Congress formally opened a new, public phase of its presidential investigation on Thursday as US lawmakers voted for the first time to advance the impeachment process against Donald Trump.
“Today, the House takes the next step forward as we establish the procedures for open hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said shortly before the vote.
The chamber voted largely along party lines, 232 to 196, to formalize the process, which also provides for opportunities for Trump’s counsel to cross-examine witnesses.
The Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives has condemned what it described as “overt lawlessness” in Kogi State, saying the impeachment of the Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba and the swearing-in of Edward Onoja in his place was “unknown to the laws of the land”.
The Caucus, which made their position known in a statement signed by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, and made available to newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, warned the people of Kogi to brace of up for a “more oppressive and rapacious mode of governance if Governor Bello and the APC were allowed to force a minority government on the people once again”.
They said: “Our understanding of that government in Lugard House is that of one given to an unabashed, unrepentant, and a rapacious breach of the people’s will. The so-called removal of the Deputy Governor is the height of unhinged travesty. It is impunity taken too far. It is neither known to law nor the Constitution of Nigeria and cannot be allowed to stand.
“By the purported removal of the Deputy Governor despite a ‘not guilty’ verdict returned by the Impeachment Panel, it is self-evident that these people are no respecters of law. The travesty is of no consequence for it imposes a defacto and not a dejure Deputy on the people of Kogi State and can only be short-lived.
“The good news is that the blundering government will soon have its day in the court of public opinion on November 16 and we trust the people of Kogi to pass an overwhelming Vote of No Confidence in the government and remove the incompetent and overbearing minority contraption from their Government House.
“For emphasis, we are by this statement placing a caveat emptor on both the Certificate of Occupancy and occupant of Lugard House. The people of Kogi should beware, for if the Governor could unleash this magnitude of abuse of power, hunger, and impunity in his first term, knowing he would face the people at the polls, how much more highhanded and vicious would he get in his second term?”
The Caucus called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to, in the meantime, apply the leash on the reckless abuse of power in the State as democracy could only survive by the sanctity of the rule of law.
There was division among members of the House of Representatives on Thursday over a bill seeking to urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties in the country.
Those listed for deregistration are political parties who failed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly or a State House of Assembly in the last general elections.
While some of the lawmakers questioned the powers of INEC to deregister the political parties, others were of the opinion that it was necessary to investigate whether or not such powers existed.
They also stressed the need to ascertain why the electoral body has yet to deregister the political parties in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Mr Francis Uduyok from Akwa Ibom moved the motion calling on INEC to implement Section 78(7, ii) of the Electoral Act.
In the absence of the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, presided over the final plenary for the week.
After the motion was moved, the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, raised a point of order on the powers of the electoral body to which the deputy speaker agreed.
However, another lawmaker Mr Toby Okechukwu (Enugu) raised a counter-point of order, but Mr Wase disagreed him.
This led to the division among members of House while the motion was eventually stepped down.
Reps Probe Crude Oil Theft
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the quantity of crude oil stolen on a daily basis and those accountable for the theft.
They took the decision after Mr Chukwuma Umeoji from Anambra State raised concerns over the economic loss suffered in the country due to the crime.
The House noted that Nigeria loses about N5 trillion annually as a result of the crime, adding that N1.3 trillion worth of crude oil was stolen in the Niger Delta region since the beginning of 2019.
It directed the ad-hoc committee to determine the volume of oil extracted and the quantity of oil sold in the country and report back to the House in eight weeks.
House Moves To Rename Fire Service
In another development, a bill for an act to repeal the Fire Service Act of 2004 scaled through second reading in the House during Thursday’s plenary.
The bill was sponsored by Mr Dachung Bagos from Plateau State.
It seeks to change the name of the agency from Fire Service to Fire and Rescue Service, to enable the service to carry out rescue services and not just firefighting.
The bill enjoyed the support of the lawmakers who agreed that in keeping with changing trends, it was necessary to upgrade the fire service to save not only property but lives as well.
It was, thereafter, referred to the Committee on Interior for a public hearing.
The House has adjourned till Wednesday next week, October 1 for the commemoration of the Independence Day billed to hold on October 1.
A member of the House from Bauchi State, Mr Mansur Soro, had raised the motion in which stressed the need to improve the process.
He noted that the annual budget plays a crucial role in economic management and development policies of any nation.
Soro believes it is the main mechanism of fiscal policy and the tool through which government could stabilise and influence the economic direction of a country.
