The House of Representatives will on Tuesday, January 10 resume for the 2017 legislative year, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO highlights pending assignments before the representatives.
Undoubtedly, the 2016 legislative year was busy and rowdy for the 8th House of Representatives. Aside the regular consideration of bills, motions and petitions on the floor of the House, the representatives initiated investigations into certain sensitive issues some of which were not concluded in the last legislative year.
The series of ongoing investigative probe before the House ranges from the probe of $1.1bn Malabu Oil deal, alleged sharp practices in the sale of national assets in the power sector, probe of federal government bailout funds to some states, raid on residences of some alleged corrupt judges and investigation into activities of the federal government owned Development Finance Institutions as well as investigations of federal government insurance contracts.
The most sensitive assignment before the House is the consideration of the 2017 appropriation Act. The House has a duty to redeem its image and justify claims that the erstwhile chairman of its committee on appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin was indeed responsible for the many anomalies hitherto discovered during the 2016 budgeting process.
The House promised to kick-start the new legislative year with the 2017 appropriation bill, so as to avoid delay in passage and eventual implementation of the budget, at the same time promised to ensure a clean and transparent process in passing the budget.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Namdas Abdulrazak noted that the House would consider the budget proposal with a speed of light when it reconvenes for plenary by January 10 2017.
“The budget is the most important bill in the house and nobody can joke with it. We will consider the appropriation bill as soon as we resume for the New Year,” he said.
The 2017 budget proposal must be handled in a highly sensitive manner and with the highest level of transparency so as to salvage the integrity of the 8thHouse of Representatives and the National Assembly at large. Ripples of controversy generated by the alleged infraction in the 2016 budget is still in the air, and the self-styled whistle blower, Jubrin, is definitely on the lookout for any sharp practice in the budget, so as to justify his claim of institutional corruption in the House, particularly the budget padding allegation.
$29.96 billion Loan Proposal
The House of Representatives is yet to consider request by President Muhammodu Buhari to seek an external borrowing of $29.96 billion under the 2016 -2018 borrowing plan.
Although, the Senate had on November 1 rejected the President’s request, citing non-availability of detailed documents to support the request as stated in the Presidents letter, the lower chamber is yet to open debate on the matter.
Namdas, during an interaction with Leadership, noted that the House would not consider the request until necessary details as requested by the senate are attached.
According to Namdas, since the President’s request, had suffered a setback at the upper legislative chamber, it would be fruitless to consider it at the lower chambers until the details required by the Senate are provided.
“You know that the request suffered a setback in the Senate, and it cannot pass without concurrence of the two legislative assemblies, so anything we are doing will be an exercise in futility, if the details required by the senate are not presented. It then means that the details required by the Senate should be made available before the National Assembly will consider the request,” Namdas stated.
The presidency had explained that the external loan was to promptly implement projects that cut across agriculture, health, education, and water supply, the Senate didn’t seem convinced.
President Buhari stated this in two separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives, seeking the approval for an external borrowing to ensure the prompt implementation of projects.
Buhari’s letter, which was read at the two legislative chambers in October, indicated that the $29.96 billion was meant for special project.
The president in the letter noted that the projects and programmes under the external borrowing plan were selected based on positive technical economic evaluations, as well as the contributions they would make to the socio-economic development of the country, including employment generation, poverty reduction, and protection of the nation’s vulnerable population.
Review of 1999 Constitution
The 49 member ad-hoc committee on constitution review of the House will after one year of its inauguration turn-in its report on the fourth alteration to the 1999 constitution.
During the 2016 legislative year, all the bills related to the constitution which passed second reading in the House were referred to the committee.
For instance, a bill for an Act to amend section 147 and 192 of the 1999 constitution, to compel nomination of ministers and commissioners not later than 30 days after a new government is formed, which passed the second reading was referred to the committee.
Also, the #NotTooYoungToRun bill which seeks to alter Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution to reduce age qualification for election into public offices was referred to the to the committee.
Other contemporary issues before the committee include consideration of same sex marriage, resource control, creation of local governments, state police, electoral laws and appointment of judges. etc.
The seventh Assembly had jointly passed the fourth alteration bill to further amend the 1999 Constitution, but former President Goodluck Jonathan withheld assent. The Sixth Assembly (2007-2011) enacted the first, second and third alterations to the constitution.
According to Dogara, the 8th Assembly have decided that the process should commence and fast-tracked to ensure a time passage of the Bill.
$1.1billion Malabu Oil Deal
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating alleged corruption, malpractices and breach of due process in the award of OPL 245 is expected to conclude its investigation in the 2017 legislative year.
The seventh House opened an investigation into the same matter, but its report was never presented.
Chairman of the committee Hon. Rasak Atunwa promised that his team would get to the end of the matter ‘no matter whose feathers are ruffled.’ Atunwa stated that the $1.1 billion meant for the government was cornered by some former ministers, prominent business men, including Otunba Oyewole Fasawe and son of late military head of state, Sanni Abacha, Muhammed Abacha recently appeared before the committee.
Attorney-General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had stated that the deal was fraught with too many complexities currently hindering investigations and the resolution of the case.
Malami said multiple requests had been made internationally for Mutual Legal Assistance from the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom in the Malabu case, adding that multiple interests had been expressed both locally and internationally.
The probe involve some ex-ministers who served during the regime of former President GoodluckJonathan, i.e. former Minster of Petroleum Resources, Dizeani Alison-Madueke, immediate past Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke and a former Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganaga.
Sale of Power Assets Probe
Another ad-hoc Committee set up by the leadership of the House of Representatives commenced investigation into the sales of power assets conducted by Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
Other issues to be investigated include the $23.6 million allegedly paid to Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) of Canada to manage the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) without due process.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Idris Ahmed, observed that privatization of the power sector aimed at improving efficiency, ending subsidies to PHCN was defeated, and all gains lost to corruption, manipulation of rules and disregard to extant laws and lack of transparency in the exercise.
“The House was also concerned that the lofty goals of privatisation was marred by the sale of the sector to preferred bidders that could not pay the bid value on the sale, instead the BPE encouraged the deferment of payment and restructuring of payment terms in contravention of bidding rules to the disadvantage of other bidders,” he said.
The committee vowed to ensure recovery of all the monies paid through illegal means and prosecute any officials found wanting.
Probe N689bn Bailout Funds
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the terms and conditions for the disbursement and utilisation of the N689 billion bailout funds to 27 states, is also expected to conclude its assignment.
The committee seeks to determine the level of compliance with constitutional provisions and to ascertain the necessity for further disbursement as may be considered by the federal government.
The House is particularly worried that some of the states that benefited from the bailout funds could not pay salary arrears to their workers.
The House also queried the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make the disbursements from the Consolidated Revenue Fund without approval from the National Assembly as stipulated by the Constitution.
A recent report by the Public Enlightenment Department of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) had indicted several states of alleged misapplication of the funds.