A Senate adhoc committee set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the return of Abdulrasheed Maina to the country and how he was readmitted into the civil service as a director, on Wednesday, announced that proceedings will be held in secret.
The committee set up on the 24th of October by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was mandated to investigate the circumstances surrounding the return of Maina to the country and how he returned to the civil service as a director.
Chairmen and deputies of the three other committees, namely, Anti-Corruption, Judiciary and Interior, were also drafted to join the adhoc panel to investigate the issue.
“We are all very disturbed. I want the committee to work hard and bring this matter back to us. We need to investigate the bridge in our security and how the anti-corruption war is going,” Saraki had said, while charging the committee.
But at its maiden meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Maigaji, on Tuesday and officials of the Federal Civil Service Commission, the committee announced that the media will be barred from covering the proceedings.
The committee chairman, Paulker, who addressed newsmen briefly, said the committee will make its findings known at the end of the investigations.
Meanwhile, Paulker has said that the committee will be transparent before, during and after the investigations. He said nobody will be witch hunted.
He said: “It should be stated for the purpose of emphasis that the National Assembly, which is constitutionally saddled with the responsibilities to perform this exercise, is not expected to base its conclusion on the preponderance of views being expressed from members of the public, hence the need to conduct this investigative hearing to be in the right position to make appropriate recommendations to the Senate.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is pertinent to categorically state that we are not on a witch hunting mission, but to perform our mandate in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and the Senate Standing Rules.”
At the closed-door meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Government officials were led by the acting chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Joseph Oluremi Akande; and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji.
Although the Senate committee had invited members of the Senate Press Corps to the investigative hearing through a letter from the Clerk, Mrs. Edith Ajah and dated November 8, 2017, its chairman, however asked journalists to leave the venue after officials of the FCSC and the Ministry of Interior had introduced themselves.
The Senate ad-hoc committee chairman, who excused the AGF for being absent having earlier written the committee that he will not be around, wondered why Dambazau refused to appear before the panel.
Paulker said, “Ministry of Interior, our concern is that we did invite your minister, but he is not here. While the chairman of Federal Civil Service Commission is here and the chairman is the highest officer in any parastatal, in your own case, we specifically invited the Minister of Interior; we invited the Attorney General of the Federation, but I noted that he wrote to us stating that he was out of the country and that we should oblige him to appear before the committee next week, which we considered. So, what is the status of your minister?”
In his response, Magaji explained that the invitation was for Tuesday and that Dambazau was available to the panel.
The committee had failed to meet on Tuesday as scheduled owing to the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Magaji had therefore told the committee that Dambazau was not available on Wednesday because he had already had an appointment to present a memo to the Federal Executive Council this Wednesday.
He added, “I hope after the council meeting, he would be around.”
But not satisfied with the explanation, the lawmakers had ordered the Permanent Secretary to step out of the venue since Dambazau was not in attendance, but he begged them to allow him make an observation.
In his observation Magaji said, “In the ministry, there are responsibilities; that much I know. The minister is in charge of policy direction, while the permanent secretary is in charge of establishment matters, which we are discussing here today.
“And all correspondence to the ministries go to the permanent secretary directly, not to the minister. The minister has not seen a single mail relating to Maina in his office or issued an order. That is why I feel I should be here to assist him, even though I was not in the ministry when it happened.”
The lawmakers it was learnt, despite the explanation insisted that Magaji must not be involved in the matter, regardless of the fact that he was separately invited.
They maintained that until Dambazau appears before them and directs that the Permanent Secretary should speak. They argued that the minister is the political head of the ministry.
“It is good that you were invited in person as the Permanent Secretary of the ministry; but, first of all, we have to deal with the minister. Most of the things involved are not just about the bureaucratic activities of the ministry; they are political,” a member of the panel, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, told Magaji.
The committee was set up by the Senate to probe how Maina declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over N2 billion pension fund scam was reinstated and promoted by the federal civil service.
By Ehisuan Odia…
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