Panel adjourns sitting indefinitely
• Lawmakers investigate renewal of NDDC board’s tenure
• Summon Fashola over $650m fast power projects
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, yesterday engaged the Senate in a verbal war regarding the legality or otherwise of the lawmakers’ probe of corruption allegations made against him by Senator Hamman Misau.
Idris who appeared in the company of his lawyer, Alex Izinyon, around 2:30 p.m., told the Senate committee headed by Francis Alimikhena that since the case for which the investigation was ordered was already in court, it would be subjudice for him to respond to any queries from the lawmakers.
He said he chose to appear before the committee because he needed to comply with the constitutional provisions which mandate him to honour invitations from the parliament.
But the committee ruled him out of order, insisting that the judiciary lacks the power to stop the Senate from performing its constitutional duties.
The police boss claimed that the existence of the committee is against the Standing Rules of the Senate.
To support his argument, the IGP cited Order 53(5) of the Standing Rules which states that “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending in such a way as might in the opinion of the president of the Senate prejudice the interest of parties thereto.”
The IGP stated briefly: “I will not make any oral comment or answer any question in respect of the allegations in view of the various civil and criminal cases pending in the law courts, more especially when the senator has already been arraigned in court in respect of this matter.
“I decided to appear before this Senate committee on the allegations out of high respect I have for the Senate and my respect for the rule of law.
“Furthermore, it is expected that the Senate and the committee will refrain from making references to the issues as it will be against Order 41 (7) and 53 (5) of the Senate Standing Orders 2 (15) as amended,” he argued.
Izinyon had a heated argument with the senators, when he earlier stopped the police boss from responding to questions raised by the committee chairman.
He said: “I represent the IGP. I want to state that we have very high respect for the Senate. In pursuant of the invitation, we decided to be here to demonstrate that we have nothing to hide. I have got instructions from the IGP. We have responded to all the allegations raised word to word to the committee.
“This is an ad-hoc committee. There are rules. I am urging you to use your rules. In October 2015, a similar case arose between an ad-hoc committee and Rotimi Amaechi. Ethics committee was asked to investigate him. Because the case was before a court in Rivers State, the Senate suspended it.
“The Standing Rules of the Senate say that when a case is in court, any reference to it may be prejudice. Nigerians are interested in this. We are saying this in the interest of justice. We are not hiding anything at all. I am only drawing your attention to precedents set by the Senate.”
Izinyon said: “Senator Melaye raised that case, the matter is already sub judice. I will plead with you to look at the item and see if everything was captured in the response. Today, an FCT court has granted an order that this panel should come before it,” Izinyon told the committee.
His response did not go down well with Alimikhena who responded angrily. He told Idris and his lawyer, Izinyon that the committee had already been set up before they went to court.
“You cannot tell us the FCT High Court has given an order. You cannot tell us what we do not know. This is a committee set up before you went to court.
The court is interfering with our work. Let us stick with the truth. The Senate is not out to witch-hunt anybody. If you are going to court, it does not stop the Senate from probing the virement made by the police boss. You cannot stop that,” he said.
But Izinyon retorted: “The law is clear. If there is any virement, the Senate will not look at it. It is a criminal offence and it is not the Senate that should handle that.”
Hope Uzodinma, who is also a member of the committee, intervened and pleaded with Alimikhena to adjourn the hearing to allow the committee study the contents of the written response of the IGP.
Uzodinma said: “The Standing Rules say ‘if it is the opinion of the Senate President.’ Are you the Senate President? This matter needs to be resolved in a manner that Nigerians will be happy. If we issue a warrant, the IGP will bring himself. I do not even know why the IGP cannot speak for himself.
“We want to see the allegations before us and see how we can resolve them in the interest of the country. If the IGP is not in a position to speak, in my view, he can submit. We can look into it and decide on how to move forward. No too many quotations. This is a parliament.”
Obinna Ogba also appealed that the hearing be suspended. “Having heard what the IGP said, I have seen some documents we need to study. I want to appeal to the chairman to give us time to study the documents and invite the IGP later,” he said.
Joshua Lidani, Suleiman Hukunyi, Abdulaziz Nyako and Nelson Effiong who spoke, also called for an adjournment.
In the end, Alimikhena adjourned the sitting indefinitely after he made a point that the Senate has the powers to entertain virement. He maintained that the issue has nothing to do with the court.
Also, the lawmakers summoned the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to appear before its committee on power and public accounts to render a detailed account of how he allegedly spent $650 million on the fast power projects.
They also directed the mega ministry to suspend all attempts to mount pressure on the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to release $350 million for use on the controversial fast power project.
These resolutions were sequel to the motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye titled “Monumental Fraud in the Power Sector.”
Melaye alleged that there was a desperate attempt by the affected ministry to employ a presidential order to retrieve $350 million released to the Nigerian Electricity Bulk Trading Company (NBET) as contribution to shore up its capitalisation and divert it to fund the Fast Power Project.
The lawmaker pointed out that $35 million had been expended on the project without express approval from the National Assembly.
Besides, the Senate mandated its Committee on Niger Delta Affairs to investigate the alleged illegal renewal of the tenure of the curent board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Presidency.
This followed the adoption of a motion, sponsored by Emmanuel Paulker (PDP Bayelsa Central).
As the Senate resolved to probe the matter, Ijaw youths under the auspices of the Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF) rejected the alleged move to extend the tenure of the present board of the NDDC.
The group described the move as unconventional, an aberration, highly insensitive, inciting and capable of breaching the peace currently enjoyed in the region.
It also described as embarrassing, the unhealthy political rivalry among leaders in the region which is causing the latest stalemate in negotiations with the Federal Government.
Their grievances was contained in a statement issued at the end of their meeting and signed by the National President, Richard Akinaka, Secretary, Ubok-Obong Umoh and the spokesman, Comrade Success Jack.