Suspension Of House Committees Activities May Lead To Compromises – PDP Lawmaker

 

Federal lawmaker, Mark Gbillah, on Monday, alleged that the suspension of House Committee activities may derail the fact-finding investigations being embarked on.

The House of Representatives, on August 19, suspended all investigations, public hearings, and committee meetings as well as activities of standing and ad hoc committees until September in order to observe its annual recess.

However, Hon. Gbillah, who spoke while making an appearance on Sunrise Daily, said the suspension of committee meetings would negatively impact on the work of Committees, especially those investigating corruption and impropriety within the Executive.

A file photo of Hon. Mark Gbillah.
A file photo of Hon. Mark Gbillah.

 

“It will impair the investigations significantly,” he said. “We are still in the realm of allegations and speculations, but when a three-week break has been allowed, compromises can be made; people can be appealed to, offers, overtures can be made to those carrying out those investigations. This is Nigeria.”

However, federal lawmaker, Akin Alabi, who also appeared on Sunrise Daily, rubbished Gbillah’s allegations as “purely politics.”

While Gbillah is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alabi Egbeda/Ona-Ara Federal Constituency under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress.

On Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) criticised the leadership of the House of Representatives for frustrating the ongoing investigation of some government officials by going on a recess.

Powers of the Speaker

Hon. Gbillah started his faulting of the recess on Monday by saying the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has no power to suspend the work of a House Committee.

“There are no provisions in our law that give the Speaker that power to suspend the work of a committee,” he said.

“People have complied with it in the spirit of oneness and progress, but it is not out of place for those who espouse the rule of law to question that decision.

“The Speaker is given the power, in consultation with the principal officers, to remove Chairmen. Obviously, some Chairmen will be cautious in going against the order.”

Hon. Alabi disagreed with his colleague’s remarks.

“That’s false,” he said. “It is the tradition of the house not to have Committee meetings during the recess. And that is what’s obtainable in Congresses all over the world.

A file photo of APC lawmaker, Akin Alabi on the floors of the House of Representatives. Credit: Twitter/Sylvester Anosike
A file photo of APC lawmaker, Akin Alabi on the floors of the House of Representatives. Credit: Twitter/Sylvester Anosike

 

“The wisest thing is to pause. We will get back to the House in a couple of weeks, in September. Everybody knew the day of recess for about a month before we went on recess.

However, Hon. Gbillah maintained there was no law giving such powers to the Speaker.

“It is the first time in the history of the National Assembly that I am aware of as a ranking member that, by fiat, the leadership of the House is stopping the statutory activities of Committees,” Gbillah said. “And these activities are backed by a resolution of the House.

“And I personally believe that for any action to rescind the activities of those committees to be tenable, it should come by a resolution of the same House, not by fiat.”

Hon. Alabi noted that there was no need for a special law for the Speaker to be able to suspend a Committee.

“If the Committee Chairman has the power to put a committee on recess, the Speaker, who is the Chairman of all Committees in the House definitely has the power to order all committees on recess.”

Investigating Corruption

House Committees have been at the centre of recent open questioning of public officials, including Federal Ministers.

Last week, in a televised public hearing, Minister of Transporation, Rotimi Amaechi, engaged in heated conversations over details of Nigeria’s financial engagements with the Chinese government.

A House Committee has also been in the middle of investigating financial misappropriation at the Niger-Delta Development Commission.

Hon. Gbillah on Monday suggested that suspending the work of committees could have been motivated by ulterior motives.

“This is a defining moment in the history of this ninth assembly, considering the altercations that the committees, especially of the House of Representatives, have been having with the Executive,” he said.

“This obviously has given credence to the allusions by Nigerians that this is a lame-duck legislature. It now behooves on the leadership to show that it is not a lame-duck leadership.”

Meanwhile, Hon. Alabi insisted that the Speaker has the power to set up committees, dissolve them, or pause their activities.

“There is no need for a special law to say that the Speaker has the power to pause their activities,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be stated in toto.

“This is pure politics. People are trying to destabilise the sanity of the House.”

 

 

Gbajabiamila Unveils Agenda To Tackle Insurgency, Poor Education, COVID-19

Femi Gbajabiamila at a retreat for the leadership and members of the House of Reps in Abuja on July 25, 2020.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has announced a new legislative agenda for the green chamber, in line with the current realities triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gbajabiamila revealed this on Saturday at a retreat for the leadership and members of the House in Abuja.

 

The House came up with its initial Legislative Agenda about a year ago but did not envisage “that the world will soon change drastically, and with consequences beyond our wildest imagination,” the speaker said.

“Before now, the extent of our difficulties was well known to us,” he added. “We have population growth that far outpaces the rate of economic growth. Insecurity has made vast swathes of our country uninhabitable for citizens and unattractive to investment.”

The new agenda, according to him, seeks to tackle the issues of education, insurgency, and others.

“We are at war, fighting insurgents in the North East who want to remake our world in the image of a medieval theocracy,” he said.

The lawmaker decried the fact that schools do not teach the realities of the modern world as it pertains to our reality, noting that “we are producing graduates who cannot compete in the 21st-century knowledge economy.”

NDDC Saga: Security Beefed Up At NASS Ahead Of Akpabio’s Appearance Before Cmte

A file photo of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

 

Security presence was increased at the National Assembly on Monday ahead of the appearance of Senator Godswill Akpabio before the House of Representatives committee on Nigeria Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The committee is probing alleged financial misappropriation at the development agency.

Akpabio, who is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has been accused, by former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh, of corruption and sexual harassment.

He has denied the accusations.

Nunieh appeared before the Reps committee on Friday via teleconferencing.

READ ALSO: Kolawole Johnson Gives Critical Testimony Against NDDC Officials

It is not clear yet whether Akpabio will appear in person or via electronic means.

According to Channels Television correspondent, Terry Ikumi, the committee will be focused on the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Current acting Managing Director of the agency, Daniel Pondei, is also expected to appear before the committee today.

The session is scheduled to start at 11 am.

Judge Excuses Self From Suit Challenging Passage Of Infectious Disease Bill

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

A judge of the Federal High Court Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, has excused himself from the hearing of a suit filed by the Action Peoples Party challenging the proposed passage of the Infectious Disease Bill pending before the House of Representatives over what he describes as misrepresentation of facts in the matter.

After expressing his displeasure, he withdrew from the matter and returned the case file to the chief judge for re-assignment.

Read Also: Infectious Disease Bill: Court Fixes June 15 For Definite Hearing

The bill seeks to empower the Federal Government to convert any property in the country, including private properties, to isolation centres.

It also seeks to empower the government to, upon mere suspicion that a person is infected with an infectious disease, arrest and detain the person for as long as necessary among other things.

Sexual Violence: Reps Vote Against Castration As Punishment For Rapists

 

The House of Representatives has voted against a prayer seeking to recommend castration as punishment for rapists.

The House, at the plenary on Thursday, rejected the motion which was earlier recommended by a member, Mr James Faleke.

Faleke had recommended that persons found guilty of rape should be castrated.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Man Over Rape Of 70-Year-Old Woman In Ogun

Following the rising cases of sexual violence in Nigeria, the lawmakers also asked the Inspector General of Police to immediately commence an investigation into the cases of Uwa Omozuwa, Tina Ezekwe, the reported rape of a minor in Jigawa state, as well as all other reported cases of violence against women.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, described the rise in these cases as sick, despicable and an ungodly act which cuts across all gender.

The House was reacting to a motion of urgent public importance by Representative Rotimi Agunsoye, on the need to condemn the rising cases of sexual violence and other social vices against women and police brutality.

The lawmakers also urged the Federal Government to launch a more effective campaign against rape and other violence against women and girls.

NCDC DG Reacts To Reps Two Weeks Planned Recess Over COVID-19

 

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has asked the House of Representatives not to suspend plenary over coronavirus.

Lawmakers on Tuesday, passed a resolution to suspend plenary for two weeks to enable the management of the National Assembly, put measures in place against the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The NCDC boss stressed that the time hasn’t come for such because it will create panic amongst Nigerians.

Dr Ihekweazu who was on Channels Television Sunrise Daily urged the lawmakers to support the efforts of experts by providing a budget that is sustainable in curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“I have a lot of respect for the honourable members of the House of Representatives, but I think the time now hasn’t come, if they respond in a way like that by suspending session, everyone else will ask if they should close their businesses, office or schools and it is disproportionate at this time.

