The House of Representatives has denied apologising to President Muhammadu Buhari for inviting him to brief the nation on the security challenges in the country.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, made the position of the House known in a statement on Sunday.
“It has come to the knowledge of the House that few sections of the media reported that the House apologised to the Presidency over the resolution of the House which arose from the motion sponsored by members from Borno State, requesting for the invitation of the President to brief the nation on the state of insecurity in the country.
“The President or the Presidency as the case may be, never sought for an apology from the House of Representatives for carrying out her constitutional responsibility to the Nigerian electorate,” he said.
Kalu’s statement was in reaction to a purported report that the lawmakers had apologised to the President for inviting him.
This comes on the heels of an invitation extended to President Buhari by the House to brief them on the security situation in the country.
The lawmakers had invited him following the killing of over 40 farmers by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State.
Two days before he was expected to appear before the lawmakers, President Buhari said he would honour the invitation but did not show up.
Thereafter, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called for the impeachment of the President but the House distanced itself from it.
Reacting to the claim that the House apologised to the President, Kalu insisted that nothing of such happened.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the House never apologised to anyone for exercising her constitutional mandate and the 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, will not do anything to desecrate or destroy the critical institution of democracy – the Legislature.
“We strongly believe that President Muhammadu Buhari subscribes to these democratic ethos and ideals as well,” he said.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for the full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019.
The Speaker said the full implementation of the law could address issues of discrimination, empowerment and equal opportunity for Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWSs) in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Chairman of the newly-created House Committee on Disabilities, Rep. Miriam Onuoha, spoke on Friday during the celebration of the 2020 World Disability Day hosted by the Office of the Speaker.
The event was also attended by a virtual audience that included Barrister Bolarinwa, Senior Counsel, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Dr Ifeanyi Chikunie and others.
Gbajabiamila noted that though it’s often what happened, disability of any kind should not take away from the dignity of the individual or take away the right to dream big dreams or hinder the achievement of grand ambitions.
“This is because we have designed our societies, our governments and our systems of policymaking and implementation without considering the rights, hopes and prayers of our less-abled brethren”, Gbajabiamila noted.
The Speaker, while expressing sadness over the inability of the government to meet the objectives of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act that became law in 2019, said it had become imperative for all stakeholders to ensure that the letters of the law were implemented without delay.
He said: “When the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition), Act became law in 2019, it was the cause of much joy because we had such high expectations. Those expectations have not been met because we have not fully set up the infrastructure to support the full implementation of the law.
“It is now our joint responsibility to make sure that we do all that is required to bring this law to life so that all our nation’s people can receive the protections they deserve. And just as importantly, make sure that no citizen of Nigeria will ever again be deprived of the opportunity to live a full life due to disability of whatever kind.
“I hope that in our conversations today, we will speak freely about how we can work together across government and outside to achieve the ambitions that motivated this vital legislation”.
In his presentation, Barrister Bolarinwa said the issue of inclusion was germane to the PLWDs, noting that the Act would address the challenge of discrimination against them
He, however, emphasized that to address the discrimination issue, public and private sectors should not design special programmes and policies for PLWDs.
He suggested that issues of concern to these special people should be mainstreamed into the general programmes for everyone.
“Let them have access to every programme”, he said.
On his part, Dr. Chikunie said the coronavirus pandemic had dealt a big blow to the PLWDs and as such, they should be integrated into the society, empowered, and their skills developed for economic and self-reliance.
He said programmes that could lead to the realization of these goals should be developed by governments and private organizations.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Special Assistant to the Speaker on Special Needs and Equal Opportunities, Abdulsalam Kamaldeen, noted that the negative perception by the public was even more damaging to the PLWDs than their disabilities.
The highlight of the celebration was the presentation of scholarships to six students from Government Secondary Schools, Sherati and Gosa as well as the LEA Primary Schools, Karamanjiji and Kuchigoro by the Chief of Staff to the Speaker, Hon. Sanusi Rikiji.
Six PLWDs, an amputee and another with needs for calliper, among others, were also gifted with special sponsorship for their needs.
The lawmaker stated that the bill was presented to the Presidency for assent to be granted but that was not the case.
He praised the vision of the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who engaged the Presidency to ensure it succeeded this time.
In his contribution, the Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Musa Adar, stated that the PIB came at a time when Nigeria cannot afford to lose scarce resources, especially as a direct fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He believes with the discovery of oil in different African countries, Nigeria needs to develop an oil sector that will ensure maximum profitability which will create wealth for the nation and its people.