According to him, the standard global public sector budgetary practice requires the implementation of a defined budgetary framework synchronised with timelines, or a standardised budgetary calendar to reduce uncertainties and promote compliance and coordination.
The lawmaker decried the situation where Nigeria’s budget process perennially experiences delays despite the efforts of all relevant entities involved in the budgeting process.
He added that budget delay impacts negatively on economic growth, as a 2018 study shows that 100 days delay in its implementation tends to depress the economy by at least 2.5 per cent.
Soro was also worried that the nation’s experience of prolonged budget process has imposed substantial economic costs on the public and private sectors of the economy.
He was concerned that such a delay has led to poor budget implementation, adding that it has a direct correlation to poor service delivery in the public service.
The delay, according to the lawmaker, introduces opacity into the budget process, leading to the induced diversion of public funds and resources, as well as corruption which has become the scourge of society.
He said the foreign and domestic private sector investment was adversely affected due to uncertainty in the strategic direction of the government.
The House of Representatives has approved a bill seeking to prohibit age discrimination against job seekers in Federal Government agencies.
The lawmakers approved the bill during plenary on Wednesday at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.
According to the sponsor and Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Mr Edward Pwajok, the bill seeks to ensure that no citizen is deprived of employment on the basis of age.
He explained that it seeks to eradicate the age barrier preventing youths from being gainfully employed in government agencies.
The lawmaker decried the situation where competent young men and women have been unable to get a job just because they graduated from university at the age of 25.
“We think that it will be unfair to deny them of the right to being employed only on the ground that because they have kept on applying for work, they will be denied the opportunity of contributing their own quota to national development,” he said.
He, however, stated that the bill exempted the security agencies, including the Nigerian Armed Forces and other paramilitary agencies where there may be requirements for some rigorous physical exercises.
The House of Representatives has given President Muhammadu Buhari 48 hours to address the nation over the spate of killings in the country.
This was part of the resolutions reached by lawmakers in the House when the matter came up during Thursday’s plenary.
They agreed that the President should address them and the nation regarding the attacks on communities in Benue, Zamfara, Kaduna, and other states where many people were killed and several others displaced.
Should the President fail to respond to the request, the lawmakers resolved to conclude with other Nigerians that he and his administration were incapable of permanently curtailing the incessant killing of innocent Nigerians.
They also agreed that the failure to address the nation would mean that the President and his administration have failed in their primary constitutional responsibility of ensuring the security and welfare of the citizens.
The House resolved to constitute an ad-hoc committee to interface with the Presidency regarding the request.
The committee, according to it, will also engage the Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, and service chief among others, in a public hearing to find permanent solutions to the killings.
The resolutions were agreed on following a matter of urgent public importance raised by a member from Benue State, Mr Mark Gbillah.
The lawmaker had alleged that bandits and suspected killer herdsmen have gradually progressed from attacking remote villages at night to sacking whole towns at broad daylight while the security forces were unable to curb their activities.
After a series of deliberation on the matter, the lawmakers resolved that the President should brief the nation on the alleged inability of his administration to declare the “killer herdsmen” as terrorists.
They also faulted the alleged inability of the security agencies to stop what they termed “recurring death of scores of innocent Nigerians annually from systematic attacks by killer herdsmen and alleged bandits.”
The house claimed that there were “selective and ineffective” responses to the killing of Nigerians, especially when they occur in certain parts of the country.
They demanded to know the immediate measures the President was taking to provide the security agencies with the required resources to confront and dislodge the criminals from their hideouts.
They also called for the establishment of permanent security presence in immediate proximity to affected communities and the provision of a timeline within which the attacks would be curtailed.
See the resolutions reached by the lawmakers below:
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has made recoveries totalling over N117 billion since the beginning of 2019.
The acting EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, who disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja, said the commission recovered N239.16 in 2018.
Mr Magu made the disclosure during his appearance before the House Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, to give an appraisal of EFCC’s 2018 budget performance and defend its 2019 budget proposal.
He also revealed that the anti-graft agency obtained 313 convictions in 2018 while more than 190 convictions have been secured since January 2019.
“In the first quarter of 2019 financial year, the commission made recoveries which include cash recovery of N140.7 million, direct deposit of N2.021 billion, tax recoveries of N7.20 billion, subsidy recovery – N3.06 billion, and USD recovery of $292 million,” the EFCC chairman said.
He added, “In the course of the year 2018 financial year, the commission obtained 313 convictions across its offices. It interesting to know that the commission has also obtained 192 convictions from January 2019 to date.”
