By The Nation
Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris yesterday succeeded in blocking the Senate’s probe of corruption and misconduct allegations levelled against him by Senator Isah Misau.
Idris, who appeared for the scheduled hearing with his lawyer Alex Iziyon (SAN), told the Senate panel through Iziyon that he had gone to court to challenge Misau on the allegations and that it would be sub judice for the lawmakers to proceed with the probe.
Displaying court documents to drive home his point, the IGP said his decision to honour the invitation was in compliance with constitutional provisions that make it mandatory for him to respond to the Senate’s summons.
But the Senator Francis Alimikhena-led committee attempted to overrule the police boss when he insisted that the courts lacked the powers to stop the Senate from performing its constitutional duties.
The police boss however countered that the actions of the committee were against the Standing Rules of the Senate, citing Order 53(5) of the Rule to buttress his argument.
The Order states: “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 visibly agitated IGP said: “I will not make any oral comments or answer any questions 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.”
Earlier, Idris attempts to answer questions from the committee’s chairman were blocked by Iziyon.
Addressing the committee chair, Iziyon 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 gotten 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 maybe subjudice. 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 precedent set by the Senate.
A visibly angry Alimikhena said the ad hoc committee was set up before the IGP went to court.
He said: “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 by the Senate. It was 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 go to court, it does not stop the Senate from probing the virement made by the Police boss. You cannot stop that”.
Iziyon retorted that the law was clear on virement, stressing that it was not a matter for the Senate to handle. “It is a criminal offence and it is not the Senate that should handle that.”
Another member of the Senate panel, Senator Hope Uzodinma, intervened, pleading with the committee chair to adjourn the hearing to allow committee members study the contents of a written response submitted by the IGP.
Addressing Iziyon and the IGP, Uzodinma said: “I want to caution you. We are all statesmen in the country. We are all one. If we must succeed as a country, we must create a synergy where both arms must work together. The SAN, you must agree with me that this is not a law court. You will do a favour to resolve any differences between these parties.
“The Standing Rules say, if its 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 much quotations. This is a parliament.
Senator Obinna Ogba 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 one after the other, called for an adjournment.
Lidani said: “I think it makes sense for us to study the documents. From the reaction from the chairman, it appears that the preliminary objections will not be entertained. We have just been served this document. We will study it. We will determine if you have been able to address the issues raised.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, cut in at this point by telling the committee that the presidency would like to explore a “multi-door” option in resolving the issue.
Enang said, “We are glad for the warm reception. We are not here out of honour. We are here out of constitutional provisions. We respect the job and powers of the legislature. We thank you for inviting us. We also appreciate what you have said that you want to have an adjournment. I am hoping that this adjournment will pursue other multi-door options to resolve these issues”.
Alimikhena caved in by adjourning the sitting indefinitely.
“Coming here is your duty. When you are summoned by the parliament, you must come. It is a not a favour. I want to tell you that the issue of virement is the function of the parliament. It is not something that should be handled by the court. I want to tell you this committee came up before you went to court. The court is interfering with our committee. If we need you again, you will respond”, he said