The Senate, on Thursday, 18 February, 2021 confirmed the nomination of Barr. Victor Chinemerem Muruako as Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission.
The confirmation of the nominee followed consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Finance, Chaired by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos-West).
Immediately after presentation of the report by the Chairman of Committee, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, objected to the confirmation of the nominee on the basis that full nominations to the Commission’s board was yet to be forwarded to the Upper Chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the Chairman cannot be confirmed alone without the compliment of full membership of the Board.
He, therefore, moved a motion for the confirmation to be stepped down pending when the President constitutes the Commission’s Board and sends the nominations to the upper chamber for screening and confirmation.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his response, however, prevailed on his colleagues for the Senate to confirm the nominee pending when the full list of nominees was sent to the Senate by the President.
“If we don’t confirm, this person would still be acting, so it makes little or no difference really.
“I suggest we do the confirmation and insist that the Chairman does not constitute the board of the Commission, because the Commission is supposed to have the full compliment of what the law says.
“So, we do the confirmation and write to the Executive to nominate the remaining people to form the Commission.
“But let me also remark here, that the man has acted for over seven years, and yet this commission, I personally don’t know what they are doing. What are they doing?
“So, the Chairman, when he is confirmed, has a huge responsibility to turn around this Commission for it to perform efficiently and effectively.
“Otherwise, for him to be there seven years acting, and then fours years – that is eleven years – running that Commission, probably he did it as a Sole Administrator over the years, and is simply not acceptable because the Fiscal Responsibility Commission is such an important Commission that we need to have everybody who is supposed to be there, and they have to sit up, especially the man who would lead this,” Lawan said.
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), on his part, observed that going ahead with the confirmation of the nominee without the compliment of full membership of the Board was not the intent of President Buhari.
Omo-Agege, therefore, suggested that the nominee’s confirmation be put on hold.
“I don’t believe it is the intent of Mr. President to nominate a sole administrator. Clearly, that cannot be his intention.
“The Commission is entitled to the full compliment of members, and my view without prejudice to the ruling you just gave and the man’s qualifications, would have been for this to be put on hold while we await Mr. President to bring the other members,” the Deputy Senate President said.
According to him, “going ahead to do this (confirm nominee) right now, is validating the sole administrator-ship that he has enjoyed for the past seven years, and it is wrong, Mr. President.”
Lending his voice in support of the nominee’s confirmation, Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South), said, “listening to both sides of the arguments, the man has been there in acting capacity for seven years.
“Now, only his name has been submitted to us to screen and clear without his members. It is an ugly story. However, I would suggest not stepping down, we clear the man, but you have the responsibility to convey – not in writing – but talking to Mr. President that this is the situation. Somebody, somewhere is clearly playing a game which is not correct, that is why we are here.”
Senator Ibn Na’Allah, on his part, cautioned the lawmakers not to act against the provisions of the law by refusing to confirm the nominee, as the Fiscal Responsibility Act does not make it mandatory for the President to submit the complete names of nominees for appointment to the Board at once.
“Mr. President, I always wants us to err on the side of law. The ruling and the running of Senate is not left to our whims and caprices. We are guided by law and the Constitution.
“I have had the privilege of reading the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. When we made that law, there was no where we specifically said that the appointment must be done at once.
“All we said is that the Commission should have the Chairman, and then members from the six groups-political zones to constitute the body. That is the position of the law.
“And, I remind each and everyone of us here, that the rules of engagement between us and those who elected us into this office is the oath that we took on that very day, that we would uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law.
“So, if the Fiscal Responsibility Bill does not say that the President must make this appointment at once, I’m unable to find the wisdom of not confirming the name submitted to the Senate if he has meet the legal requirement to be confirmed as the Chairman.
“Again, don’t forget that we are running a democracy, the principle of which is guided by the separation of on powers. We cannot do our work and do that of Mr. President,” Na’Allah advised.
The nominee was, thereafter, confirmed by Upper Chamber as Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission.