Federal lawmaker, Mark Gbillah, on Monday, alleged that the suspension of House Committee activities may derail the fact-finding investigations being embarked on.
The House of Representatives, on August 19, suspended all investigations, public hearings, and committee meetings as well as activities of standing and ad hoc committees until September in order to observe its annual recess.
However, Hon. Gbillah said the suspension of committee meetings would negatively impact on the work of Committees, especially those investigating corruption and impropriety within the Executive.
“It will impair the investigations significantly,” he said. “We are still in the realm of allegations and speculations, but when a three-week break has been allowed, compromises can be made; people can be appealed to, offers, overtures can be made to those carrying out those investigations. This is Nigeria.”
However, federal lawmaker, Akin Alabi, rubbished Gbillah’s allegations as “purely politics.”
While Gbillah is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alabi Egbeda/Ona-Ara Federal Constituency under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress.
On Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) criticised the leadership of the House of Representatives for frustrating the ongoing investigation of some government officials by going on a recess.
Powers of the Speaker
Hon. Gbillah started his faulting of the recess on Monday by saying the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has no power to suspend the work of a House Committee.
“There are no provisions in our law that give the Speaker that power to suspend the work of a committee,” he said.
“People have complied with it in the spirit of oneness and progress, but it is not out of place for those who espouse the rule of law to question that decision.
“The Speaker is given the power, in consultation with the principal officers, to remove Chairmen. Obviously, some Chairmen will be cautious in going against the order.”
Hon. Alabi disagreed with his colleague’s remarks.
“That’s false,” he said. “It is the tradition of the house not to have Committee meetings during the recess. And that is what’s obtainable in Congresses all over the world.
“The wisest thing is to pause. We will get back to the House in a couple of weeks, in September. Everybody knew the day of recess for about a month before we went on recess.
However, Hon. Gbillah maintained there was no law giving such powers to the Speaker.
“It is the first time in the history of the National Assembly that I am aware of as a ranking member that, by fiat, the leadership of the House is stopping the statutory activities of Committees,” Gbillah said. “And these activities are backed by a resolution of the House.
“And I personally believe that for any action to rescind the activities of those committees to be tenable, it should come by a resolution of the same House, not by fiat.”
Hon. Alabi noted that there was no need for a special law for the Speaker to be able to suspend a Committee.
“If the Committee Chairman has the power to put a committee on recess, the Speaker, who is the Chairman of all Committees in the House definitely has the power to order all committees on recess.”
House Committees have been at the centre of recent open questioning of public officials, including Federal Ministers.
Last week, in a televised public hearing, Minister of Transporation, Rotimi Amaechi, engaged in heated conversations over details of Nigeria’s financial engagements with the Chinese government.
A House Committee has also been in the middle of investigating financial misappropriation at the Niger-Delta Development Commission.
Hon. Gbillah on Monday suggested that suspending the work of committees could have been motivated by ulterior motives.
“This is a defining moment in the history of this ninth assembly, considering the altercations that the committees, especially of the House of Representatives, have been having with the Executive,” he said.
“This obviously has given credence to the allusions by Nigerians that this is a lame-duck legislature. It now behooves on the leadership to show that it is not a lame-duck leadership.”
Meanwhile, Hon. Alabi insisted that the Speaker has the power to set up committees, dissolve them, or pause their activities.
“There is no need for a special law to say that the Speaker has the power to pause their activities,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be stated in toto.
“This is pure politics. People are trying to destabilise the sanity of the House.”