Neither Law Nor Public Interest By SANYA ONI

Of all the many twists and turns to the Abulrasheed Maina saga, the more intriguing must be the latest spin by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN on his role in the embarrassing episode.

Let’s recall that Vanguard newspaper had in October challenged the country’s number one law officer to clear himself of alleged complicity in the backdoor re-instatement of the ex-pension czar – Maina into the public service. Quick to advertise his pedigree as “legal practitioner…always guided by law and public interest and (who) will therefore not do anything that deviates from the law or breaches public interest…” he had then promised a comprehensive response at the appropriate time: “Nigerians are entitled to know the truth in the entire saga and I am ready to speak directly to them when I appear before the Senate since I have been summoned by the legislature, which is investigating the matter…I look forward to addressing anxious Nigerians on the matter when I appear before the senators”.

Well, the moment came Thursday last week. Not before the Senate as originally planned but the Ad hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating the “disappearance, reappearance, reinstatement and promotion of Maina.’’

Asked whether he actually initiated the controversial memo on the basis of which Maina was surreptitiously recalled, deployed and promoted, he responded, not like an attorney sworn to law and public interest but like one programmed to hatch mischief: “There was correspondence from Maina seeking the intervention of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for his reinstatement into the public service.

“Maina made available court processes, judgements and orders for the consideration of the Attorney-General of the Federation…Judgement and orders were generally obtained between 2013 and 2014 before I was appointed the Attorney-General and was not appealed”.

And then, quite significantly, he added: “However, as at October 5, 2017, Maina’s issue which has been confirmed by subsequent correspondence in my file was indeed a work-in-progress. So, the letter giving clear directives could not have genuinely emanated from my office’’.

Some newspapers actually reported him as claiming that the so-called directive from his office was a ‘forgery’.

Between the long-awaited but poorly-crafted gobbledygook, a concoction designed to confound and confuse and the other testimony by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, restating her earlier testimony that her office did in fact receive a letter from AGF to the Federal Civil Service Commission directing that Maina be reinstated, Nigerians by now, ought to be in good position to judge as which of version of the truth is credible or believable.

However, because the number one law officer staked the law as his forte and public interest as justification, we must insist on putting his response in the context of what is already public knowledge and against the renewed efforts to pull the wool on the eyes of exasperated citizens.

What do we know?

First, that Maina was not only recalled in circumstances that would ordinarily be deemed highly irregular, but that he had been drawing his pay from, presumably, the federal treasury since March. Mind you – if you thought that the fugitive’s ‘rapid dialogue’ with his feet proved nothing about the comeback bid, how about President Muhammadu Buhari’s swift directive to the relevant authorities to terminate the charade?

Second, we do know also that the Department of State Security allegedly provided him a safe house of sorts. And third, that the EFCC which was practically on AWOL while the processes of his reabsorption into the federal bureaucracy lasted has since launched into the overdrive – marking buildings and renewing expired orders – as if those buildings, suspected to be proceeds of crime, sprouted overnight! And fourth, that the Office of the Head of Service dithered – and this is crucial – in lending its weight to the grand subversion – which explains much of the current hoopla.

To get back to Malami’s first anchor of defence – the law. It is interesting that AGF Malami talks of ‘court processes, judgments and orders obtained by Maina apparently exculpating him from alleged multiple felonies. In a country where all manners of things happen under the cover of darkness and where the art of fact-checking a nigh impossibility, it seems the least that the chief law officer of the federation could have done was to avail the distinguished lawmakers, if not Nigerians, the particulars of the judgments, if truly they exist and their proper context.

Could the AGF have had Suit No. FHC/ABJ /CS/65/13 – Abdulrasheed Maina vs the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and eight others in mind –  a fundamental human rights case which came in the wake of an arrest warrant issued by the Senate against him?  Could he have been referring to the voiding of the warrant procured by EFCC on October 27, 2015 by an Abuja Magistrate Court?

I urge Nigerians to read Jiti Ogunye – Maina: Malami Did Not Act in the Public Interest, published by Premium Times, October 28.

To be sure, neither of the judgments in respect of the two cases could be deemed as so infinitely elastic as to involve the far reaching consequential orders being pushed under Malami’s watch, which makes the claim about being in defence of the law suspect.

Or, are there other cases that Nigerians are not aware?

This naturally throws up the billion dollar question about the author of the memo titled – “Re: Demand for Update on the Reinstatement of Mr. Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina as Director in the Federal Civil Service”?

To quote the relevant portion of the letter:

“In my said letter, I directed your office to give a consequential effect to the said judgment which voided the warrant of arrest issued by the Police against Dr. Abdulrasheed A. Maina, which warrant of arrest formed the basis for the query referenced MI/30040/1/1, dated the 15th day of February, 2013 and his eventual dismissal from the service of the Federal Government of Nigeria on the 5th day of March 2013…

I hereby write to reiterate my earlier directive and further direct that you give a consequential effect to the aforesaid judgment by taking necessary steps to ensure immediate reinstatement of Dr. Maina to his duty post as a Director in the Federal Civil Service to enable him continue his service to the Federal Government of Nigeria”.

The letter speaks for itself. Suffice to say that if, as Malami claimed before the House last week, that he gave no directive to effect Maina’s recall, then somebody somewhere either within or without the bureaucracy must have penned those lines which clearly suggested otherwise. Surely, that would be a case of forgery – actionable under the very law that the AGF is sworn to protect. If however he did authored the letter – as some insist that he did – then we would be talking of grave violations of his oath office and acting against the public interest.

Either way, there should be serious consequences – if you ask me.

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