The lawmaker added that this would reduce the agitation and unrest in parts of the sparked by what he termed social inequality.
On his part, the House Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, stated that the PIB was long overdue as it sought to institutionalise good governance, ease of doing business, as well as the expunging of sharp practices in the oil sector.
”The world is looking to go green in less than 20 years… and it makes it pertinent for Nigeria to gain maximally from the oil sector and look to explore other oil products before petroleum goes obsolete as a commodity,” he said.
Amending The Electoral Act
After a series of deliberations on the bill, it passed the second reading and was referred to the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House on PIB for further legislative scrutiny.
Thereafter, Aishatu Dukku from Gombe State moved a motion for the second reading of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and it was seconded by her colleague from Akwa Ibom State, Onofiok Luke.
Dukku informed the House that the amendment of the bill became necessary to address the anomalies in the nation’s electoral system.
The Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, on her part, was worried that 48 hours might be too short for political parties to substitute a candidate who died in a bye-election with a credibly vetted replacement.
In his response, Speaker Gbajabiamila gave an assurance that the section of the replacement in the bill would be looked into.
While another lawmaker, Muhammad Wudil, requested an explicit explanation of the time needed to elapse for the cancellation of elections at any given poll when a card reader failed to work, Robert Tyough called for the use of proper technology in the conduct of elections to reduce human errors.
For Olumide Osoba, there should be a distinction between the roles played by parties, agents, candidates, and the electorate, while Onofiok called for the strengthening of electronic voting and the cancellation of over-voting results.
However, Speaker Gbajabiamila stated that electronic voting may fail in rural areas and the votes of the people there must be made to count.
Like the PIB, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was voted for and passed the second reading.
It was also referred to the House Committee on Electoral Amendments for further action.
Jigawa State Governor, Badaru Abubakar has presented the 2021 budget of N156 billion to the State House of Assembly.
The budget which is titled “Budget of Sustained Economic Growth and Social Transformation – Meeting the Next Level Agenda II,” is 2.4% and 29% higher than the original and revised 2020.
According to the governor, N78.241 billion which is an almost a 50:50 ratio is for capital investment and N78.34bn was earmarked for recurrent expenditure which creates room for contingency and stabilization.
In the budget, Education got N36.4% while Health received 13.5% of the said translating to N78.25bn.
Roads and electricity consisting of critical infrastructure got N14.6bn with all ongoing roads and rural electrification to be completed and commissioned.
The governor proposed N6, 040,000,000 for water supply and sanitation which will cover components of water sanitation sectors comprising of urban, small towns, and rural supply.
“Emphasis will be given to Greater Dutse water supply, scheme, and improvement of water supply scheme in local governments’ headquarters of the state,” he said.
He also explained that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development earmarked N12.1bn in addition to counterpart funding for the Agricultural Development Projects of about N6.5billion, Ministry of Women Affairs got N1.7bn and Ministry of Information N1.9bn respectively.
On his part, the Speaker of the House, Idris Garba Jahun, said that the budget would be given the inputs it deserves for easy passage, adding that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government has achieved a lot in the implementation of the 2020 budget.
While assuring that the parliament will pass the budget into law within the stipulated time, he commended his colleagues for the cordial working relationship with the executive arm of government.
The House of Representatives has asked the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to publish the names of the members of the National Assembly who got contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Spokesman for the House and Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, said this in a statement on Tuesday.
He noted that the minister had alleged that 60 percent of all the NDDC projects were awarded to members of the lawmakers between the months of January and May 2020.
Kalu explained that following the claim, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Akpabio to publish a list of the lawmakers.
He decried that rather than doing as instructed, the minister wrote to the Speaker of the House, adding that the content of the letter was irrelevant to the issues raised.
The House spokesman revealed that the lawmakers were already evaluating the minister’s letter and the directive to press charges against him have not been lifted.
He said if the letter does not address the issues raised, it would be sent to the court for clearance as the speaker had stated.
Kalu, therefore, urged Nigerians to continue to ask the right questions as to what happened to the N81.5 billion said to have been mismanaged by the NDDC in six months.
