Legislation as caricature in Nigeria: Hon Alagboso’s Panel vs Obikwelu Esq. as case study
With my table littered with works both unfinished and untouched, it would be ridiculous for me to attend to any other matter that is not of urgent demand, especially those of special interest to certain interested parties.
Yet, that was what I chose to do yesterday when I decided to monitor a public hearing conducted by the National Assembly House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions.
I took personal interest in the matter after one of the respondents and an Ambassador-appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ambassador Ingekim Regina Ocheni, Deputy Ambassador designate to Germany, filed a lawsuit against me for doing my professional job.
Besides, ElombahNews had been reporting bit by bit developments in the matter since early this year. A few examples will suffice.
Ambassador Ocheni has, through her lawyers, filed the suit claiming that I defamed her, despite the fact that I reached out to her for response when I received several petitions against the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs with her name featuring prominently.
The Petition with file No. 351 of 2021, was forwarded by Winston Chuks Obikwelu, Esq., the Petitioner, against the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs on alleged criminal abduction of his children and handover the remains of his late wife.
The petition also has the Honorable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Respondent.
When I saw the Summons/ Hearing Notice, I knew this is an opportunity I won’t miss, despite the fact that our National Assembly correspondent was in position.
The House Committee on Public Petition was presided over by the Chairman, Hon Jerry Alagboso.
Hon. Alagboso, I must say, prepared my mind for what was to follow after I set up my camera and was told to approach the Chief Clerk of the Committee for permission to use camera.
While I was discussing with the Chief Clerk, Alagboso abruptly cut in and asked in the bluntest manner imaginable: “Who is the man and what does he want?”
While the Chief Clerk was politely explaining why explaining the position of the committee on camera usage, Alagboso, as if the first cut wasn’t blunt enough, again snapped after enquiring which media outfit I represent:
“What is so special about this matter for a journalist to want to cover it? My friend, we don’t tolerate nonsense here. Just write whatever you want but don’t use your camera here. Otherwise we will throw you out!”
Since when does using camera to cover an open hearing becomes a nonsense that warrants throwing out for?
After listening to Alagboso talk to me as well as others in the vicinity, that was when I prepared myself for the worse and though I knew it would be bad, I never expected it to be as bad as it was.
Alagboso started by disparaging the petitioner with questions like “are you sure you are a lawyer?”, “why are you washing your dirty linens in the public?”, “how can you speak evil of your late wife?”, “it seems your wife beat you to the game”, etc. Whaaat!
All the while, the petitioner kept his cool and was waiting for the main hearing to commence and his prayers adopted, including the criminal allegation of how officials of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs aided and abetted corruption, fraud, impersonation, child trafficking, criminal abuse of office, etc.
But no, that was not to happen!
Before long, Alagboso assumed the position of a counselor and started advising the petitioner against further dragging his name and the late wife through the mud.
Also, in a clear case of accuser becoming the accused, he also assumed the position of the legal counsel to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and further lambasted Mr. Obikwelu, informing him why his petition lacked merit and could not see the light of the day.
All the while, leaving out the major meat of the petition which borders on allegations of aiding and abetting corruption, fraud, impersonation, child trafficking, criminal abuse of office, etc.!
He even advised the petitioner to simply read the response of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and go to bed as there is nothing more to add!
A former Senior Special Assistant to the President (Office of the First Lady), Dr Ike Neliaku, who also attended the hearing could not stop expressing disbelief in what he witnessed.
He will later walk up the Chief Clerk, look at him in the face, point a finger at him and tell him verbatim to inform Alagboso that it’s not over yet as he will take the matter to all places high and low until justice is served.
After observing the mockery yesterday called “public hearing”, I wonder if I or any reasonable Nigerian will ever take a petition to the “House Committee on Public Mockery” where one will end up being derided and jeered instead of heard and comforted.
Presently, Mr. Obikwelu is left with no option to regain his children and late wife’s corpse than an endless round of legal drama in Nigeria’s court rooms!