Since the birth of the Fourth Republic, the national parliament has churned out hundreds of resolutions. Curiously, these resolutions are largely ignored by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which have been at the receiving end of a large chunk of it. FRED ITUA examines this trend and captures feedback from the Lower House.
Members of the House of Representatives have in recent weeks expressed concern over the incessant flouting of resolutions it has passed. Some members have gone ahead to sponsor a bill that would automatically make resolutions passed become laws.
Although some constitutional lawyers have faulted this move, proponents of the bill believe that when passed, it will compel MDAs to treat resolutions passed by the House with more respect.
The increasing focus on utter disregard for resolutions passed by the House gained more public prominence in January when two members of President Jonathan’s cabinet referred to a resolution passed by the House calling on President Jonathan to suspend the removal of fuel subsidy as mere expression of an opinion.
Spokesman to the President, Dr. Reuben Abati hurriedly issued a statement after the House urged President Jonathan to halt the removal of fuel subsidy describing the emergency sitting of January 8, 2012, “an attempt to incite the Nigerian people against the government.”
He also referred to the resolution of the House as ‘a mere expression of opinion’. The Attorney-General of the federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, on the other hand referred to the resolution as ‘advisory’.
Flouting resolutions is not a concern expressed only by members of the House of Representatives. The Nigerian Senate unanimously approved the report of the probe panel that investigated the sale of federal government property.
It recommended the sack of the director general of Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa. The Senate also recommended the reversal of the sale of Transcorp Hilton, Abuja Sheraton and Daily Times of Nigeria PLC for failure to keep to the terms of share purchase agreement.
The Senate also asked the buyers of Nicon Insurance to refund with interest N900 million to the Federal government being money paid by BPE on February 2007 as contribution for recapitalization with accrued interest.
The former BPE Director General Dr. Julius Bala was also expected to be investigated by anti-graft agencies for giving approval to Folio Communication Limited for the sale of assets of Daily Times Nigeria PLC.
Months after these recommendations have been transmitted to the presidency and MDAs, Nigerians are curiously waiting for corresponding actions from the executive arm.
Earlier in the month, members of the House of Representatives ordered the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) back to the sea ports in order to enable the agencies discharge their statutory duties. The directive by the House was sequel to a report submitted by the House Joint Committee on Health, Commerce, Industries, Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes.
Infuriated by the directive issued by members, the Presidency immediately ordered the arrests of any officials of the affected agencies who dared to return to the ports. The Presidential Implementation Committee further directed all port users to discountenance the purported directive given by the House to government agencies that were sacked from the ports late last year to return to the nation’s seaports.
A statement issued by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Okonjjo Iweala said: "President Goodluck Jonathan approved the reduction of agencies operating at the nation’s ports to send a clear signal that the Federal Government is determined to implement the port reforms and improve Nigeria’s status as a business destination.
We are aware that some of the affected agencies are yet to leave the ports. But they have no choice because it is a presidential directive. We must forge ahead with the implementation of the ports reforms. It must be done because Nigerians deserve better."
The trio of National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) were affected by the October 2011 directive of the Minster of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala that agencies whose presence were perceived as inimical to the desire of government to achieve 48-hour cargo clearance should vacate the ports.
Another resolution of the House that has been flouted is the call by members in the Green Chambers asking the Ebonyi State government to constitute a commission of inquiry that will look into the deadly clash between Ezza and Ezillo communities in the state that left over 100 people dead and many seriously wounded.
Sadly, more than a month after the resolution was adopted by the House, the state is yet to constitute the commission as directed by members of the House.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, Hon. Peter Edeh, who represents Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency and mover of the motion, said “if you recall the House mandated its committee on national security and intelligence to visit the affected areas to ascertain the level of damage. While that visit is still pending, I expect the state government to quickly swing into action by constituting this judicial commission of inquiry if these remote causes of the crisis must be resolved.”
In mid-January, the House called for the nullification of the concession agreement between the Federal Government and Single Window Technology Limited. While adopting the report of the Ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the agreement recommended that the Nigerian Customs Service should take over the operation, supervision and management of the Nigeria Customs Integrated Information Services.
The House also called for the prosecution of all government officials and promoters of the Single Windows System Technology who participated in circumventing the laws of the country.
More than a month after this report was adopted by the House and forwarded to the appropriate government agency, no action has been taken.
In November 2011, members of the House of Representatives urged the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to suspend the implementation of its new policy on vehicle licenses and number plates, saying the policy had cost implications that could worsen the poverty situation of Nigerians.
The House had also noted that the job of the commission was to ensure safe driving on the highways and not revenue generation. Ignoring the resolution of the House, FRSC has since been issuing the new vehicle plate numbers and the driver’s license to motorists.
In a matter of weeks, the report of the House Ad-hoc committee that probed the management of the fuel subsidy regime will submit its report. Industry experts are beginning to express doubts if the recommendations of the probe will be swept beneath the carpet like similar probes that have been embarked upon by the House.
Considering the handful of resolutions that have been churned out by the House and MDAs’ utter disregard for them, Nigerians are beginning to question the relevance of lawmaking in a democratic dispensation if agencies of government will not adhere to resolutions passed by the highest lawmaking authorities in the country.
Pundits have also queried the sincerity behind President Jonathan’s mantra that his administration is hinged on due adherence to the rule of law if resolutions passed by the National Assembly are being flouted with audacity by MDAs who answer directly to him.
Before, during and after the presidential election that ushered in a fresh tenure of four years for President Jonathan, he has never left anyone in doubt that his administration is rooted on the principles of the rule of law.
Mandating MDAs to start implementing resolutions passed by the National Assembly might be Jonathan’s litmus test to indeed prove to Nigerians and the international community that his administration is rooted on the principles of the rule of law.