PHILIP NYAM reports on the war of words between the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the Green Chamber’s directive to all its committees to suspend ongoing probes and investigations
On August 20, the House of Representatives suspended all investigations, public hearings, and committee meetings and activities of its standing and ad hoc committees until resumption in September. A letter from the House leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa dated August 19 and addressed to all committees ordered a stop to all activities. The order came on the heels of the investigation of the House Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols of the review and implementation programme of all existing bilateral loan agreements between Nigeria and the Chinese Export-Import Bank and other loans sourced from China to finance the Lagos-Ibadan rail line and other projects.
The letter titled: “Notice of suspension of activities, meetings, public hearings and all engagements of the standing and ad hoc committees” with reference number NASS9HR/OLDR/ADM/Vol. 1. 0031″ urged the clerk of the House to ensure compliance.
The letter signed by Alhassan Ado Doguwa said “the leadership of the House of Representatives has recently met and resolved that henceforth all activities of standing and ad hoc committees be put on hold while the House is on its annual recess. Accordingly, all standing and ad hoc committees are hereby directed to suspend with immediate effect all committee meetings, public hearings and other engagements until the House resumes its annual recess.” The decision of the House leadership did not however go down well with the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which condemned the shutdown of all ongoing corruption allegation investigations in the House.
The party described the decision to halt the sitting of various committees carrying out investigation on allegations of corruption against the executive arm of government as a deliberate design “to cover the stench of corruption oozing out of the APC administration.”
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party charged the Speaker of the House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, to “stop circumventing the statutory duties of the House of Representative and placing wedges in the way of the fight against corruption by the legislature.” PDP described the shutdown order by the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership of the House of Representatives as a clear example of corruption fighting back from within the government circle, which must be condemned by all Nigerians.
It noted that such “incursion into the activities of the committees is to quench the fight against corruption as well as to frustrate whistleblowers.” The opposition party added that it is clear that the shutdown directive is targeted at frustrating revelations from ongoing investigations on the $500 billion foreign loan from China, particularly as it related to the mortgaging of our nation’s sovereignty to China. It maintained that the directive has affected the investigations into the corruption in government agencies including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), the N300 billion unremitted revenue to the federation account, government earnings and the expenditure in Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA’s) under the APC.
But picking holes in the criticism by the PDP, the House leadership in its response said the leading opposition party, is suffering from horrific political hallucinations and has lost the meaning of its existence. Majority leader of the House, Doguwa, who responded on behalf of the House said: “It is at first repulsive for an opposition party, PDP that have seemingly lost the actual meaning and essence of opposition to have brought in undue politics into a matter of national interest, especially at the time of prevailing health and economic challenges. “Although, one should not have glorified them with a response by wasting precious time required for fixing the economic woes which they recklessly plunged the country into, but it has become imperative, for the sake of educating their targeted sympathizers, to set the record unambiguously straight”.
Continuing, the House leader noted that “it is ridiculous to discover that the PDP, a supposedly major opposition party in the country, does not know the workings of the National Assembly, let alone knowing where the constitution or house procedures have been breached.
“It is worthy of note also, that it has never been the practice or tradition of the House to continue with indoor Committee engagements while on annual recess as it’s obtainable in the developed democracies like the United States, who are right now enjoying their summer recess, especially now that we are being faced with a global health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Doguwa added that PDP is always desperate in their typical nature because if they’ve have done their homework well, they’ll know that committees do not sit during our annual summer recess.
His words: It’s not only the legislature, the judiciary is also on recess and apart from few courts that open for administrative purposes, all the courts are locked up and paused to continue cases including corruption cases only upon their resumption. “It will be of interest to the PDP, the investigations the House is currently undertaking including the Chinese loans cover the 16 years the PDP was in power and when most of the loans were obtained. So, maybe they should be thanking the House leadership for covering up their misdeeds.
“Hence, making reference to the recent $500 billion China loan by the PDP spokesman, which has already been approved by the National Assembly through a transparent and formal request was either a deliberate misrepresentation of facts or an utter ignorance of the history.
“Therefore, it’s pertinent to know that the government has already captured the recent loan in the 2020 Appropriation law and it should not be a subject of any controversy or query in the committee’s investigation process at least for now.
“And as a matter of norm and procedure, the House can only wait until disbursements and utilisation commence before embarking on oversight implementation. On other investigations into government agencies including Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust (NSITF), the review of the Nigerian Power Sector as well as all other allegations of corruption in government expenditure, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s), have not in any way been discontinued as alleged by the PDP as all the pending investigations will continue as the House reconvenes.”
“The House under the vibrant and responsive leadership of Rt. Hon. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila would remain focused, committed and well-guided in safeguarding our institutional integrity, without necessarily jeopardising our good working relationship with the Buhari led popular government.
“And, in fact, the PDP lacks the moral standing to accuse the leadership of the House for abetting corruption or protecting questionable officials from the ongoing investigation. For us in the APC, fighting the menace of corruption by prosecuting corrupt individuals has been the cardinal objective of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Therefore, to vindicate the administration and leadership of the House, for the first time in history, many highprofile individuals including former ministers, former governors and public office holders have been prosecuted and convicted without prejudice or unnecessary reflection on party affiliation.
“It is also good for the PDP to summon the strength to understand that the ongoing investigations and public hearings were all and genuinely initiated by the APC leadership in the House and at no time did the House leadership mull over frustrating same. “Also, the leadership of the House has observed with great sense of responsibility, the deteriorating working relationship with the executive arm of government, which was mostly due to misconducts and sometimes deliberate and calculated attempt by some disgruntled government officials to drag the institution of the legislature into needless controversies for political gains. The leadership is therefore poised to rise to this unfortunate occasion with a view to bringing sanity to the system”
He maintained that the fact that the legislators are empowered by the constitution to oversight government agencies does not in any way mean that they should do that with injurious intentions. “The House leadership has come to realize that these flimsy and trumpedup accusations from the opposition PDP have rather exposed their blind and visionless political desperations to cause crisis in the polity by using some of its members in the House to foment trouble between the Executive and the APC controlled National Assembly. “As a parliament, our business will continue to be guided by the principle of collective responsibility and collective ownership of governance and government processes at all levels. “At this point, I must also make it clear that the House of Representatives has no clandestine plans or motives to cover up any corrupt engagement or business of the government. But as rational and progressive members, we are indeed committed to our partnership with Buhari administration to fight corruption in all ramifications, and provide good governance. “Consequently, it must be borne in mind that gone are those seasons when the LEGISLATIVE arm of Government would be stampeded or used by the socalled opposition forces to discredit, undermine or malign our own government.
“Let me also use this medium to thank and commend our respected colleagues across the divides for their understanding, resilience and unprecedented support to the leadership of the House under Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. “The steps we have taken recently are with the best of intentions and in the best interest of the House.
It is our hope that you would continue to help to sustain the tempo so that together we can bring sanity and grace to the Legislature and to further salvage its institutions”, Doguwa submitted. Meanwhile, despite the directive by the House leadership, investigations revealed that some committees of the House are still carrying out their functions, especially oversight as the legislators have been visiting Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and inspecting projects across the nation.