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Taking the House’s probes to logical end

Last week, the House of Representatives and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) engaged in hot exchange over the suspension of probes in the parliament by its leadership. In the past few weeks, the Nigerian polity has been heated by fireworks emanating from the House between its members and some members of the executive over allegations of corruption and malfeasance in the management of the affairs of governance.

From the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) to the railway projects borrowing from China, the nation has watched in awe, as the House squared up against officials of the government from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with many of such investigations tilting from the serious to the mundane. We cannot forget in haste the drama between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the management of the NDDC and the House. It was a similar drama between the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige and the House Committee on Appropriation. Ditto for the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and the House.

It was a tale of sorrow, sordid lamentations and bizarre stories for a government that is famed on anti-corruption, as official after official engaged in bickering and mudslinging with the House committees. Thus, when the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila called for a stop to the probes two weeks ago, not a few Nigerians felt that the country needed a breather from the tales of woes.

That was particularly after the House members engaged in a fierce battle with Amaechi over the borrowing, which the House pointed out compromised Nigeria’s sovereignty. Gbajabiamila ordered that the probes be suspended while the House is on recess.

Probably, they would continue when the House reconvenes or may not continue, following the no-sopleasant disclosures that have heralded them. But for the PDP, the move was a means of covering up the sordid details, which it claimed impacted on the integrity of the APC-led Federal Government. Hence, the party asked Gbajabiamila to resign his position; a call that did not sit well with the House and the APC itself.

That led to the altercation last week, with the PDP telling the House to come clean. The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, in a response to the PDP, stated 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. Doguwa said that investigations have not been discontinued as alleged by the PDP, stressing that all these pending investigations will continue as the House reconvenes.

He pointed out that 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. While he pointed out that the probe period for the Chinese loans, for instance, did not cover the APC government only, he said that there were no clandestine plans or motives to cover up any corrupt engagement or business of the government. But the PDP asked the leadership of the House to address the real motives behind the forceful shutdown of committee activities instead of diverting the attention of Nigerians from the issue.

One thing is certain. The probes have opened cans of worms on the activities of some government agencies. Although we are not convinced that the probes, even if concluded successfully, would yield any change in the way government businesses are run in the country, there is no gainsaying that the moves started by the National Assembly in probing the agencies are ones in the right direction. We believe that even if for mere records, the probes should be concluded and recommendations made in relevant directions.

At least, it would be on record that the probes were conducted, concluded and not acted upon. We believe, for example, that the probe into the terms of borrowing from China is highly important for Nigeria. There is a serious need to be sure that Nigeria has not been signing away its future.

It does not matter whether the money was borrowed now or in the past two decades. In the same vein, the probe into the activities of the NDDC is also important. We see no reason why government should be pumping money into a region with no changes in the lives of the people. All those who partook in the NDDC shame need to answer to some questions. We are strongly convinced that whether the PDP brings a political slant to the suspension or not, the leadership of the House owes Nigerians the duty to successfully end the probes by concluding them. The House reconvenes in September.

It is not eternity. We hope that when it returns, the probes would not be sacrificed on the altars of politics. We also think that it is not party time for the PDP itself. There is nothing that exonerates it from the long list of malfeasance that is unfolding in the House. We, therefore, await the resumption of the House to see to the end of the exercises.

 

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