The House of Representatives has commenced an investigation into the allegation of bribery against themselves to pass the Infectious Diseases Bill having set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter last week.
The committee is investigating an allegation that the lawmakers had received 10 million dollars to pass the bill.
The allegation which was said to have been made by the spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties puts the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the giving end.
The country Director of the Foundation, Paulin Basinga made some clarifications while denying the allegation.
Meanwhile, some of the media houses which published the article claiming that they received the statement from the CUPP appeared before the committee.
The committee is however displeased that the CUPP chairman was absent and instead sent his lawyer Mr. Tochukwu Ohazuruike.
Mr. Ohazuruike told the committee that it is against the constitution for Mr. Ikenga to appear before the House since the matter was already in court.
He added that the lawmakers cannot be a judge in its own case.
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 House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the case involving Mrs Susan Idoko, the index case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Benue State who was transferred to Abuja.
The matter was raised on Tuesday as a motion of urgent public importance by a member of the House from Benue State, Blessing Onuh, during plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.
Onuh, who represents Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency, said Idoko was quarantined by the government following misinformation and diagnoses.
According to her, the 56-year-old woman who is an indigene of Benue State with dual citizenship from the United Kingdom flew into Nigeria on March 22 for her mother‘s funeral.
The lawmaker added that Idoko, unfortunately, got quarantined by the government for COVID-19, saying it was an assertion backed by discrepancies in the laboratory results.
She noted that Idoko had a long flight following her departure from the United Kingdom and must have had jetlag – a common occurrence that necessitated her presentation to the hospital where she was primarily managed.
Onuh decried that the details of Idoko were not consistent with that of the lady who was referred from Benue State Teaching Hospital, Makurdi to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, Abuja.
She added that the personal information on the laboratory result from the NCDC did not tally with Idoko’s personal details.
According to the lawmaker, COVID-19 is real but not a death sentence or a yardstick for discrimination, and human rights infringement or violation, and Idoko’s case should not be different.
While commending the measures put in place by the government to tackle the disease, she said Idoko has begun to deteriorate psychologically and already having suicidal thoughts.
Onuh claimed that Idoko has been in isolation for about 50 days and has been forced to take treatment for COVID-19 even in her asymptomatic state.
Following contributions from other lawmakers, the House resolved to mandate the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), through the Federal Ministry of Health to critically evaluate Idoko as a matter of urgency and if proven otherwise, she should be allowed to go home.
It also resolved to carry out quality contact tracing and urge persons who are symptomatic to go for proper clinical evaluation and management with prompt release when they return to their premorbid state.
The lawmakers condemned the stigmatisation, inhumane treatment, and violation of the human rights of the people.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has given the assurance that transparency and accountability will be upheld in the conduct of the public hearing stage of the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, 2020.
He said the public hearing, which is expected to take place in the next few weeks, would be for two days and would be physical and open to submission of memorandum and position papers from members of the public.
Gbajabiamila stated this on Monday when he received some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at his office in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He told them that the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) during and after its outbreak were of paramount concern to the House.
The speaker noted that the House would step up its oversight responsibility on issues and palliative programmes around COVID-19, and the 9th Assembly’s Legislative Agenda would be rejigged to reflect the realities of the pandemic.
While stressing that the House would continue to observe its weekly sitting and add more days where necessary, he insisted that the lawmakers would continue to pass critical legislation during the COVID-19 period.
The lawmaker said, “On the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, we are aware that many of the comments it generated are genuine; some were political and some were clearly based on the misunderstanding of the bill, but we cannot ignore any and that is why we are taking it to the public hearing.
“It is going to be conducted over two days and because we don’t want to endanger anyone’s life, all the COVID-19 protocols would be observed in a hall that is supposed to take 300 people, we will have about 40.”
“Those who could not make it the first day would have the opportunity to be there the second day. The public hearing would be physical because this is all about transparency and accountability.
“We don’t want to endanger the lives of Nigerians. It will be beamed live on TV and radio but those that cannot make it to the public hearing will have the opportunity of sending their memorandum to the House,” he added.
According to the speaker, the bill that will be passed by the House will be the aggregate of the submissions of Nigerians.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Clement Nwankwo of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) commended the lawmakers for rising to the occasion.
The House, according to him, has shown leadership in consultation regarding the pandemic and taken some positive steps to address the issues of concern.
Also at the meeting were the Majority Leader of the House, Hassan Ado-Doguwa; the Chief Whip, Muhammad Monguno; the Deputy Minority Whip, Gideon Gwani; and the House Committee Chairman on Defence, Babajimi Benson.
Others included the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, the Chief Executive Officer of Women Trust Fund, Mufuliat Fijabi; and the Executive Director of Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Samson Itodo.
