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Jonathan, service chiefs’ summon: Reps testing the waters?
THE executive arm of government and the lower chamber of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives, started their relationship on a suspicious note from the inception of the seventh session of the House. The House leadership had worked against the interest of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) to have the current House Leader, Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande as the Speaker, instead of the present House leadership headed by the youngish Honourable Aminu Tambuwal.
Although, immediately after the ascension of the Honourable Tambuwal-led House, a reconciliatory move was initiated and cemented by the “sinners” to the party echelon at the Wadata House located at Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, the question whether the leadership of the party and the zone that ought to produce the Number Four man of the nation have forgiven them remains another topic for another day. However, since the emergence of the Tambuwal-led House, the cat and mouse relationship between it and the executive arm of government has continued to play out, to the extent that both parties have different views on how the executive and legislature relationship should be and on party supremacy.
To this end, the resolution of the House, last Tuesday, summoning President Goodluck Jonathan and his security chiefs to appear at a closed-door session of the House to brief them on what the government was doing to tackle the security challenges threatening the unity of the country as well as the Boko Haram menace, is already generating arguments.Those who are to appear alongside the president include the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin; Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Mr Ita Ekpeyong; the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar, as well as the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr Abubakar Mohammed.
The House’s resolution was sequel to a motion of matters of urgent national importance moved by Honourable Yakub Barde on the spate of insecurity in the country, especially the last Sunday’s bombing of three churches in Kaduna, where scores of lives were reportedly lost. The lawmaker, who regretted the unfortunate incident, said that the bombing was now threatening the peaceful coexistence in the state, saying “Kaduna has always been known to be peaceful, but these unfortunate attacks are driving fear into the minds of the people”.
According to him, “people will say attacks are not religious, but people are now afraid of going to their places of worship. Not only that, businesses are now badly affected in the region and which investor would want to go that area to invest? In other words, poverty is being perpetuated in that region”. He then queried that if the situation was not arrested, “when will the next bomb blast go off or when would the next attack be launched and where? How long are we going to live with this?” He added that it was time the House took a deeper look at the security challenges facing the country, especially in the North where the Boko Haram Islamic sect had killed several hundreds of people through suicide bombings in the last 12 months.
In his own contribution, the Minority Leader of the House, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, kicked against the recent foreign trip embarked on by the president to Brazil for the Earth Summit, insisting that the president ought to stay back in the country rather than travelling when there were security challenges. But the House Committee chairman on Electoral Matters, Honourable Jerry Manwe, berated the inability of security agencies to pre-empt the incessant bombings, despite the huge budget for security agencies for the year.Said he, “We approved almost one trillion naira for security alone in the 2012 budget. Is this money meant to buy AK 47s alone, or to buy bomb detectors for the villa, or the National Assembly alone when our brothers and sisters out there continue to die? Is Mr President or Azazi and the IG scared? We should tell ourselves the bitter truth now”.
With this development ,political pundits are of the opinion that the lawmakers were only playing to the gallery and cautioned that security issues were not what should be politicised.
According to them, there are requirements of the constitution which demand the president to only address the National Assembly during budget presentations, census figure presentation, visits of foreign dignitaries or any other time the president deems it fit, and not just summoning the president overnight. The lawmakers have, however, punctured the claim that they had no power to summon the president, insisting that, as the people’s representatives, they had every right to demand certain information from him. The spokesman of the House, Honourable Zakari Mohammed, who gave this position, said that the House’s decision was backed by the constitution, against criticisms that the resolution was illegal.
According to him, Section 89 (c) of the 1999 constitution allows the Senate and the House of Representatives to summon any person for its investigations. He stressed that, “The House can summon anybody.
“We believe that we have to be very proactive on this matter. If we don’t take a position on this matter, it will continue unabated. I want to say clearly here that we have not, in any way, overstepped our bounds. We said it in our legislative agenda that we intend to interface with other arms of government to the benefit of Nigerians and this is just one of it”.
“Remember, Mr President, in the wake of subsidy introduction, had to invite us to the Villa.
We had light lunch with him, the 360 of us, together with the 109 Senators. We were in the Villa; nobody complained, we listened to him and told him our own piece of mind as far as the subsidy issue was concerned.
“Nobody made noise that time, but for Mr President to come to the parliament , I don’t see any issue with that. People should just stop overheating the polity by misconstruing our intentions. There is nobody that is happy over what is going on. It would do nobody any good for a country that is grappling with how to sustain development, to now begin to set ourselves back. It will be very unfortunate. As a parliament, we said we cannot allow it to continue and incidentally, the senators went to a closed-door session and came out with a concern.
“The first responsibility of government is security and if security is compromised, every other thing cannot fall in line. That is exactly why we invited Mr President,” he said.Share