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Pension Scam: Maina didn’t fly out of the country – Lawyer

By on March 28, 2013

Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, from arresting the embattled Chairman of the disbanded Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina as his lawyer also declared that Maina did not fly out of the country.

The court made the order after it vacated the warrant of arrest that was issued against him by the Nigerian Senate.

Senate had declared the ex-pension boss wanted following his alleged refusal to appear before it to explain his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of funds meant for pensioners across the federation.

Meantime, sequel to intensified bid by the Senate to apprehend him for questioning, Maina, approached the high court, alleging threat to his fundamental human right to life and liberty as enshrined in section 35 of the 1999 constitution.

Arguing through his lawyer Mr M. A Magaji, SAN, Maina, insisted that the Senate acted beyond its powers when it ordered his arrest, contending that “nowhere in the entire provision of section 89 of the 1999 constitution which was relied upon by the Senate, was the word ‘Arrest’ mentioned.He equally adduced eleven exhibits he said would prove that he was being witch-hunted unnecessarily, just as he urged the court to award to him the sum of N1.5billion “for the trauma, psychological pain they have subjected me to.”

However, his application was vehemently opposed by both the Senate and all the other respondents in the suit, who took turns and urged the court to dismiss the application for being frivolous.

The other respondents in the matter were the Senate President, Clerk of the Senate , the Senate Committee On Establishment& Public Service, the Senate Committee State & Local Govt Administration, as well as, the Inspector General of Police, Senator Aloysius Etuk (The Senate Committee on Establishment & Public Service) and Senator Kabiru Gaya (The Senate Committee State & Local Govt Administration).

Meanwhile, delivering judgment on the suit yesterday, Justice Bello, while setting aside the warrant of arrest, said it was issued without recourse to the due process of the law, adding that the Senate, failed to annex vital documents to show that the legislative house commenced its investigation into the alleged pension scam in accordance with the provisions of section 88(2)  and 89 of the 1999 constitution.

He stressed that though each House of the National Assembly have powers by resolution published in its journal or in the official gazette of the federal government, to conduct an investigation into any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, he said such document containing the resolution of the house must be adduced before the court to show that the applicant was not being witch-hunted.

The judge noted that though the National Assembly has the right to issue a warrant to compel attendance of a witness to give evidence under section 89(2) of the constitution, he held that such power could only be exercised for the purpose of enabling the legislature to make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and to correct any defect in the existing laws.

“The burden is on the respondent to show that the respondent to show that the decision is heralded by the resolution of the National Assembly contained in a journal or a federal government gazette.

“I must say regrettably that the respondents have failed to produce and annex this vital document to their counter affidavit. The implication of the failure to annex this document is that there is no evidence before me to show that the investigation commenced by the Senate was commenced in accordance with section 88 of the constitution.

“From the reliefs sought by the applicant, the application is challenging the powers of the Senate to issue a warrant of arrest, a careful perusal of Section 35(1) shows clearly the right of liberty guaranteed the applicant by the Constitution, but however the right is absolute.
“Going by this, the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing. The issue now is to determine whether the applicant’s case falls on the exceptional clauses.

“This power of the Senate should be free from abuse and the term of reference should be clear. Any invitation by the Senate outside the purpose highlighted in Section 88(2) is illegal and unconstitutional.

“The Senate ought not to have invited the applicant in the first place, a proper investigative committee must have been constituted in accordance with constitution.

“I am bound to set-aside the warrant of arrest. Consequently, the arrest warrant is set aside.
“I further issue an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents either by themselves, servants, agents or privies from arresting the applicant on account of the warrant of arrest which has been set-aside.

“My decision is solely based on the interpretation of the constitution; it should not therefore send the wrong signal to the public that the Senate lacks the powers to conduct investigation in-line with section 88 and 89 of the constitution.

“My advice to the applicant is that he should go and submit himself to the Senate as a respectable public servant, it is the least that is expected of him as a public officer,” he added.
The court also declined to award cost to the applicant.

Reacting to the judgment yesterday, Maina who vanished into thin air after he was declared wanted described it as a victory for the rule of law.

Speaking through his lawyer, Magaji, SAN, Maina said: “we are not in any way challenging the powers of the Senate neither are we encouraging anyone to be disrespectful to them, all we are saying is that, in the course of exercising their powers, the rule of law must be allowed to prevail.

“We are only saying that the right thing should be done rightly.”
He further debunked allegation that his client fled the country to evade arrest, saying he was ready to make Maina’s International passport available to the public to show that he never absconded from Nigeria.

“Maina did not fly out of the country rather what he had done was because of the threat he has been receiving and several attempts on his life made him to go under.”