Read the full statement below:
SEN. AKPABIO’S PERSONAL LETTER TO THE SPEAKER EXONERATES THE 9TH HOUSE BUT FAILS TO MEET THE ULTIMATUM, THE MINISTER IS INVITED TO PUBLISH THE LIST AS INSTRUCTED
Following a motion unanimously adopted by the House, an investigation was ordered into the activities and financial malfeasance of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and its Interim Management Committee (IMC) between the periods of January to May 2020.
In a coordinated and calculated attempt to distract Nigerians from the ongoing investigation, the Minister of NDDC and the leadership of the IMC raised spurious allegations against members of the National Assembly.
The Minister claimed under oath that 60% of all the NDDC projects under investigation were awarded to members of the House between the months of January and May 2020.
Following this disturbing allegation, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister to publish a list of the legislators allegedly awarded 60% of the entire projects of NDDC between January and May 2020.
Instead of publishing the list for the world to see in the interest of transparency, the Minister in his usual diversionary tactics, chose to send an irrelevant 8-paragraph private letter to the Speaker regarding projects of 2018 which pre-date the 9th House of Representatives and had little to do with the bogus claims he made.
The House, therefore, reiterates that the Minister was given an ultimatum to publish names and not to write a personal letter to the Speaker. The Honourable Minister is hereby cautioned to desist from spinning tales and is invited to go public as instructed.
Nevertheless, it will interest Nigerians to know that paragraph 3 of the Minister’s letter fully exonerated the 9th Assembly. Also, in paragraph 7, the Minister completely withdrew his previous statement about 60% of the NDDC projects being awarded to members of the 9th Assembly.
It is also instructive for Nigerians to note that the total number of projects in the 2019 NDDC budget was 5,959 out of which 5,416 projects were rolled over from 2018, which the 9th Assembly obviously had no influence or control over.
Therefore, unable to prove his claims, the Minister presented an ineffectual spreadsheet of only 266 projects out of which about 20 projects were attracted by past members of the National Assembly as constituency projects, not as contractors, but in furtherance of their representative mandate.
The projects presented in the Minister’s letter are not within the scope of the investigation and do nothing to address the leadership’s ultimatum for him to publish the list of names of the members who he claimed took 60% of NDDC projects from January to May 2020.
Also, contrary to the mischievous narrative being peddled on the internet, the only mention of the Chairman of the NDDC Committee of the 9th House of Representatives, Rep. Tunji Ojo in that letter, was as to his alleged request for the complete payment of 19 contractors who had approached him with complaints over NDDC’s non-payment for their services.
This is, however, an allegation which has been completely refuted by Rep. Ojo and for which there is no evidence linking him.
The one member of the House mentioned in that letter only attracted the project to his federal constituency, in the same manner that the NDDC MD, EDFA, EDP, Chairman etc applied to the Commission for attention to the needs of their people and were obliged.
This attraction of projects does not in any way mean that contracts were personally awarded to them.
Additionally, the letter also listed the names of contract awardees with no evidence linking them to those who attracted the projects to the beneficiary communities. It takes lifting the corporate veil for the directors to be seen and the Corporate Affairs Commission is there to establish who the real owners of the companies are.
Until then, it is wrong to attempt to establish a nexus which currently does not exist. The document remains a mere spreadsheet of people who attracted projects to their communities in furtherance of their representative functions.
Furthermore, the directive to press charges against the Minister has not been lifted by the House as the leadership is busy considering the weight of the Honourable Minister’s letter. If it does not clear the doubt and wrong perception, it will be sent to the court for clearance as the Speaker stated.
Once again, the letter’s annexures showing 2018 projects have no relevance to what was requested from the Minister because it was outside the scope of his claims, it was also not comprehensive but selective by mentioning only one current member for attracting projects to his constituency and not for receiving contracts.
The House is mindful of a letter currently before it where the Minister also applied to attract several projects to his Senatorial Zone during his time at the Senate, does it mean the contracts were awarded to him?
Nigerians are encouraged to ignore the deflections of the Honourable Minister and continue to ask the right questions as to what happened to the money of the region which has led to a gross disservice to Niger-Deltans.
Nigerians should start asking the right questions and demanding the right answers; and the right question remains, “What happened to Nigeria’s ₦81.5billion under the charge of NDDC in the space of 6 months?”
Some members of the House of Representatives have paid an inspection visit to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The lawmakers, who comprise members of the House Committee on Aviation, inspected the airport on Monday ahead of the resumption of domestic flights in the country.
