threat to the republic. The National Assembly can defund the office of the Attorney General, the EFCC or any statutory office of government, or cause it to go into abeyance.

The National Assembly can stop the functions of the federal government by de-authorizing any presidential expenditure. That is the extent of the power of the legislature. With regards to the current distraction of trial for “forgery” of the president and deputy president of senate, one is thoroughly shocked that these gentlemen consented to appear in court!

No court of the land has the authority to summon any legislator to court on questions around procedures, discussions, or actions carried out within the chambers of the National Assembly. This is the practice all over the world. The allegation of “forgery” of senate rules is a distraction because the rules of senate are subject to change, and is what it is, when a sitting senate votes to use, amend, or discard it as the case may be, as its guiding frame. It is not subject to the intrusion of any court, much less the presumption of crime by the Attorney General. This, Mr. Ekweremadu and Dr.Saraki ought to know, and should be properly advised, as an act honoring their mandate, to desist from appearing any further before any courts on this matter, and take charge of their legislative duties.

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