Tempers Flare as IG Appears Before Senate Probe C’ttee, Refuses to be Questioned

  •  Presidency seeks resolution of impasse
  •  Saraki, nine others get court summons over probe

Damilola Oyedele and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, Wednesday verbally sparred with lawmakers when he appeared before an ad hoc committee of the Senate charged with investigating him on allegations of corruption levelled against him by Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi, APC).

In an atmosphere palpable with tension, Idris maintained that he would not respond to any queries or make any comment before the committee, as the matter was already before a court which would amount to sub judice.

This is just as the presidency appealed to the lawmakers to allow for the exploration of what it termed a “multi-door” resolution to the impasse.

The IG, who arrived the venue of the probe at 2.03 p.m. flanked by several uniformed and plain-clothes police officers, was also accompanied to the hearing by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, and his legal team from the law firm of Alex Izinyon & Co.

The Senate had set up the committee to investigate the allegations of corruption, misappropriation of funds and professional misconduct levelled against the IG by Senator Misau, a former police officer.

However, before the committee could commence sitting, the IG filed a suit against the Senate and its committee, seeking an order of the court stopping the committee from summoning him and proceeding with its probe.
In an unprecedented move, the federal government, through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice also filed criminal charges against Senator Misau.

When the criminal proceedings commenced against Misau last week, he appeared in court and was granted bail on self-recognition.

Idris, on the other hand, had refused to appear before the Senate committee, compelling it to threaten to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Drama started Wednesday at the hearing after the chairman of the committee, Senator Francis Alimekhena, asked the IG if he would like to make any comment before an oath was administered on him.

Instead of responding, the IG’s counsel, Mr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), rose to speak, but he was interrupted as he attempted to introduce himself.

The committee members insisted Alimekhena’s question was directed at Idris. The lawyer tried to stand his ground, stating that he would speak on behalf of his client, but the lawmakers maintained that he should take his seat.
Idris, who was seated next to Izinyon, then beckoned on the counsel to sit down.

Addressing the members, the IG reading from a document he had with him, said the matter was sub judice.
“I will not make any comments, I will not answer any questions in respect of the allegations, in view of the various civil and criminal cases pending in the law courts, most especially when the senator, Isa Misau, has already been arraigned in court in respect of this matter,” he said.

Continuing, the IG clarified that he decided to appear before the Senate committee out of the “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 stated.
As the IG read his statement, Enang was observed going to the side of the table where the lawmakers were seated and whispering into the ears of the chairman of the committee, before returning to his seat beside the IG. He then whispered into the ears of the IG while he read his prepared statement.

After reading out his statement, Idris did not utter another word while the proceedings lasted.
Having read the statement, Izinyon was finally allowed to speak. He told the committee that a court order was obtained Wednesday morning directing the Senate President and committee members to appear at the FCT High Court on November 16, 2017 “to show cause and for hearing of the substantive application”.

The order sighted by THISDAY granted an interim injunction restraining the respondents, their agents, privies, assignees and whosoever acting through them, from taking further steps in connection with the subject matter of the application or maintaining status quo or staying all actions relating to their investigations of the application, pending the determination of the original application, or in the alternative granting an order for the respondents to show cause why the order should not be made.

Izinyon also cited Senate Rules Order 53(5) 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.

He appealed to the committee to adhere to the Senate Rules, adding that a document had been submitted to the committee with a detailed response to each of the allegations made against Idris.

Izinyon also submitted that the case of virement (not conceded) in the 2016 budget was a criminal matter.
The IG was accused of diverting the sum of N7.2 billion, which was appropriated for armoured personnel carriers and the rehabilitation of 102 barracks across the country, to other uses.

The legal counsel’s submission, however, did not satiate the committee.
“Do you know the opinion of the Senate President on this matter?” Senator Hope Uzodinma asked Izinyon.
“This place is not a law court, this is a parliament, and you will be doing us a favour if you tow the line for a quick resolution of the contending issues.

“The IG is in charge of peace and security, assuming a warrant is issued for his arrest, he has the statutory role of effecting it.

“If the IG has come, he should allow the committee to do its work. If he is not inclined to speak because of the legal implications, he can so submit and we will get back to him,” Uzodinma said.

Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna, APC) said the responsibility of the committee was beyond the issues in court and maintained that virement of appropriated funds was a constitutional matter.

He added that getting to the root of the weighty allegations would benefit the government and the Police Force.
Alimekhena, in his closing remarks, further noted that the court was interfering with the committee’s work because the investigation was instituted before Idris went to court.

The lawmakers, nonetheless, agreed to adjourn to study the document responding to each of the allegations.
Enang expressed appreciation for what he said was the warm reception and adjournment.
“I hope the adjournment is not just to study the document but also to pursue a multi-door option on the matter,” Enang said.

Earlier, some of the officers who stood guard outside the meeting room attempted to prevent journalists from entering the room.

But the journalists engaged the officers in a shouting match before they were allowed entry.
Meanwhile, as the Senate committee and the IG sparred over his refusal to comment on the corruption charges against him, it came to light that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate and eight others had been summoned to appear before an Abuja High Court on the 16th of November to show why the request by Idris seeking to stop his planned probe by the Senate should not be granted.

This was sequel to an order of the court given Wednesday by Justice A.B Mohammed in Motion No. M/222/17 brought by the IG against Saraki and others.

Idris had, through a motion ex-parte filed by Izinyon, urged the court to stop the Senate from going ahead with its planned probe on the allegations raised by Senator Misau.

Apart from the Senate President, others in the suit include Senators Misau, Alimikhena, Hunkuyi, Binta Garba, Duro Samuel, Ogba Obinna, Nelson Effiong and Abdulaziz Nyako.

Justice Mohammed in his ruling ordered the respondents to come and show cause why the injunction sought by the IG should not be granted.

He also granted leave to the applicant to effect service of the originating application and any other processes in the matter on the respondents by substituted means.

The court adjourned to November 16 for the respondents to appear to show cause and for hearing of the substantive application.