Magu, however, identified incomplete budgetary releases as a major reason for the inability of the agency to meet its needs and obligations.
He appealed to the House Committee to increase the budgetary allocation for the EFCC in 2019, in order to carry out its duties effectively.
The Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Mr Modibbo Hamman-Tukur, also appeared before the committee to defend the budget of the agency.
He outlined some of the objectives the NFIU has to meet following the lifting of Nigeria’s suspension from the Egmont Group.
Hamman-Tukur informed the lawmakers that the 2019 budgetary proposal for the agency was insufficient as it needed adequate funds to effectively carry out its role.
The Chairman of the House Committee, Kayode Oladele, promised the EFCC and NFIU that the lawmakers would consider their requests.
Earlier, he welcomed them to what he said was the last defence session of the 8th National Assembly and gave an overview of the committee’s work.
The House of Representatives has held an investigative hearing into the suspension of the board of directors of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) allegedly by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Mr Dan Asuquo, presided over the session which took place on Wednesday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
He said the meeting was convened to tackle critical issues, including the operations and administrations of major stakeholders in the power sector.
The lawmaker emphasised the relationship between the sector and national development towards the prosperity of the nation.
He said, “If we are to grow as a people and deliver on our promises as a great nation, we just must fix the power sector.
“There is no other path to national growth and this is why we (the National Assembly) are passionate in playing our role as troubleshooters in the Nigerian electricity supply industry and to continually put off the fires here and there that threaten its growth and even its existence as a whole.”
Asuquo noted that the legislature would continue to intervene wherever issues that have adverse implications on the health and growth of the sector arise.
He highlighted the case of the suspension of “all executive and non-executive directors of IBEDC as one of such instances.
The committee chairman stressed that the Independent Power Producers (IPP) needs to consolidate the positions in the new post-reform market, saying a complicated market calls for an all-inclusive engagement from stakeholders.
He observed that it was on this note that the order of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) purportedly dissolving the board of the IBEDC came as a source of concern to the National Assembly and Nigerians at large.
The lawmaker added that this prompted the House of Representatives to direct its Committee on Power to wade into the crisis with the aim of ensuring that the free market was protected.
While welcoming the officials of NERC, IBEDC, and others present at the session, he criticised the situation where the Minister of Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and officials from the ministry were absent.
Speaker of the House, Mr Yakubu Dogara, also informed the gathering that the session was convened following a motion brought before that House in which there were allegations of an unlawful act against IBEDC by NERC.
Dogara, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Alhassan Doguwa, noted that the electricity sector occupies a prime position in the nation’s economy and the well-being of its people.
He described the sector as the bedrock on which a sustainable economic development is built, saying it contributes immensely to the prosperity of a nation.
The Speaker recalled that the House had set up an ad-hoc committee in June to investigate an alleged breach of constitution by an electricity company in the Niger Delta region, while another was set up to curb excessive estimated electricity charges levied on consumers by electricity distribution companies.
He, however, said the decision of the NERC was not in line with the law and there were concerns that regulatory best practices might have been compromised or violated in the process.
Dogara also noted that such move was capable of scaring away genuine investors from the country, saying the essence of the investigation was to enable the lawmakers to arrive at the real fact of the matter.
But the hearing suffered a setback when the Chairman of NERC, Professor James Momoh, informed the matter that they were not at liberty to speak on the matter as it was already in court.
Professor Momoh said, “IBEDC had filed a suit in the Federal High Court, Abuja, and we were served this order on June 27, 2018. Based on the letter sent to IBEDC on June 19, 2018, parties have appeared in court and the case is still in court. We have been advised that this hearing will be considered to be against the court order.”
He noted that the court had fixed October 15 to hear the matter while all parties were asked to wait for the court to determine the next action.
The NERC Chairman, however, said they have submitted a detailed report which captures the position of the commission to the House Committee.
In his response, the Committee Chairman said the NERC was not only answerable to the Nigerian people but also to its parliament, stressing that the organisation came into existence by the act of parliament.
He then clarified that the session was not to interfere with the court process but to ensure that the laws made by the National Assembly were properly adhered to while the heads of various organisation act within the limit of the law.
Asuquo consequently directed that the session return into an executive session behind closed-door, saying the second part of the motion which brought about the hearing stated that they should investigate the stability of the market itself.
The House of Representatives has passed a vote of no confidence in the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
The lawmakers took the decision on Thursday in Abuja after the minister failed to attend a debate on steel development in Nigeria.
