By Stephen Onyeukwu, Per Second News
It’s no secret that most Nigerian’s believe the National Assembly is broken. They think the legislative arm is not working because it does not want to work. Conventional wisdom holds that the blame for any democratic dysfunction lies primarily with current occupants of the National Assembly.
The processes, rules, practices and external forces that influence democracy have changed drastically in ways that are making it very difficult for legislators to effectively fulfill their mission without political biases and prejudices.
One of such case that is taxing our democracy recently, is the purported indictment of Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice by a House of Representatives ad-hoc committee over the alleged reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina.
The House committee led by Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC Kano), which investigated the circumstances in which Maina, was dismissed from service over pension fund fraud, promoted and reinstated into the service said in its 13-page report that the Attorney General of the Federation was the “architect” of the crisis.
“The Attorney General knew that Maina is a fugitive, yet he met him in Dubai. Maina’s reinstatement didn’t follow due process and it was fraudulently masterminded,” the report said without giving further details or evidence.
The public have an interest in the evidence uncovered during the investigation.
In the absence of evidence, officials of the ministry of Justice described as “frivolous and inoperative, the committee’s report.
A top official said that the house ad-hoc committee went beyond performing its oversight function to usurping the function of the judiciary which is the only competent authority to make criminal indictment.
“Section 158 of the constitution on the basis of which the committee placed reliance was equally observed by the committee in breach regarding to the fact that the section clearly vests establishment matters relating to appointments, removal and discipline of public Servants exclusively in the federal civil service commission, the official said under condition of anonymity.
“Looking into the matter by the National Assembly is an exercise in frivolity and lacking in substance upon which it could stand”, a senior counsel in the ministry also said.
Continuing, he said: For me two things are apparent. One is their allegation of “fraudulent reinstatement”. When fraud, which is criminal conduct is in contention the oversight function of a National Assembly naturally gives way for the invocation of judicial function. Only a court can determine and pronounce a conduct criminal and not a legislature.”
“Two, 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. The determination of the National Assembly is over and above persuasive and never binding. It is frivolous and inoperative, he concluded.
The Maina issue has increased political polarization. National Assembly committees these days are receiving unprecedented amounts of information and outside pressure while the capacity of lawmakers has declined. With the National Assembly not functioning as expected, the trust deficit between citizens and legislators is growing, demonstrated in part by historically low national assembly approval ratings.
It will be essential for the Aliyu Sani led committee to communicate to ensure that the committee investigate effectively without impinging on the work of other arm of government.
In consideration of the importance of the issues, the need for a full public accounting — may well be justified in seeking access to some documents or the committee’s investigative file. They would have some compelling precedent on their side.