“They should support the work experts are doing; give us a sustainable budget so that we can develop the expertise.”

READ ALSO: Why Reps May Suspend Plenary For Two Weeks Over Coronavirus – Spokesman

The NCDC boss asked the lawmakers to show confidence in the government institutions that they have set up by providing support for the work being done.

“It’s too early to carry out a measure like that; they need to express by their actions and their words, confidence in the government institutions that they have set up and their mandate is to fund.

“I understand they are expressing the anxieties of Nigerians, but they should please support the works we are doing both in the short and long-term.”

Dr IhekweazuM while responding to a question on cures for the diseases said: “Cures are found through collective scientific effort and not from my mother’s pot in the village.”

Why Reps May Suspend Plenary For Two Weeks Over Coronavirus – Spokesman

A cross-section of lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber in Abuja.

 

 

The House of Representatives has clarified the controversy on the planned suspension of plenary over coronavirus.

In a statement on Tuesday, the spokesman for the House, Benjamin Kalu, said the lawmakers have yet to proceed with the decision to suspend plenary.

He explained that the lawmakers, during plenary, considered a motion on the urgent need for emergency response and need to contain the deadly virus in the country.

According to Kalu, the motion was thoroughly debated and passed while some of the prayers included the need for the leadership of the National Assembly to set up an ad-hoc committee to liaise with the relevant health agencies to ensure efforts to combat the virus were intensified.

He said the House also called for a better orientation of the disease by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, through relevant media outfits to keep Nigerians abreast of the situation.

“An amendment to the prayers of the motion calling on the House to suspend plenary for two weeks to work and contribute its legislative efforts by helping to sensitise constituents on the coronavirus and how it is being handled was also adopted,” the lawmaker revealed.

He added, “The amendment also urged the management of the National Assembly to put measures in place to ensure the virus does not find a place to fester in the National Assembly.

“It is, however, necessary to clarify that the two weeks suspension of plenary has not commenced and is subject to reconsideration by the House.”

Kalu said the leadership of the House would meet and consider the arrangement necessary before a date would be fixed for the sensitisation of constituents by their respective lawmakers.

He noted that the business of law making would continue on Wednesday.

Reps Set To Deliberate On Challenges Of Out-Of-School Children

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives has set aside March 12 to extensively debate on the challenges associated with out-of-school children in the country.

They made the decision during plenary on Wednesday, adding that no other matter is expected to be debated on that day.

According to the reps, this is part of the legislative agenda of the House, to pay more attention to the education sector.

Late last year, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, had lamented that Nigeria has the world’s highest figure of out-of-school children – a record which he says is not enviable.

“The majority of these out-of-school children are in the northern part of Nigeria. And this is the highest in the world. It is not an enviable position,” he said.


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He also noted that the government is making efforts to ensure that all out-of-school children return to school, stressing that it is not a privilege but a right that the government owes them.

“These out-of-school children are our responsibility. We owe them, because it is not a privilege, it is their right to be in school. We shouldn’t allow them to continue to stray in the street.

“Whether we call them Almajiri or not, these are the leaders of tomorrow and there is going to be a widening gap if such people are left uneducated. They will also contribute security challenge to us if they have not already,” Lawan said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed its readiness to partner with Google global services to educate 56 million out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Also, as part of efforts to consolidate the free and compulsory primary and secondary school education policy, the Kano State Government has banned street begging by Almajiri children in the state.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje gave the order on Tuesday, February 25, during the launch of the Basic Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) and the Distribution of Offer of Appointment to 7,500 volunteer teachers, held at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kofar Mata.

He also stressed that parents or guardians of children still found out-of-school, would be taken to court.

Rep Threatens To Resign Over Security Situation In North-East

Rep Ahmadu Jaha

 

A lawmaker from Borno State, Ahmadu Jaha has threatened to resign over the security situation in the northeast.

Jaha is representing Damboa/Gwoza/Chibok in the House of Representatives.

During plenary on Tuesday, he threatened to resign and accused the military of creating super camps to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: We Must Fix The Nigeria Police, Restore Public Confidence – Gbajabiamila

According to him, this exposes innocent civilians to the Boko Haram attacks.

Jaha added that the soldiers simply wait in the super camps to repel the attacks of the insurgents, instead of taking the battle to them.

