The House of Representatives and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday clashed over allegations that the suspension of investigations into various allegations of corruption by the leadership of the green chamber was a ploy to shield certain individuals involved in scams from being exposed.
The green chamber, which had for several weeks been conducting multiple investigations into alleged malfeasance in the activities of ministries, departments and agencies of government, last week, announced an abrupt suspension of the probes, triggering suspicions of a sinister motive.
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had earlier accused the House of acting in bad faith and demanded the resignation of the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, for allegedly aiding and abetting the said cover up of the scams.
However, the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, yesterday rose in defence of the green chamber, stating that the decision to suspend the investigations and other legislative activities was not meant to shield any corrupt individual, but to enable the lawmakers observe their annual recess.
The denial came just as PDP also insisted that the leadership of the House shut down all activities and embarked on a forced holiday to frustrate on-going investigations into allegations of massive corruption in the country.
Doguwa said that 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 MDAs, have not in any way been discontinued as alleged by PDP, stressing that all these pending investigations will continue as soon as the House reconvenes.
He specifically clarified that all these activities of the committees would recommence at the resumption of plenary in September. Doguwa, in a statement, said it was “repulsive” for an opposition party to have brought in undue politics into a matter of national interest, especially at the time of prevailing health and economic challenges.
The House Leader said he would not have glorified PDP with a response considering their past records in governance, but a response had become imperative for the sake of educating the public and setting the records straight.
“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.
“The PDP are always desperate in their typical nature because if they have done their homework well, they’ll know that committees do not sit during our annual summer recess. It’s not only the legislative, the judiciary is also on recess.
Apart from a 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,” he said.
Doguwa explained that the $500 billion Chinese loan, which PDP had latched on to lampoon the House, had already been approved by the National Assembly through a transparent and formal request. According to him, the current opposition mounted against the loan by PDP was either a deliberate misrepresentation of facts or an utter ignorance of the history of the loan.
“Therefore, it’s pertinent to know that 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.
“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,” he said.
According to Doguwa, PDP lacked the moral standing to accuse the leadership of the House of abetting corruption or protecting questionable officials from the on-going 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.
“It is also good for the PDP to summon the strength to understand that the on-going 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 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 House has been empowered by the constitution to oversight government agencies does not in any way mean it should do that with “injurious intentions” or an opportunity to engage in bickering with the executive.
“However, the House leadership has come to realise that this flimsy and trumped-up accusations from the opposition PDP has 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 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 so-called opposition forces to discredit, undermine or malign our own government,” Doguwa said.
In a swift response, PDP has advised the leadership of House to own up to its actions and address the real motives behind the forceful shutdown of committee activities instead of diverting the attention of Nigerians from the issue. National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said “no amount of vituperations, hauling of insults, threats and secret phone calls from APC leadership of the House of Representatives and its agents” will make it change its stand against what it called the deliberate design to frustrate the legislative committees and put a wedge in the way of the fight against corruption.
“Our party holds that, if anything, the unnecessary and unwarranted resort to invectives, name calling and slurs by the APC leadership of the House, instead of addressing the issues, has only confirmed our position that corruption is fighting back from within the legislative and executive government circles of the APC administration,” PDP stated.
According to the party, when matters of national interest such as investigation of allegations of corruption are before the leg-islature, no attempt, overtly or covertly, should be made to undermine or sabotage them, let alone ordering a forceful shutdown of investigation.
“Indeed, nothing in parliamentary rules makes it sacrosanct that legislative committees cannot sit during parliamentary recess.
“The attempt by APC leadership in the House to mislead Nigerians with skewed interpretations that suit its purpose of frustrating the fight against corruption is completely condemnable and amount to a huge disservice to Nigerians.
“In fact, it is on record that during the days of PDP leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly, even when the House of Representatives is on recess and crucial national issues such as the on-going investigations emerge, the leadership would recall legislators and relevant committees to attend to them.
“We in the PDP stands with Nigerians to insist that if indeed the Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila-led leadership is not sabotaging the basic responsibility of the House of Representatives, which is its oversight on the executive, it should immediately retract the statement issued by Doguwa, apologise to Nigerians and allow the committees to continue their investigations without the interferences by the leadership of the House,” PDP demanded.