Of Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
whatt is the resolution of the House of Representatives worth? Articles 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empower the National Assembly to hold the executive branch of government to account. In carrying out this function, parliament resorts to motions, by which it subjects government actions to scrutiny, and often calls for inquiries.
Since its creation in June 2019, the ninth House has adopted no less than 1,000 motions, calling for government intervention in critical areas of the country. One of the most important resolutions is the one demanding a 2-month waiver on electricity tariffs for Nigerians as a palliative for COVID-19, as well as a hundred motions, centered on the deplorable security situation in the country.
In addition, following the resolutions, the House mandated several of its committees to undertake several inquiries into critical areas of the country. The relevant question, however, is how far the House has gone to ensure compliance with resolutions?
The speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, during the creation of the Ninth Chamber, had promised that the Green Chamber would make compliance with its resolutions a priority. He had warned that there would be dire consequences for anyone who ignored the convocation of the House.
According to him, “there is an eternal problem that the 9th House will face and deal with very seriously, and that’s something I’m going to discuss with the chair as well.
“For me, there is a problem where the National Assembly summons members of the executive because the constitution provides for control and they do not show up, it does not benefit the system.
“But this National Assembly in its reform program will use all powers to make it a thing of the past. If the 9th National Assembly summons someone, the person must honor him or the consequences will not be pleasant.
Experts say that for the Ninth Chamber there has been a lot of talk and little action. From Gbajabiamila’s promises, to ensuring respect for the deluge of motions passed by the House, and acts of rioting by the chairs of standing committees, everything has been motion and no movement.
Nonetheless, the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, told the Daily Sun that parliament is powerless when it comes to the implementation of its resolutions, as this falls within the purview of the executive branch of government. Kalu noted that entrusting the House with the implementation of its resolutions would be tantamount to asking it to go against the doctrine of the separation of powers.
“When we move motions, the motions are moved so that the executive acts in a spirit of separation of powers. We will do our part and they will do their part. You don’t expect us to cross the line and get inside their own farm.
“So, therefore, what you are asking is to go against the constitution, which gave us the limit of operation,” said the spokesperson for the House.
He added: “We will continue to produce motions whether or not the executive acts on them; It is to them. But we will not fail. We will continue to do our part. But we are going to deploy some instruments that will make compliance better than it has been. “
Torn between legislative independence and partisan loyalty
Nevertheless, analysts say the challenge is not just the lack of compliance on the part of the executive, because there are several instances where the Chamber sabotages its own resolutions.
The great dilemma of the ninth House leadership, lobbying for respect for its resolutions was to find a balance between the independence of the legislative power and loyalty to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Critics accuse the House of “voluntarily” abandoning its resolutions and control functions when they undermine the interests of the ruling party or the presidency.
On August 18, the House aborted an inquiry by its committee of aid, treaties and protocols in loans obtained from China by the federal government.
The House adopted on May 12, 2020 a motion mandating the Committee “to examine all the China / Nigeria loan agreements existing since 2000 with a view to ensuring their viability, to regularize them and to renegotiate them”.
The committee chaired by Ossai Nicholas Ossai caused a sensation after sounding the alarm that some of the loan agreements signed by the government would have constitutes a threat to the sovereignty of the country.
Ossai, had pointed out that the loan agreement on the Phase II Project of the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure in Nigeria between the Government and the Export-Import Bank of China dated September 5, 2018, would put the country at risk in the event of default.
According to him, Article 8 (1) of the agreement states that “the borrower irrevocably waives any immunity on grounds of sovereignty or otherwise for himself or his property in any arbitration proceedings in accordance with Article 8 (5), thereof with the execution of any arbitration award hereunder, with the exception of military property and diplomatic property ”.
However, halfway through the investigation, the Chamber, through a statement by House Leader Alhassan Ado Doguwa, ordered the panel to suspend the exercise. According to House leaders, committees should not work during the recess of the House.
The PDP, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the suspension of the House investigations as “a deliberate design to cover up the stench of corruption that was escaping from the APC administration. “.
Ologbondiyan said: “It is clear that the shutdown directive is intended to frustrate revelations of the ongoing investigations into China’s $ 500 million foreign loan, especially regarding our nation’s sovereignty mortgage. to China… ”
House media and public affairs committee chairman Benjamin Kalu later said the inquiry would continue when the House resumed after his 2020 recess last September. However, the investigative panel has yet to resume the investigation almost more than a year later.
For example, after the slaughter of 43 farmers by insurgents in Borno state in 2020, the House invited President Buhari to appear before it to brief lawmakers on the government’s efforts to tackle growing insecurity in the country.
However, despite assurances that President Buhari will honor the invitation on December 10, the president did not introduce himself. Ironically, there was also no formal communication to the House about the change of plan.
Irritated by the development of the situation, the lawmakers of the opposition, the day after the legislature, demanded explanations from Gbajabiamila. Salomon Bob, member of the opposition Democratic People’s Party (PDP), speaking under Rule 6 of the House’s Rules of Procedure, took Gbajabiamila to the task on the fact that the president did not honor the invitation of the House.
Bob said: “This House can pass a resolution and we have a situation where such a resolution is abused; it means that our very existence is in question. I think the speaker should address us on the current situation. The whole country is watching. That bothers me.”
However, Gbajabiamila, in his response, only said, “Honorable, your point of privilege is well noted. We are waiting for official communications from the President rather than publications in the newspapers ”. Eight months later, no official explanation has been given.
PDP House caucus leader Kingsley Chinda, in the aftermath of President Buhari’s failure to appear before the Green House, had described what exists between the executive and parliament as one of a master relationship. servant.
Chinda, in a statement, noted: “We are witnessing the master / servant relationship between the two branches of government aggravated by the virtual imposition of the leadership of both chambers by the same APC government.”
Recently, there was a drama on the House floor, as APC and PDP lawmakers bicker over a motion calling for a review of the executive order banning on the property and issuance of new firearms licenses.
The sponsor of the motion, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, had requested leave of the House to postpone the motion. According to the lawmaker, he was not comfortable with Ado-Doguwa’s comments on the motion.
The House leader, addressing Parliament on the matter, said: “I am also the government ambassador on the House floor and believe that the government decision by which President Muhammed Buhari to ban that is knowledgeable.
“This is my position. Abonta, you have the freedom to present your motion now to be killed or to delay the killing of your motion.
At the end of the tense debate, Abonta withdrew the motion for the next legislative day, at the convenience of the House. Six months later, the motion has yet to be deferred for consideration.
Experts say these incidents reinforce the public perception of the House as a “rubber stamp” assembly, accountable to the executive branch of government.
Nevertheless, Kalou, who has always said the House will disappoint those who call it a “rubber stamp assembly,” said it was wrong for anyone to accuse parliament of shying away from issues involving the president.
According to him, “most of the things we do have to do with the Presidency. Everything we do has to do with the Presidency, the executive branch of government. On this basis, it will be wrong to say that anything that involves the presidency, we will avoid it. “
Analysts say that maybe in the coming days, the Ninth Chamber will be able to follow the speech, particularly by holding the executive arm of government accountable. But for now, it’s still business as usual.