The lawmaker insisted that the security chiefs must be sacked.

Members of the House of Representatives had earlier called on the service chiefs to resign their positions.

This was part of the resolutions reached on January 29, after the lawmakers had a debate on the nation’s security.

A member of the House, Abubakar Fulata, had informed his colleagues in the chamber that the service chiefs had outlived their usefulness.

According to him, it will be to the detriment of the country if these men keep doing the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result in tackling the security challenges Nigeria is grappling with.

Reps Ask FG To Recruit More Supreme Court Justices

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution to urge the Federal Government to recruit more justices of the Supreme Court.

According to the lawmakers, this is to speed up the dispensation of justice in the country.

The motion was raised as a matter of urgent public importance by the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke.

READ ALSO: Are You Midwives Of Good Things For Nigeria? Lumumba Asks NASS

In leading the debate, Onofiok said the number of Supreme Court Justices was reduced to 18 and he is aware another Justice is due for retirement.

“Currently, there are 13 Supreme Court justices which cannot constitute two panels, as seven justices are required by the constitution to form a panel,” he said.

He added that the full complement of the Supreme Court should be 21 Justices and if more are not appointed soon, the pressure of delivering Justice may overburden the rest.

The motion was voted on and adopted.

Reps Condemn Diversion Of Flights To Other African Countries

Some lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja on February 18, 2020. Photo: Twitter- @HouseNGR.

 

 

The House of Representatives has condemned the recent increase in diversion of international flights by foreign airlines to neighbouring African countries.

Debating a motion during Tuesday’s plenary, the lawmakers described the incident as an embarrassment to the country.

They were worried that despite the acquisition of the Instrument Landing System, the equipment have yet to be installed.

READ ALSO: Minister Speaks About Flight Diversions, Cancellations At Lagos Airport

According to the lawmakers, the airlines cited poor landing equipment at the nation’s airports as the reason for the diversions.

The House, therefore, mandated its Committee on Aviation to liaise with the relevant agencies to ensure that all the acquired landing equipment were installed at the designated airports without further delay.

The committee was also asked to ensure that compensation was paid to the passengers who were compelled to part with more money for accommodation and their flights back to their original destination.

The committee has been directed to report back within two weeks.

Security: Take The Battle To These Criminals, Gbajabiamila Tells Service Chiefs

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaks during a meeting in Abuja on February 5, 2020.

 

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has asked the armed forces to take the battle to the criminals in their hideouts, in a bid to tackle the security challenges in the country.

He stated this on Wednesday when he met with the service chiefs and the joint House Committees on ‎Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.

Those present included Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

The meeting comes one week after the House and the Senate dedicated a whole day to debate the issue of insecurity in the country, with the lawmakers calling for the resignation of the service chiefs.

According to the speaker, security is a priority of the 9th House of Representatives and will be addressed frontally.

He told the service chiefs that Nigerians were on the necks of their representatives in the House over the security situation in the country.

Gbajabiamila noted that although the service chiefs were doing a lot, the anxiety among Nigerians was enough reason for the military commanders to redouble their efforts.

He said, “I thought I should be here to encourage everybody that we’re all on the same page. We all know the situation in Nigeria today, we can’t hide from it; we can’t shy away from it, we cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist.

“We spent practically the whole day on Wednesday (last week) discussing the security situation in Nigeria as expected. Simultaneously, the Senate was doing the same thing without us comparing notes.”

The lawmaker decried that people were dying daily in such a way he said could only be found in countries without security forces.

He stressed, ‎”We must think outside the box; we must take the battle to these criminals whatever they are‎.

“As I said at the State House the other day, Nigerians are anxious, but I do understand the limitations of the Armed Forces.”

Gbajabiamila, however, commended the service chiefs, as well as men and women of the Armed Forces for doing their best and sacrificing their lives for the country.

He promised that the House would continue to engage the armed forces to find a lasting solution to the security challenges.

The speaker assured the service chiefs of improved support of the lawmakers, highlighting funding, equipment, and recruitment of personnel as some of the challenges they face.

“I believe the committee is well equipped to handle these issues. This is our priority. It’s the government’s priority, and it should also be our priority in the House.

“It’s major in our legislative agenda and we must address it frontally, squarely,” he said.