During the visit, the lawmakers advocated the need for relevant agencies to ensure compliance with safety protocols amid the rising cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
This comes barely a week after the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the airport in the nation’s capital and the Murtala Mohammed International Airport would resume domestic operations on Wednesday.
He also announced that the airports in Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri (Imo State), and Maiduguri (Borno State) would also resume local operations on Saturday, while other airports would resume on July 15.
According to the minister, the date for resumption of international flights will be announced in due course.
Highpoints of the lawmakers’ visit to the airport in Abuja are captured below:
The House of Representatives has disputed the reports that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the suspension of the ongoing process of the consideration of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Benjamin Kalu, faulted the claims in a statement on Sunday.
He described the reports as a misrepresentation of facts which has also misled Nigerians on the position of the count on the controversial bill.
According to the House spokesman, the applicant had by way of a motion ex-parte sought a court order suspending the consideration of the bill by the lawmakers.
He, however, stressed that the court declined to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant in order to enable the respondents in the case to appear before it and enter a defence.
Kalu said it was unfortunate that the purport of the interim order was wrongly reported, adding that the House intended to put the order of the court in a proper perspective.
He noted that the respondents have yet to be officially served with the processes in the said suit as directed by the court.
The lawmaker stressed that the House would continue to perform its lawful mandate without jeopardising its respect for the judiciary and the process of adjudication.
Read the full statement below:
The House of Representatives notes with dismay the erroneous reports by certain print and online media outfits, in what appears to be willful or malicious misinterpretations of the decision of the court in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020 on 13th May 2020, asserting that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the House to suspend the ongoing process of the consideration of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 (the “Bill”); a misrepresentation of facts which has in turn misled various other media outfits and the general public.
While the House encourages the public and all media outfits to verify and refer to the certified true copy of the court’s order in all further social commentary or report on the subject matter, it has become necessary to set the record straight.
The truth of the matter is that although the applicant, by way of a motion ex-parte, sought a court order suspending the consideration of the Bill by the House, the court in its wisdom and in the interest of justice and fair hearing, declined to grant the reliefs sought by Applicant in order to enable the Respondents in the case to appear before it and enter a defence.
For the sake of clarity, the crux of the court’s decision in the abovementioned suit is reproduced hereunder, “Upon hearing this Motion Ex-parte as moved by learned counsel to the Applicant and upon careful consideration of the averments in the affidavit in support, Exhibits attached and the written and oral address of learned counsel, the Court is of the view that bearing in mind the weighty averments in the affidavit in support which are intended to stay the Legislative actions of the Respondents in regard to the Bill in disputation and the exigencies of the times (that is to say the COVID-19 pandemic) and the attendant hysteria in the polity, the Court is of the opinion, that it is in the interest of justice to hear the Respondents before making a long term decision in this case.
“It is for this reason that I hereby make an Order mandating the Respondents to appear before this Court on the 20th day of May 2020 to show Cause why the application of the Applicant should not be granted.”
It is unfortunate that the purport of the interim order was wrongly reported. The House, therefore, wishes to put the order of the court in proper perspective and state that the act of legislation is a sacred and constitutional responsibility that should not be subjected to flimsy or superficial reportage in the interest of our democracy.
While the respondents await official service of processes in the abovementioned suit as directed by the court, the House reiterates that as a creation of the Nigerian Constitution, it will continue to perform its lawful mandate without jeopardising its healthy deference to the judicial system and the process of adjudication.
The House of Representatives has responded to the call by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020.
In a statement on Thursday, Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Benjamin Kalu, said the governors were misguided on the bill.
He explained that the lawmakers had resolved to subject the Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would have the opportunity to make their inputs towards the draft legislation.
According to Kalu, the NGF’s position is coming rather late and the House legislates for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja only.
He said the lawmakers were surprised that in arriving at its decision, the NFG relied on an update from Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal – a former Speaker and erstwhile ranking member of the House.
The House spokesman stressed that bills such as the Control of Infectious Diseases were not subject of the concurrence of State Houses of Assembly or state governors, as stated in the Constitution.
He added that the governors ought to be aware of the lawful processes of legislation and “should not be misguided” by the position of the former speaker.
Kalu raised concern that the presence of Governor Tambuwal in the NGF’s consultative panel may not guarantee a smooth interface with the lawmakers.
He alleged that the former speaker seemed to have already taken a biased position and called on the NGF to review the membership of the consultative committee.
