By Ajibola Abayomi
January 9, 2018
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has refused an ex-parte application brought by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) to stop the National Assembly from probing the reinstatement of the former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force of Pension Reform, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service.
Justice Binta Murtala Nyako reportedly heard the application in chambers, but turned it down and ordered the applicant to put the respondents on notice, so as to come and show cause why the application should not be granted.
The court later fixed January 15 for hearing of the motion on notice. In the suit, the AGF asked the court to determine if 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 equally wants the court to among other things 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)”.
Malami also wants the court to declare 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.
He also prayed the court 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.
The AGF submitted that the power of investigation vested in the National Assembly by Section 88(1) of the Constitution is limited and such that can only be exercised within the confines of Section 88(2) of the Constitution.
According to him, the plaintiff as the Chief Law Officer and Minister of Justice of the Federation is 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 judgments and orders of competent courts in Nigeria.
He further submitted that the National Assembly 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.
Controversy has continued to trail the reinstatement of Maina who had been on suspension over his alleged involvement in the N100 billion fraud perpetrated by the pension reform task force, which he headed up till 2013.
The AGF was alleged to have masterminded the controversial reinstatement of Maina into the civil service, even though he has denied the allegation. Despite clear evidence that his office wrote a letter to the Head of Civil Service recommending Maina’s reinstatement, Malami denied having knowledge of the letter.
The Senate had last October mandated its Committees on Public Service, Internal Affairs, Anti-Corruption, Establishment and Judiciary to probe the circumstances of Maina’s return to the public service.
The House of Representatives had already commenced the probe. When he appeared before the House panel, Malami denied involvement in Maina’s recall. Despite his alleged complicity in the pension fraud, abscondment from work and becoming a fugitive of the law, Maina was recalled and deployed to the Ministry of Interior under controversial circumstances.
Owing to the uproar that followed his reinstatement, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered Maina’s sack and queried the Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, to provide an explanation for Maina’s recall. As a follow-up to that, the Senate moved to conduct a forensic investigation into the reinstatement.