The House of Representatives has insisted that the proposed supply of two-months free electricity for Nigerians be implemented to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens.
The lawmakers on Thursday said poor citizens should not be deprived of free power supply because it will benefit the rich who are in the minority.
The statement which was signed by the spokesperson of the House, Benjamin Kalu added that at this critical moment, energy is essential for every Nigerian household, health facilities, and other vital public services to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and ensure economic recovery.
“It is not in doubt that the economic conditions occasioned by the pandemic have made it harder for low-income customers and businesses to pay their electricity bills, threatening them with disconnection.
“The call by the House for free electricity for Nigerians is borne of a realization that similar measures have become necessary to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians as we try to battle and emerge from this pandemic.
“We, therefore, maintain that it is unconscionable to the over 100 million low and middle-income earners in Nigeria whose income has been affected by the pandemic, to deprive them of this electricity tariff reprieve for fear that it would benefit the rich who do not constitute up to 10% of Nigeria’s population. It amounts to a disturbing case of punishing the majority for the sake of the few.
“We must, therefore, consider the example of other nations, including Ghana which innovated ways to absorb the electricity tariffs of all lifeline customers (persons who consume zero to 50 kilowatts-hours a month) and provide a 50% relief for higher-income residential and commercial customers,” the statement read in part.
Kalu added that we are faced with unprecedented times in the history of Nigeria and it behooves a responsible Federal Government to innovate ways to alleviate the suffering of people.
He added the government and stakeholders in the power sector need to explore creative solutions to make the proposed free electricity available to Nigerians.
He said the House of Representatives remains committed to ensuring the welfare of Nigerians, especially vulnerable households.
Electricity Distribution Company in Nigeria had announced that they were working with the Federal Government to provide free two-month electricity as a palliative to Nigerians.
The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in reaction, however, dismissed this noting that the Federal Government cannot make power free because it does not own the power.
They noted that TCN is just the transporter of electricity that belongs to the Federal Government, while other chains are in private hands.
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.
During the plenary presided over by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, the lawmakers considered a motion on the “Maltreatment and Institutional Acts of Racial Discrimination against Nigerians Living in China by the Government of China”.
The lawmakers mandated the House Committees on Interior, Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring, as well as Commerce, to take up the assignment.
The committees were asked to investigate the Nigeria Immigration Service, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Nigerian Content and Development Monitoring Board, and any other relevant Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA), to check the validity of all immigration documents of every Chinese national in Nigeria.
The House also directed the committees to probe the expatriate quota of all the Chinese businesses in Nigeria to ascertain the number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country and ensure they were repatriated to China to regularise.
According to the lawmakers, this will be in collaboration with the Immigration, Nigeria Customs Service, the CAC, and relevant MDAs.
They also resolved to urge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant MDAs to ensure that all categories of Nigerians who wish to return home were evacuated from China and quarantined upon arrival.
The lawmakers urged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and all relevant MDAs to provide necessary financial and other assistance to affected Nigerians who wish to seek redress in any local or international court for breach of fundamental rights, loss of property or any other actionable cause occasioned by their maltreatment or discrimination in China.
Similarly, they asked the Committees on Inter-Parliamentary Relations, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and Diaspora, to ascertain the extent of violation of rights of Nigerians in China, as well as losses arising from such maltreatments.
The House asked the committees to further engage the Chinese Parliament appropriately to state Nigeria’s National Assembly condemnation of the discrimination against Nigerians and to ensure the cessation of such actions by its people and government.
The lawmakers with the various responsibilities were asked to report back within two weeks for further legislative action.
The House, however, sought the concurrence of the Senate on the motion.
The motion was sponsored by 10 lawmakers – Benjamin Kalu, Yusuf Buba, John Dyegh, Babajimi Benson, Tunji Olawuyi, Zakari Galadima, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Nnoli Nnaji, Dennis Idahosa, and Tolu Shadipe.
Members of the National Assembly have resumed plenary after about five weeks of recess over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers returned to the Assembly complex in Abuja on Tuesday after they went on break as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
In the upper house, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, led the lawmakers into the chamber after which plenary started at about 10:30am as soon as the lawmakers were seated.
Members of the House of Representatives are to resume plenary on Tuesday.
The Clerk of the House, Patrick Giwa, announced this in a statement on Sunday.
“This is to inform all Members of the House of Representatives that the House will now resume plenary session on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 10.am.
“Members are advised to take note of the new date of resumption, please.
“The COVID-19 guidelines approved by the Federal Government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and additional Guidelines developed by the House will be sent to Members’ pigeon holes for collection on resumption,” the statement read in part.