The various Commisioners of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) presented varying accounts on the health status of the Commission Chairman who was due to appear before the House Adhoc Committee investigating Alleged Job Racketeering and Gross Mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)
It was commotion and comedy at a hearing of the House of Representatives on Tuesday as Commissioners of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) clashed with one another following the absence of their Chairman, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka.
This was however followed by a ruling by Rep Yusuf Gagdi, Chairman of the House Adhoc Committee investigating Alleged Job Racketeering and Gross Mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) at the Federal Character Commission, that the FCC Chairman appears on Wednesday, with all 36 Commissioners for the hearing.
Dr Dankaka, had sent a team of Commissioners led by Armayau Abubakar; FCC Taraba Commissioner to represent her at the hearing; with the excuse that she was indisposed and had to be attended to by her doctors.
However, Moses Anaughe, FCC Delta Commissioner who came in after the proceedings had commenced, raised his hand to be identified. Having been acknowledged, he bluntly told the lawmakers that the FCC Chairman’s representatives were lying on her behalf, as she was in her office. He further accused the FCC Chairman of always giving excuses whenever she was invited for a probe.
“If she wants to collect 10 percent of employment, she says that the Chief Executive must come one-on-one with her. Why is she not here?” Anaughe queried.
The situation soon degenerated into an uproar of some sort as one of the FCC Commissioners who came earlier, took exception to the accusation. He noted that they never claimed she was in the hospital, but that she had a doctor’s appointment since she was ill.
The Commissioners were thereafter put under oath by the Committee before proceedings continued, while Armayau Abubakar; the FCC Taraba Commissioner who represented Dr Dankaka appealed that the Committee gives them till next Monday for the Chairman to appear in person.
He was also made to read the letter from the Chairman asking to be excused on account of her ill health.
The House began probe into the alleged employment racketeering and mismanagement of IPPS by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government when Rep. Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) adopted a motion on the matter.
At commencement of the hearing, Abubakar Armayau, Federal Commissioner representing Taraba State in the Commission, who claimed to be the representative of the Chairman, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka told members of the Ad-hoc Committee that their boss had an appointment with the doctor.
“I am standing on behalf of the chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Dr. Mrs Muheeba Dankaka who is indisposed and has a meeting with her doctor which coincided with the time you have given us and that is why she has delegated us and me to be the leader of the delegation her to make her presentation.
First and foremost, I have made 20 copies which have already been presented and I have other ones and we will like to crave the indulgence of members of this committee to allow us for a new date most preferably, on Monday so that the Chairman will come herself and make a proper presentation as a popular demand.”
Speaking, Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee stated: “We crave the indulgence of my colleagues to allow the Federal Character Team (Commission) to take a bow and go. We should not go into details now until the document circulates to each and everyone of us.
Agencies that need commendation at the end of this hearing. We will go all out and commend them and those that did not do well because of the documents available to us, we will raise our voice with the intention of correcting the wrongs. So, we are not doing it with the intention of witch hunting anybody. You may wish to take your leave please.”
The drama thus began, when Rep. Oke in addition to the Committee Chairman’s ruling mandating the FCC Chairman to appear before the Panel, requested that she should appear before the Committee with her medical certificate.
“With due respect, knowing the character of the person who is the Chief Executive Officer of this agency I don’t want to underestimate or counter her claims, but to convince this Committee. Mr. Chairman sir, please, she needs to come with a proof that she has a medical appointment.
We are all human beings, and we all fall sick. Nobody is immune from such, but when you tell a parliament that you have an appointment with your medical doctors then you need to prove, that is my application. As she appears at the date that will be given to her by the Committee, she must come with a prove that truly she’s having a meeting today with her medical doctor otherwise she might just be undermining this honourable committee. That is my position thank you.”
The Damning Revelation
Just before the Committee gave its final verdict, Rep. Gagdi warned that failure of the FCC Chairman to appear before the panel will not be tolerated.
“I will respect you, but if you undermine the authority of Nigeria people I will give it back to you. Someone is raising up a hand, which team are you,” he asked.
