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$1bn arms deal: Again, army boss, CBN gov shun Reps’ panel

he Chief of Army Staff, General Ibrahim Attahiru and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, refused to honour the invitation from the House of Representatives’ adhoc committee investigating the purchase of arms and ammunition for the military and paramilitary in Nigeria. Members of the panel had, on March 22, threatened to invoke the relevant sections of the constitution if they fail to honour the summon, just as a member of the panel, Hon. Bede Eke described the CBN in particular as an impediment to transparency and accountability in Nigeria.

The motion was moved by Hon. Bede Eke, from Imo, eliciting overwhelming support of other members, even as the committee chairman tried to tone down the resolution. “Bede said: “Mr. Chairman, distinguished colleagues, I think we have got to a situation where we really have to take a very hard stand on this matter.

The last time the representative of the Chief of Army staff came, we told him that the Chief of Army Staff should appear in person, at least to come and deposit the documents requested by this Committee because he is the man in charge of that agency.”

“Mr. Chairman, CBN has been a problem to this House and they cannot operate the way they are operating because we approved that budget and this House will keep quiet and they think they can do it all the time and get away with it. By the way, what are we asking for? Come and tell us how much you have paid for the purchase of arms. We have given you the right to fair hearing, are you hiding anything? We will not allow it, if there something you are hiding because you are CBN, we will not allow it.

“People are killed every day, Mr. Chairman, let me stop at this. But I want this House and this Ad-hoc Committee, we don’t have time and we come here every day and we seat 3, 4 hours waiting for a government agency, I want to move a motion that we summon, especially Chief of Army Staff and CBN, enough is enough, the CBN Governor and the Chief of Army Staff must be summoned, that is when they will know we are serious,” Hon. Eke moved. However, on April 7, the committee, which reached out to journalists in the afternoon for the investigative hearing, later decided to address a press conference, forcing many journalists to rush down from other engagements outside the National Assembly. While journalists waited for the briefing, calls were put through to the Deputy Clerk, Mr. Barnabas, who kept asking for patience with the claim that members were in a closed door meeting with representatives of the military, after which the committee would brief. For more than 2 hours, there was no sign of the briefing taking place as journalists, who went to look at the venue, met it ready, but empty.

Tired of the silent treatment, a journalist placed a call to the chairman, Hon. Akinremi, who said the briefing had been shifted to Monday next week without further explanations as to why it couldn’t hold. However, it was gathered that despite the summon and the threats of repercussions in the event of any default, the CBN Governor and the Chief of Army Staff did not turn up. A survey around the NASS premises also showed lack of any military deployment suggesting the presence of a service chief.

It is also not clear if the committee has issued a bench warrant against the duo, which is usually the next legislative step towards enforcing compliance with a parliamentary summon, or it is waiting until Monday to do so. Recall that the panel, led by Hon. Olaide Akinremi had, on March 22, summoned the duo to appear before it on April 7, by 2pm or face the wrath of the House.

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