Read the full statement by the House Committee Chairman on Media below:
It has come to the attention of the House of Representatives that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has, through a communiqué at the end of its virtual meeting held on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, asked the House to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, which public hearing is already scheduled.
In the communiqué, the NGF noted that “Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, Governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with State governments who are at the forefront of the epidemic.”
The NGF said it “resolved that the Bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.”
Against the impression given in the NGF’s communiqué, the House has since last week resolved to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life will have the opportunity to make their inputs towards the draft legislation. The NGF’s position is coming rather belatedly.
However, the House wishes to state clearly that whilst it legislates for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including being the Parliament for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja only; the Nigeria Governors Forum is recognized by members of the House as leading lights in the task of Nation Building.
It is rather surprising that the NGF, in arriving at its decision, relied on “an update from the Governor of Sokoto State,” who, apart from being a lawyer, is a former Speaker and an ex-ranking member of the House, who should know better and guide the Forum accordingly.
We assume that his position was informed by his well-known personal and partisan opposition to the emergence of the current leadership of the house considering his obvious stance in 2015 and 2019.
Unlike in a constitution amendment matter, where state houses of assembly have a defined constitutional role to play in effecting any review to it, Bills such as the Control of Infectious Diseases are not by our constitution subject of the concurrence of state houses of assembly or state governors.
We do believe that our respected Governors are aware of these lawful processes of legislation and should not be misguided by a biased position of a former speaker.
Let it be known that the House of Representatives, and indeed the National Assembly, are independent of the control of any state governor or former Speaker, except if we want to change that now.
Even at that, it has to be by a constitutional amendment sponsored the citizens and not by the personal view of one Governor and former speaker.
Notwithstanding, the House expresses its readiness to work with the Committee raised by the NGF to meet members of the Green Chamber on the Bill.
The Governors are our critical stakeholders in nation-building, and we understand the importance of working with our Governors at critical moments such as this pandemic period.
The House also wishes to state that the NGF is free to make its position on the Bill known through a memorandum during the planned public hearing or send its representative or representatives to appear in person.
To date, no single Governor has called the Speaker or anyone in leadership to express his views. It is our belief that there are better channels of communication available to the NGF to address the leadership of the house instead of the pages of newspapers.
The House is also concerned that the presence of the Sokoto State Governor in the NGF’s consultative panel may not guarantee a smooth interface, since in his capacity as a former Speaker he could not guide the Forum appropriately on the matter, and he appeared to have already taken a biased position.
Thus, the House calls on the NGF to review the membership of the consultative committee so as to achieve the desired objectives with the unbiased members during their engagement with the leadership of the House.
It is instructive to note that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) in Section 60 gives the House the powers to regulate its legislative activities, and the House would not shy away from that.
Members of the 9th Assembly are united irrespective of party affiliation and will continue to do those things that will promote good governance, unity, and progress of our country.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 will engage about 3,300 informants to report suspected cases of coronavirus in Kano State.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, revealed this on Tuesday in Abuja.
He made the disclosure when he led members of the task force to the House of Representatives chamber of the National Assembly in the nation’s capital.
Mustapha briefed the lawmakers on the measures being put in place by the Federal Government to address the situation in Kano and curb the spread of the disease in the state.
He explained that the task force has mobilised the informants for a house-to-house search and report suspected cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The PTF chairman believes Kano is fast emerging as the epicentre of the pandemic in the northern region of the country.
As part of efforts to address the situation, he revealed that a total of 58 technical staff from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been deployed in the state.
According to Mustapha, the COVID-19 testing capacity in Kano has been increased to 400 per day and plans are in place to increase it to 2,000 daily by the end of the week.
He, therefore, used the opportunity to call on the National Assembly to pass legislation that would further cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and improve the health sector.
Among the PTF members who accompanied the SGF are the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and the Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
The lawmaker added that because of the lockdown order issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29, the resumption which was earlier scheduled for April 7 was suspended and subsequently adjourned indefinitely.
He called the attention of his colleagues to the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation but could not discharge its responsibility due to the lockdown order.
According to Fulata, the provisions of Order Five, Rules 4 and 5 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives regulate the sittings of the House from Monday to Friday on every legislative day except when it is on recess.
He explained that the purpose of sponsoring the bill was for the House to provide legislative support to the Executive Arm by approving measures to address the welfare of the citizens during the period of the lockdown and thereafter.