It was at that point that another Federal Commissioner who was sitting behind raised up his hand and said he had an information. In a swift turn of events, the Commissioner from Delta State, Moses Anaughe made some grave revelations.
“I am a Federal Commissioner representing Delta State. We just came in before the introduction. I have information to give to this Committee.
I want to inform this House that the Federal Character Commission Chairman; as we speak she is in her office. This has been her usual way of dodging Committee’s invitation and I just want you people to know that as we speak right now, if you send somebody there or send her a message, she will run.
This has been her usual practice because if Federal Character is doing their job very well, this issue of inviting other agencies will not even arise. The bulk of this investigation lies with the Federal Character Commission. I just want this committee to know and if I may request, she’s in her office as we speak.
She knows the duration of this Committee, that is why she is asking for one week extension. Thank you very much,” he disclosed.
Reacting to the submission of the Delta Federal Commissioner, Rep. Oke said human beings could not be under-estimated, insisting that the representative of the Chairman of the Commission lied.
“Mr Chairman, with due respect, in legal parlance you can not underestimate the power of written document than oral narration.
Mr Chairman, you have a document before you presented by a Commissioner from Taraba and the Secretary and all the people that this Chairman asked them to represent her here.
Mr Chairman sir, I want to put it to them that they come to this parliament to lie before us and they can not go away like that. You came before Nigerians to lie before us when you know indeed that your Chairman is in the office. A colleague of yours is telling us that you brought a letter here to lie before us.
Mr. Chairman sir, with due respect, parliament all over the world is a symbol of democracy. The crafters of our constitution placed the parliament as the fourth realm government and to tell you that our constitution and democracy works. The President obeys that constitution and that is why you see him come here to appear before the parliament to present the budget annually and when the need arise. How come an aide appointed by Mr. President is undermining this Committee?
If she’s tired, she should throw in the towel not that at this level you come here and lie before the Committee,” the Osun lawmaker queried.
In a counter statement, Dr. Tonye Okio representing Bayelsa State as a Federal Commissioner hit back at the lawmakers for referring to them as liars.
“I take exception that we are being called liars. There’s a written document from our Chairman and she signed it that she has appointment with her doctor today. We didn’t say we met her in the hospital.”
Abubakar then interjects “Mr. Chairman, I am not afraid of anything but there was an earlier decision that the Chairman should appear here tomorrow with the letter and speak to the documents as submitted.”
At that point, the Committee took a resolution to put the Commissioners on oath; a usual practice in parliament.
According to Rep. Gagdi, “It is the decision of Parliament that a matter can be reviewed or revisited with a recession. So may I therefore call on Honourable Jonathan Gbeffi to rescind the decision.”
Moving the motion, Rep. Jonathan Gbeffi said, “In line with the revealing issues, May I kindly appeal to this House that we rescind the earlier decision for this body to come back tomorrow to enable us deal with this very pressing item that has just come up.”
In his ruling, the Chairman of the Committee said, “I told you earlier that Wole Oke is not just casting aspersion on the Federal Character chairman. We have 37 States Federal Commissioners and this is coming from one of them, not from a press man or someone outside.
Having said so, this Committee orders the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission to appear with all the Federal Character Commissioners tomorrow by 10am. If she wants to try the will and the capacity of the Committee, let her not appear. This is an information we have from an insider, not outsider. I don’t know her and we are not fighting anyone. Meanwhile, some other commissioners are saying something different so we need to give everyone fair hearing.
We are also asking for records of 2015. You employed in 2017 with waivers and approvals, and these are the things we are asking you to give us. Having yielded the floor to my colleagues, the resolution of the House is however, for the Muheeba Dankaka and her 37 Commissioners to appear before the Committee unfailingly by Wednesday 26th July 2023.”
The Federal Character Commission delegation who appeared before the Committee are: Ahmed Hamza; Honourable Commissioner for Gombe State, Mohammed Bello, Secretary of the Federal Character Commission and Dr. Tonye Okio; Federal Commissioner representing Bayelsa State. Some other Commissioners inclduing those of Osun and Lagos who also found their way to the hearing backed their Delta counterpart, Anaughe.