The Nigerian National Assembly is billed to commence its two-month annual recess this week, with several legislative functions and investigations by the House of Representatives, some of which commenced two years ago, likely to suffer more delay and affect major legislative functions by the body.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, on Thursday, admitted that some of the panels have delayed in delivering on their tasks. He said the reports would come in by the time the parliament resumes in September.
Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, had on several occasioned, the last being just last week, moved motions to withdraw tasks from committees and commit them to the Committee of the Whole.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila had also expressed concerns on the matter on several occasions.
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Presently, there are tens of investigations embarked upon by the House, some of which are public assets and revenue losses, with the committees in charge failing to report back.
One of them is the Ad Hoc Committee on Power Sector Reforms, charged with the responsibility of undertaking a holistic review of the power sector in Nigeria and recommending appropriate legislative actions. The panel has yet to lay its report.
Gbajabiamila, at the inauguration of the committee on June 9, 2020, had stated that there is no going back on the move to end estimated billing, also referred to as ‘crazy bill’, being charged by distribution companies.
The Speaker stated that setting up the committee, chaired by the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, became necessary due to a resolution by the House to ensure a comprehensive review of all legislation relating to the power sector.
It is also about two years since the House raised the alarm over “dangerous” clauses in loan and commercial agreements with international bodies and other countries, especially China, but the probe into the commercial agreements has become inconclusive.
The House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, chaired by Nicholas Ossai, which was conducting the investigation, held its last public activity on the matter on August 18, 2020, when it suspended its investigative hearing.
On May 12, 2020, Gbajabiamila had inaugurated an ad hoc committee chaired by Ademorin Kuye, which was set up two months earlier, to investigate the number and condition of capital projects abandoned by the Federal Government across Nigeria. The motion leading to the probe has said the abandoned projects were allegedly worth over N230bn.
Gbajabiamila had recalled that the House on March 17 adopted a motion on the need to investigate the status of abandoned property belonging to the Federal Government in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. He had decried that despite the dwindling revenue of the country, several abandoned capital projects litter every state of the federation.
Also on the list of abandoned probes is that of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria, chaired by Olaide Akinremi.
The National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd.), had in March 2021 alleged that $1bn funds meant for the purchase of arms to tackle insurgency during the ex-service chiefs’ tenure got missing.
Monguno, had in an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation early that Friday, alleged that neither the funds nor the weapons the ex-service chiefs were meant to buy could be traced. He added that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was also wondering where all the funds meant for arms went. According to him, the President will soon order a probe into the matter.
The NSA would later in a statement issued by his office recant his earlier allegations, saying he was quoted out of context. While he admitted granting the BBC interview under reference, he denied saying funds meant for the purchase of arms had gone missing.
However, the House went ahead to constitute the committee, while the panel vowed to investigate the “missing” arms and ammunition for which the former service chiefs were allocated funds to acquire.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loot, Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective/Efficient Management and Utilisation, which is particularly ascertaining the whereabouts of recoveries made by anti-corruption agencies within 18 years, has only laid an interim report since May 2021.
Speaking on delayed tasks, Kalu said, “Reports are coming in; they are trickling in. They may not be all completed at the moment but they are coming in. I’m sure before we resume, after our long recess which is actually going to start by next week, most of these reports would be in.
“The life of the Assembly is not yet over. I’m sure that with those reports, when they come in, we will take it off from there. Yes some are delayed and we are investigating why they are delayed and to see how we can help as a House to speed up with issues especially that have to do with investigation…because if it drags too long, it becomes too hydra-headed to be monitored.”
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