The committee had invited members of the Senate Press Corps to the investigative hearing through a letter from the Clerk, Mrs. Edith Ajah, dated November 8, 2017.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, however, asked journalists to leave the venue after officials of the FCSC and the Ministry of Interior had introduced themselves.
The Acting Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Joseph Oluremi Akande; and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji, led the two teams.
Paulker, in his opening remarks, said, “It should be stated for the purpose of emphasis that the National Assembly, which is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility to perform this exercise, is not expected to base its conclusion on the preponderance of views being expressed from the members of the public, hence the need to conduct this investigative hearing to be in the right position to make appropriate recommendations to the Senate.
“I must emphasise that the electronic media have been awash with this issue and we are not in a position to base our findings on what we have seen on the television or heard from the electronic media.
“What you will tell us is what will inform us to have an informed opinion on this matter.”
Paulker, however, decried that while the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), officially informed the panel concerning his inability to be present, the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), failed to appear before the lawmakers.
He said, “Ministry of Interior, our concern is that we did invite your minister, but he is not here. While the chairman of Federal Civil Service Commission is here and the chairman is the highest officer in any parastatal, in your own case, we specifically invited the Minister of Interior; we invited the Attorney General of the Federation, but I noted that he wrote to us stating that he was out of the country and that we should oblige him to appear before the committee next week, which we considered. So, what is the status of your minister?”
Responding, Magaji noted that the invitation was for Tuesday and Dambazau was available to the panel, but the lawmakers failed to meet due to the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said Dambazau was not available on Wednesday, as the minister was scheduled to present a memo to the Federal Executive Council.
“I hope after the council meeting, he would be around,” Magaji added.
There was, however, a mild drama when the lawmakers asked the Permanent Secretary to step out of the venue since Dambazau was not in attendance.
He begged the panel to make an observation.
Magaji said, “In the ministry, there are responsibilities; that much I know. The minister is in charge of policy direction, while the permanent secretary is in charge of establishment matters, which we are discussing here today.
“And all correspondence to the ministries go to the permanent secretary directly, not to the minister.
“The minister has not seen a single mail relating to Maina in his office or issued an order. That is why I feel I should be here to assist him, even though I was not in the ministry when it happened.”
Members of the panel, however, insisted that Magaji would not be engaged on the matter, even though he was separately invited, until Dambazau appears before them and until the minister directs the Permanent Secretary to speak.
According to them, the minister is the political head of the ministry.
A member, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, said, “It is good that you were invited in person as the Permanent Secretary of the ministry; but, first of all, we have to deal with the minister. Most of the things involved are not just about the bureaucratic activities of the ministry; they are political.”
The Senate had, on October 24, 2017, set up an ad hoc committee to investigate Maina’s return to the country after he was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over a N2bn pension fund scandal.
The chamber is also probing his reinstatement into the civil service and promotion after returning from self exile.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, set up the panel made up of chairmen and vice chairmen of Senate Committees on Public Service and Establishment; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption; and Internal Affairs.
Saraki said, “Honestly, we are all very disturbed and I will like the committee to work very hard and bring the report back to us on this matter that really borders on security, fight against corruption and how we manage our public service.”
The decision by the Senate followed the adoption of a motion by Senator Isa Misau on Maina’s matter.