Reps set up concurrence committee on 2021-2023 MTEF, fiscal policy paper
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, on Thursday, constituted the membership of a conference committee on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
He also announced the appointment of Hon Adewale Aderemi as the chairman of the Ad-hoc committee to review the purchase of arms and ammunition by the security apparatus of Nigeria.
Also at plenary, one of the House members, Hon Solomon Bob (PDP-Rivers), who expressed concern over the flagrant disregard to the resolution passed by the House on the invitation extended to President Muhammadu Buhari to brief the House on the state of security.
While acknowledging that there was a formal communication on the President’s readiness to appear before the House, he expressed concern over the turn of things without any formal explanation from the Speaker who interfaced with the President.
In his lead debate, Hon Bob who accused the President of flagrant disregard to the House resolution and the need to protect the integrity of the Parliament, said: “I raise this point of Order, Order 6 of our Rules as a matter that bothers on privilege for me and everybody in this House. Last week I recall that this House passed a resolution inviting the President to come and address is on certain issues bothering on security and related matters.
“Subsequently I read that the President consented to attend and sometime back as well I noticed that subject being an item on the Order Paper I think on Tuesday, although it was skipped eventually.
“And since then events show that the resolution passed by this House has been flagrantly suspended. This matter bothers on privilege like I said, it touches on the integrity of this House.
“If this House can pass a resolution and we have a situation where such resolution is so abused and dragged to the gutter the way it seems to be the case now, it means that our very function as a House for the Nigerian people, our responsibility, our very existence in fact, is being questioned.
“And I think the Speaker should address is on the current situation, the current decision, there might have been some back end discussion between the leadership and the presidency so we ought to know before we commence anything in this House today, we ought to know.
“We ought to be addressed on what happened to that resolution. The entire public is watching and the whole country is watching, they want to see the response of this House to such a flagrant disrespect to a resolution that was passed here by this House.
“I raised this point of Order because it bothers me and it should bother everyone else here because it’s capable of showing that we have no consequence. Mr Speaker, this House should be one of consequence and I know that you’re a man of mettle, you’ve taken actions before, that have proven that and I’m convinced that this time you will take necessary steps to protect the integrity of this House and its membership,” Hon. Bob stressed.
In his response, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila who applauded the sponsor of the motion said: “The channel of communication and procedure and we will wait official communication from Mr President as opposed to the Newspaper reports, thank you.”
Also speaking at the weekly press briefing, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu affirmed that the immunity clause conferred on Mr President makes it impossible for the House to summon him.
He said: “The decision of the parliament overrides the presiding officers because to do otherwise will be biased, undemocratic. As a mark of honour, the leadership of the House sent a delegate, that’s the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and House Leader to engage the President beyond the resolution of the House.
“When they met with Mr. President, he assured them that he will visit and address Nigerians. As the days goes by it was narrowed to Thursday, there were official communication from the Presidency committing to the position of Mr Speaker that the President has accepted to come, so the Speaker and Deputy were not operating on the frolic of their own, it was backed up by the President. Up to that extent, we felt very honoured by Mr President.
“As you know what we operate is a democracy that hinges on party supremacy. Beyond the President lies the supremacy of the party, the President answers to the party. He’s there as President on the platform of the APC, given to him by the party so if he took a position as the President and his political party asks him to alter his position if he’s truly a party man he must oblige his party why the discussion goes on.
“We have not received any formal communication. Up till this moment, we have not received a formal communication from the office of the President stating that this appointment has been cancelled or shifted.
“All you’ve read about has been from unofficial sources. The question then becomes what’s the relevance of this visit. Many have been asking, is it morally or legally right to have this engagement?
“Regarding whether it is constitutional to invite the President, somehow I would have said let’s leave the judicial interpretation of the provisions of the constitution to be in the hands of the judiciary, but as a lawyer, I can assure you the parliament did not act in error and this I say based on the constitution.
“There’s a mandate and that mandate is well expressed on section 88, 89. The position of the law says that granted by section four of the armed forces act, the President is the chairman of the Security Council. The Armed Forces Act is a piece of legislation made by the parliament. And it is the provision of 89 that we have the right to investigate issues bordering on anything we have the capacity to legislate on.
“We have legislative competence to legislate on all this and therefore if there are things we need to find out in such areas, the law in 89 empowers us to invite anybody for the purposes of obtaining pieces of evidence, either in oral or documentary form and that includes everybody.
“There’s also a part of the law which is the power to arrest and command President, that particular one because of section 308 of the constitution that gives immunity to the President you cannot exercise that.
“The power of discretion or over the operational activities of the Armed Forces I think he was referring to, section 218, of the constitution. It’s not in doubt, it’s the truth.
“The power of discretion that’s found in section 67(1) where it is said that the President has the right, may visit the National Assembly to address National issues that are discretionary. But if the House is investigating an issue that borders on all we make laws for, the position of 88, 89 is that we can invite people to give us the evidence. Is the President under investigation?
“The answer is no, we invited him to have an engagement that will help us review a few things, know whether the strategy we have now is in order, to have a feedback mechanism. We can’t command him, but the law says we can invite him,” Hon Kalu said.
While responding to question on the statement credited to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami that the House lacks the powers to summon the President, the House Spokesman who noted that the House at no time summoned the President, stressed that the resolution was an invitation.
“The position of Malami is not the position of the court, he’s not the judge. He’s not the spokesperson of APC, we have not received any official communication because in that the reasons will be given, why Mr President is not able to come, every other thing is guesswork.
“Our channel of communication is not with the Attorney General, he’s not part of the Presidency, neither is he a judge. His position cannot be seen as the position of the APC.
“I insist that no official communication from the Presidency to counter the initial position. Until we receive a contrary position in a formal form where reasons, why they will not be coming, will be explained it will be difficult for me to jump the gun at this point. Wait until you receive formal communication from the Presidency, if he’s not coming, the reasons will be highlighted and we will communicate that to you,” he stressed.