I have never been a fan of legislative hearings in this country. And I know there are many Nigerians who share my sentiments. It is not that legislative hearings are useless or a waste of time. Far from it, they are actually critical to the work that legislators do. Public hearings can help expose corruption and strengthens the legislature’s capacity to make good laws.
But contrary to the ideals of public legislative hearings, the Nigerian legislators have turned it into a weapon of intimidation, blackmail and political witch-hunt. And there are many examples of such hearings that had failed to impact good governance because the end reports were controversial and even rejected by some members of committees that conducted the hearings.
The latest report of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee which investigated the controversial circumstances in which Abdulrashheed Maina was promoted and reinstated into the service, will undoubtedly suffer this fate too. Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), was dismissed in 2013 and subsequently declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when he failed to appear for questioning. The House resolved last October to probe the circumstances surrounding his recall and re-instatement, and appointed an ad-hoc committee led by Aliyu Sani Madaki, an APC legislator from Kano to do the job. The committee submitted its report to the House recently and immediately stirred the hornets’ nest.
Not only did the committee do a shoddy job of its important assignment, but the report made it obvious that someone had an axe or two to grind with the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. Contrary to legislative norms, the committee turned itself into a judicial body and pronounce Malami guilty of recalling and reinstating Maina into the civil service! According to the committee’s report, Maina’s reinstatement was “fraudulently masterminded” by Malami and that the Attorney General “pressurised all that mattered” to force Maina back into the service.
The report said that it was established that the Attorney General met with Maina in Dubai knowing fully well that the ex-pension task force boss was a wanted person. It said there was undue interference and pressure on the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) from Malami on the matter. The report said it was curious that Malami could facilitate Maina’s recall when he admitted that the ex-pension chief was part of a ‘pension syndicate’ that fed fat on pension fund. It is curious and sad that a committee of legislators could reach these jaundiced conclusions without any tangible proof of what they allege. Do members of this committee know the meaning of “fraudulently masterminded” Maina’s reinstatement? Did they avail themselves of the services of legal consultants? Do they even know the legal implications of what they claim?
The answer to these questions, in my opinion, has to be No! And it is very sad that we have law makers who may not understand the law. Fraud is a criminal conduct which can only be established by a court or a judicial panel of inquiry, and not legislators. Why would the committee allow itself to be tempted to use these strong words if it is just doing legislative work? And the most audacious part is when the committee says the AGF’s actions contravened Section 158 of the 1999 constitution, which says “In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the National Judicial Council, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, the Federal Character Commission, and the Independent National Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.”
Give me a break! When did a legislative committee become a judicial panel or a law court? Only the court can determine and pronounce a conduct criminal and not a legislature. This is why it is obvious that the committee report is no more than a hatchet job to settle some scores with the AGF or perhaps pre-empt whatever plans he may have for 2019. It is pertinent to recall here that the AGF, perhaps aware of the end game, had gone to court to stop the legislature from probing the alleged re-instatement of Maina. The case is still in court. But this did not stop the Madaki committee from going ahead to not only make unsubstantiated claims against the AGF but going as far as indicting him for alleged criminal action. It is not only ridiculous but has made our legislators a laughing stock.
Any law student knows that when a matter is submitted to judicial determination by parties, none of the parties can pre-empt the right for judicial determination of the court by way of foisting on it a situation of helplessness. By making pronouncements or issuing reports that seek to persuade and compromise the judicial process. I had a revealing conversation with a former law maker on the house report indicting Malami. He too had read the report and told me pointedly that the committee would not have gone that far without the support of the leadership of the house. In essence he said Malami must have stepped on some toes in the legislature and some interests are bent on cutting him to size. It is unimaginable, he said, that a legislative committee that is not doing a hatchet job would turn in such a ridiculous report.
I have asked myself whether there were secret hearings beyond what Nigerians witnessed last October when the Director of DSS, Lawan Daura, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Oyo Ita, the AGF and others were invited to testify. I did not hear or see anything to suggest what the committee claims in its report. Malami admitted meeting Maina but pointedly denied authorising his re-instatement. His account was corroborated by Daura who revealed that he was even the one that advised Malami to meet Maina.
There is no doubt that Maina’s alleged recall and re-instatement was an embarrassing moment for the country, and it put a big question mark on the integrity of Nigeria’s Civil Service. How such a thing could happen in the Federal Civil Service is a question that must bother patriotic Nigerians. Finding the right answers too is as critical as finding solutions that would forestall a recurrence. The way the Madaki committee went about the assignment must be a let-down to all reasonable people. The legislature has failed once again to intervene positively at a time when such intervention could be impactful.
Madaki wrote from Kano