Charles Obishai: We have received over 200 memoranda and we divided them into three groups of A, B and C and we have completed public hearings on the first two groups and it now remain the last group. We are examining evidences tendered before us. Part of the exhibits tendered are newspaper reports, video and audio tapes, which the members of the committee had to view and listen to apart from studying the document in order to ascertain the actual facts. The commission suspended the public hearing for two months since April 14 and will resume public hearing on the June 16 to enable the Commission to complete its public hearing.
WT: How will the report of the Commission look like without the contributions of the Hausa/Fulani community who are major stakeholders and parties to the November 28, crisis?
Obishai: When the Commission started sitting, we counted the memorandum we received and classified them into documents that have been tendered to the Commission which include CDS, audio and video cassettes, journals, textbooks, manuals and documents from the national archives. These documents have directly or indirectly covered the interest of the Hausa/Fulani communities.
I have gone through some of the materials.
Some of them really represented their interest because some of the newspaper publications were written and in some cases, interview granted by some prominent Hausa/Fulani citizens and we are going to look at what they said because they made their positions known to the world.
But despite this, they still have the right to come before the Commission and testify and the Commission will accept it because the essence of the Commission is to study not to rush. We have to study to appreciate some of the facts because most of the members of the Commission are based in Jos.
Some are not even indigenes of Plateau State. For instance, I am from Delta State but I live in Jos for quite some time but despite my long stay in Jos, I don’t know much about Plateau State until now that I am serving because through the Commission, I have the privilege of gaining more information on Plateau. So, let everybody give the Commission the necessary cooperation to help restore peace so that we can live in peace.
WT: There are a lot of court cases challenging the legality of the Commission and some of these cases are against the Plateau State government which set up the commission. Don’t you think some of these cases will affect the outcome of the Commission?
Obishai: Yes, the case we have in court that relates to the Commission is where some Hausa/Fulani sued the Plateau State government and the Commission. So, as a lead counsel to the Commission, I have to represent the Commission and in my own legal opinion, the cases in court show that the Hausa/Fulani communities have said the Commission should not sit, but the essence of the committee sitting is to find out what actually triggered the crisis in Jos and how we can bring a lasting solution to such crises.
I don’t reason why people should say this Commission should not sit because our intention is not to find anybody guilty but offer recommendations that will bring peace to the state. So, any peace loving person on the Plateau will support the commission.
The other court case is the one the Plateau State government filed against the National Assembly on the issue of rule of law.
The National Assembly has its jurisdiction and the state government has it own too.
The House of Representatives had set up an ad hoc committee. The committee came to Jos and within a week, they gathered their materials and rushed back to Abuja and presented a report and when you study the report, all the committee did was to sit down and look into the indigeneship question, chiefdoms, political parties and their roles in the crisis.
On the other hand, the Plateau State government said the National Assembly has no powers to look into the areas they did because the constitution has spelt out areas of operations of different legislatures. It is not at all issues of chiefdoms; districts are within the powers of the lawmakers.
The House of Representatives never took up any matter that is within its legislative list. Go and look at the report.
All it said was there was a security report that the election should not hold on a particular date and the governor ignored it and went ahead.
So, with all respect to the lawmakers, they went outside their powers and they did it with some pride. Now that they have concluded their report, we now wait and see what the effect will be.
Apart from that, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua also set up the General Abisoye panel initially, he was given a wide power but when the state government protested, the President reviewed his term of reference and curtailed the powers of General Abisoye Commission to look into areas within the ambit of the Federal Government.
So, no court case will affect the Ajibola Commission, because the Commission is not adjudicating on cases but fact finding.
WT: Do you think the Hausa/Fulani people will now be satisfied with the outcome since they were not party to it?
Obishai: I can’t speak for them but all I know is that there are a lot of publications in the newspapers where some people like Salihu Nakande and others have granted some interviews and these have been tendered. So, when you read it, you will understand that these people are speaking the voice of the Hausa/Fulani community.