The decision followed a motion sponsored by the Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos State), during a plenary session at the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly in the nation’s capital.
They equally passed a vote of no confidence on the Minister of State for Solid Minerals Development, Mr Abubakar Bwari, who was also absent at the gathering.
The failure of the ministers to attend the debate sparked an outrage on the part of members of the Lower Chamber who resolved to set up an investigative committee to probe the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun is also absent at the gathering, but she is expected to attend the debate later in the day.
Sectoral Debate is an initiative of the 8th House of Representatives encapsulated in the Legislative Agenda introduced by Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, with the aim of reviving Nigeria’s economy.
The first phase of the debates held in May 2016 and was attended by some ministers in the chambers of the House with a view to making them more efficient and effective.
The House resumed the debates with a special focus on the steel sector, and specifically, on how to revive the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company in Kogi State.
Top players in the sector and major stakeholders expected to attend the gathering include ministers, top government bureaucrats, members of the Ajaokuta community, experts and other stakeholders.
Expected participants are the Ohinoyi of Ebira land, Ado Ibrahim; Chairman of Ajaokuta Local Government, representatives of workers’ union, as well as experts in mines and steel among others.
A motion on the proposed $1billion to be drawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight the Boko Haram insurgency generated an intense debate on Thursday on the floor of the House of Representatives in Abuja.
The motion, which led to a divided House, seeks to ensure that the 13% derivation due to the oil producing states is deducted from the amount before it is given.
Benefitting states include Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Abia, Imo, Ondo, Anambra and Lagos.
On December 14, 2017, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum approved the deduction of $1billion by the Federal Government from the Excess Crude Account to fight insurgency during the meeting of the National Economic Council.
The decision had sparked mixed reactions while some governor, including Mr Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, rejected the approval and demanded their own share of the fund.
Leading a debate on the matter today, Ken Chikere from Rivers State told the House that while no amount was too small to spend for peace in the county, the provision of the Constitution must be obeyed for the sake of equity.
He urged his colleagues to ensure that the 13 per cent derivation fund was deducted and paid to the oil producing states as it would be needed to tackle some of their major challenges.
But his counterpart from Kaduna State, Shehu Mona, had a different opinion and disagreed with the motion.
Mona asked the lawmakers to consider the fact that fighting Boko Haram is not a regional problem and, therefore, the motion should be looked at from that point of view.
On his part, Henry Archibong from Akwa Ibom raised a point of order in Section 80 (2), asking if the money had been approved by the National Assembly.
The Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, responded that the issue was not relevant at that point.
Also reacting, Aliyu Patigi (Kwara State) believes the motion relates to accounting and stated that it would be in addition to other charges if the President was requesting for $1billion.
Speaker Dogara then informed the House that the State Houses of Assembly would have to endorse a resolution giving the Federal Government approval to spend the money.
After further deliberation, the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Emmanuel Orker Jev, advised that the motion was stepped down as it was deprived of adequate information.
His position was, however, countered by Nnenna Ukeje from Abia State while the Speaker stepped down the motion.
Dogara consequently directed the House Committee on Finance to look into the matter and report back within four weeks.
The committee is expected to ascertain the actual amount in the Excess Crude Account and the amount due to the different parts of the Federating Units.
The House of Representatives has resolved to invite heads of the Nigerian Customs Service and the Directorate of State Security (DSS) to brief the lawmakers on plans to address the menace of small arms and light weapons.
The resolution, which was made on Wednesday at the Lower Chambers of the National Assembly, was in a bid to curb the influx of small arms and light weapons into the country.
It is coming at a time when the Customs seized 2,671 pump-action rifles smuggled into the country between January and September this year.
One of the members of the House from Anambra State, Honourable Obinna Chidoka, who sponsored the motion, said urgent steps must be taken by the Federal Government to curb the trend.
Some of his colleagues Betty Apiafi (River State), Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (Abia State), and Henry Ofongo (Bayelsa State) supported the motion with their various contributions.
The House further urged the Customs and the DSS, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, to speed up investigation into the shipment of arms and commence prosecution of the culprits involved.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate considered the same issue during Wednesday’s plenary.
This is just as a bill seeking to provide for the destruction of illegally imported firearms passed a second reading at the Upper House.
The motion was sponsored by Senator Gbolahan Dada of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Ogun State.
Senate President Bukola Saraki also supported the bill after which it was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary Human Rights and Legal Matters.