The Day Maina Visited Me!

By Ikenga Chronicles December 7, 2020

The Day Maina Visited Me!

— By Kenneth Ikonne

One sedate evening in late June, 2013, three  men sauntered into my office reception and brusquely demanded to “see the principal”! Even from the inner recesses of my own private office, I could hear quite clearly the exchanges between the men and my staff. It was well past 7pm, and it was getting dark on the outside. That particular staff and I were the only ones still in the office, all the other staff having earlier closed for the day. “Oga didn’t tell me he was expecting anyone at this time. Does Oga know you are coming”?, he asked the strange men, a hint of feeble protest in his trembling voice.

A moment later,the staff, completely shaken and worried, appeared in my office and announced the men’s presence. “Oga, three very huge men are looking for you. They look like DSS”! Even before his entry, I had taken a peep at the men through the crevice on the library door. I was filled with foreboding. All three men were dark, tall and barrel -chested. And all three wore ill- fitting jackets! I didn’t feel the usual excitement of impending cash; it was obvious that these were no clients!

Suppressing my trepidation, I asked the staff to let them in, steeling myself to face the moment. The three giants eased themselves into my office and sat down across the desk. To my greatest relief, they greeted me politely and announced their mission. “Our Oga is downstairs, and wants to see you”, the one who introduced himself as Suleiman announced, almost whispering. “And who is your Oga?” “Haba, Barrister, you mean you still don’t know us? It’s Abdulrasheed Maina nah”!

One week earlier, I had filed a five ground Notice of Appeal challenging the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which had set aside the Warrant of Arrest issued by the then President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator David Mark, directing the Inspector General of Police to arrest Abdulrasheed Maina, and bring him before the Senate. Maina had spurned a series of invitations extended to him by the Senate Committee On Establishment and Public Service to defend himself against allegations of massive corruption as the Chairman of the Pensions Reform Task Team. One such petition accused Maina of misappropriation of billions of Naira.

Maina initially appeared before the Committee, faced a barrage of incisive questioning, and then feigned ill- health. He pleaded for the proceedings to be adjourned for him to get well, and was obliged. It was the last time he would appear before the Committee, despite several more summonses. The Committee eventually issued its report, indicting the elusive Maina.

When the Committee submitted it’s report to the Senate, the Senate in plenary decided to give Maina one more chance to be heard before  deciding whether to adopt the report. Once again, Maina was severally invited, and once again, he failed to appear. It was at this point that the President of the Senate invoked his coercive powers under section 89 of the Constitution and issued the Warrant of Arrest.

Maina’s reaction was to rush to the Federal High Court, Abuja where he filed a Fundamental Rights Enforcement Application alleging infringement of his fundamental right to fair hearing. He prayed the Court to nullify the report indicting him, grant him damages to the tune of N1.5 billion and to set aside the Warrant of Arrest.

The Senate of the Federal Republic instructed me to defend it  and the President of the Senate, in the suit. Judgment in the suit was delivered on the 27th day of March, 2013, with the court declining to set aside the report indicting Maina, or to award him damages. Strangely however, the Court set aside the Warrant of Arrest, on the rather strange ground that the defence failed to show that the Senate’s resolution ordering Maina’s investigation was either gazetted or published in the Journal of the Senate. This was not the case put forth by Maina at the hearing, and the presumption of regularity of official acts enshrined in the Evidence Act ought to have availed the defence, since Maina did not rebut it. I was naturally peeved by the decision on the point. And it was on that very point that that I appealed to the Court of Appeal.

“Why wouldn’t you just tell your Oga to come into my office and see me, rather than me going to see him?”, i asked the three strange men seated across my desk. “For security reasons, Barrister”, the three men responded, almost in unison. “Oga is in his car downstairs. The black Prado Jeep”.

I followed the men downstairs. There were in all four cars parked in the parking lot, apart from mine. Two of the cars hedged the black Prado Jeep. One of the strange men pointed out the Prado, as if I hadn’t seen it. I got closer, and the rear left  door of the Prado was opened to me from the inside. “Come in, Ken,” a voice said rather reassuringly from inside.”

Aided by the roof light illuminating the Prado’s interior, I sized up the burly man wearing a white Morrocan tunic seated at the back of the car. Even though I hadn’t met him before, there was no mistaking who he was. His pictures had been everywhere, on TV, and in all the major Newspapers. Sensing my hesitation, Abdulrasheed Maina, wanted both by the Senate, the EFCC, and the Nigerian Police, spoke to me again, this time in a tone that was seductively soft. “Come in and close the door, Ken. It’s just a friendly discussion.”

I sized up my surroundings once more. The car immediately beside me had armed policemen in it. I looked at them momentarily, and they looked away – as if encouraging me to do as Maina had said. I hopped into the Prado and sat beside Maina. He offered his hand and I met it. “Barrister, I have received your Notice of Appeal. My mission to you is to appeal to you in the name of Allah not to pursue that appeal. Infact, it is even in your own interest not to pursue it. Afterall, the judgment is 50-50, and the Senate itself did not ask you to appeal. Ken, name your price, and we can talk”, Maina said, his tone oscillating between a disguised threat, and a passionate plea.

It was disturbing that Maina knew that I did not yet have the authorization of the Senate to appeal, but I had filed the Notice of Appeal on the deadline, in expectation that the Senate would formally so instruct me. Maina was reading my thoughts. He reached into his side pocket and fished out a white envelope. “Ken, here please is thirty thousand dollars for petrol. Don’t pursue that appeal. Reach me at your earliest convenience and state your price”, he said, stretching both the white envelope and a business card in my direction. I kept my hand firmly beside me like a child refusing a gift of ice cream from a stranger. I told Maina that I would discuss his offer with my clients. “You are only being foolish”, he responded with absolute self assurance. “Take it from me, your yeye Appeal will go nowhere”. I thanked him and quickly disembarked from his car, grateful to be alive. The three strange men boarded their own car and the entourage immediately left our compound.

Two days later, I went to the Appeals Registry of the Federal High Court in Abuja to arrange for the compilation of the record of Appeal. I was determined to show Maina that nothing would deter me. At most, the compilation would cost me no more than N300,000. I could foot that amount personally, even without any commitment from the Senate.

The Lady who received me at the Appeal Registry of the Federal High Court was courteous. I greeted her and told her why I had come. She reached into a shelf and brought out Maina’s case file. “Counsel”, she said calmly, without looking me in the face, “this case file is bulky ooo. In short, go and bring N4 million for compilation of the records.” I was dazed by the sheer astronomy of the demand, and the audacity with which it was made. I quickly  overshot my own budget and offered N1 million. Still, the lady would not budge.

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