……..declines AGF’ ex-parte motion, orders service of suit on NASS
……fixes Jan 15 for hearing
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Monday, failed to persuade the Federal High Court in Abuja to grant an interim injunction stopping the Senate from probing the controversial reinstatement of former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, into the Civil Service.
The AGF had gone before the court to challenge the powers of the National Assembly to investigate circumstances that led to Maina’s recall, four years after he was dismissed by the Federal Civil Service Commission for absconding from duty.
Maina who was dismissed from service in 2013 following a recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, was recalled last year and deployed to the Ministry of Interior under controversial circumstances.
His reinstatement was purportedly based on a memo from the office of the AGF.
Malami had in a letter with Ref. No. HAGF/FCSC/2017/Vol. 1/3, directed the FCSC to give consequential effect to a judgment he said voided the process that led to Maina’s dismissal from service.
On the strenght of the letter, the FCSC, at the end of a meeting it held on June 14, 2017, requested the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, OHCSF, vide a letter marked FC.4029/82/Vol. III/160, and dated June 21, 2017, to advise the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior to consider the AGF’s letter and make appropriate recommendations regarding Maina’s case.
In line with the directive, the Ministry of Interior, at its Senior Staff Committee meeting held on June 22, 2017, placed reliance on the AGF’s letter and recommended that Maina be reinstated into the Service as Deputy Director on Salary Grade Level 16.
Consequently, the FCSC, on August 16, 2017, approved the reinstatement of Maina with effect from February 21, 2013 (being the date he was earlier dismissed from Service
The FCSC further okayed Maina to sit for the next promotion examination to the post of Director (Administration) with Salary Grade Level 17.
However, recall of the former pension boss into the civil service sparked-off a public protest that forced President Muhammadu Buhari to order his immediate sack, with the Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita queried.
Meanwhile, in the heat of the situation and leakage of several memos that traced Maina’s recall to the office of the AGF, Malami, insisted that he acted in the national interest.
Determined to get to the root of the saga however, both the Senate and the House of Representatives constituted different panels to investigate the matter.
Following AGF’s claim that the letters could not have legally emanated from him, the Senate, which had already commenced its own probe, decided to carry out forensic examination of all the correspondences that led to Maina’s reinstatement.
In a bid to stop the process, the AGF, filed the ex-parte motion that was declined by the court on Monday.
Specifically, the AGF prayed the court to among other things, determine whether the National Assembly has the right to probe issues relating to the “employment, attendance at work, disengagement, reinstatement and or promotion of a civil servant”.
He wants the court to declare that: “The employment, attendance at work, disengagement, reinstatement and or promotion of a civil servant are matters outside the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“That the National Assembly cannot legitimately regulate the employment, attendance at work, disengagement, reinstatement and or promotion of a civil servant, which are matters exclusively within the purview of the Federal Civil Service Commission under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria1999 (as amended)”.
As well as to declare “That the National Assembly lacks the legislative competence to investigate the employment, attendance at work, disengagement, reinstatement and or promotion of a civil servant which are matters exclusively within the purview of the Federal Civil Service Commission under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria1999 (as amended).
The AGF contended that the power of investigation vested on the National Assembly by section 88 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is limited and such that can only be exercised within the confines of Section 88 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
He argued that being the chief law officer and Minister of Justice of the federation, that he was bound to ensure compliance by the Federal Government of Nigeria and or any of its cognate organs/agencies with the express or implied contents of extant Judgements and Orders of competent courts in Nigeria.
According to the AGF, “The defendant cannot constitute itself into a quasi-appellate court, tribunal or panel with a view to reviewing any executive action taken in compliance with the adverse judgment in the said Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2013.”
Meantime, instead of granting the ex-parte order to halt further investigation into the matter, Justice Binta Nyako who heard the application in chambers on Monday, ordered the AGF to go and put the National Assembly on notice.
Justice Nyako further directed that all the court processes should be served on the National Assembly to enable it to appear before the court to show cause why the orders sought by the AGF should not be granted.
The suit was adjourned till January 15 for the National Assembly to show cause why the ongoing probe should not be stopped.
It will be recalled that Maina who is currently in hiding, was accused of complicity in pension fraud running into over N100 billion.
The Senate had at the end of an earlier investigation by its joint committee on public service and establishment and state and local government administration, issued a warrant of arrest for Maina’s arrest.
The former pension boss was subsequently declared wanted by the Police, following which he reportedly fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a development that led to his dismissal from service in 2013.
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