The recent allegation of corruption leveled against the chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on Capital Market, Hon Herman Hembe, by the Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Ms. Arunmah Oteh, has no doubt brought unwarranted attention not only to the principal actors involved in the affair, but also on the operations of the Capital Market committee of the House as a whole.
Similarly, the approach with which the leadership of the House tackled the imbroglio has brought to the fore a hitherto unnoticed leadership quality of the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
While many Nigerians still look forward to the final outcome of the panel empowered to get to the root of the bribery allegation, as well as finding the reason for the crash of the capital market, the intervention of the leadership of the House has set a positive precedence in managing the affairs of the lower chamber of the country’s legislature.
Unlike the thinking in some quarters that the matter would be swept under the carpet, events of penultimate Tuesday where the Speaker set up an ad hoc committee to carry on with the capital market probe, as well as mandating the House Ethics committee to dig into the bribery allegation, have reaffirmed the confidence Nigerians have on Tambuwal to lead the House to the desired destination.
In June last year when he got the nod of his colleagues to head the House, Tambuwal laid out in his Legislative Agenda what can best be described as far reaching ideas that had the potential to radically change the way and manner in which lawmakers and the legislature as whole conduct affairs in the country.
Since that momentous day when he laid his card bare to all Nigerians to assess, many legislators have followed suit by launching what they termed their legislative agendas, indirectly copying Tambuwal in their effort to bolster their social contract with their constituents.
At the crux of the Legislative Agenda is the determination to initiate a new order that fosters transparency leading to institutional integrity through efficiency of public expenditure management. Also, it seeks to restructure the management and functions of legislative committees towards adequacy in capacity and improved productivity.
In addition, the Agenda seeks to design and implement the electronic parliament (e-parliament) blueprint that elevates the National Assembly operations to international best practices and ensures public access to parliamentary information and process.
Importantly, the Agenda seeks to review the legislative branch budget in line with the requirements of openness, effectiveness and accountability; review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in all relevant areas in line with the aspirations of Nigerians; engage actively with other arms of government to restore public order and national security and finally to institutionalize mechanisms that facilitate effective engagement with various stakeholders including constituents and civil society organizations (CSOs).
Intent on implementing the agenda for the collective good of the polity, Speaker Tambuwal approached the bribery allegation in a manner that reinforced his age-long stand on fighting corruption in its entire ramification. No doubt, his strong stance on discipline, accountability, and truth, as seen from the way he handled the allegation, is now setting the bar and becoming an example in a territory where the tenets of morality and social justice are seriously under the threat.
Tambuwal’s decision to appoint a respected MP, Ibrahim El-Sudi, to head the ad hoc committee and continue with the public hearing, along with Ini Idoku, Yakubu Dogara, Bimbo Daramola, Toby Chukwu, Usman Mohammed and Rose Oko, is no doubt a visionary step that would go a long in reaffirming the faith Nigerians have on him and the House.
The decision to also appoint the Minority Whip of the House of the House, Hon Samson Osagie, to head the Ethics and Privileges Committee that will investigate the bribery allegation will go down in memory as a masterstroke aimed at giving all parties a fair hearing.
For those who may not know Osagie, apart from being a member of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the honourable gentleman has built a reputation as a no-nonsense and uncompromising lawmaker whose voice is respected across political divide in the House.
With Hembe being from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the intention is to ensure that no one accuses the majority PDP members of moves to favour one of their own.
In a speech immediately after Hembe announced his resignation, Speaker Tambuwal described the event as a challenge “which though not unusual in the democratic process, has subjected this institution to further refining. These challenges are necessary for the strengthening of our democratic institutions.”
According to him, “The incidence of 15th March 2012 which forms the basis of the deliberations just concluded arose from an investigative hearing which was being conducted pursuant to a resolution of this House.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in Sections 88 and 89 places upon the legislature the duty and responsibility to conduct investigations into the activities of government for the purpose of exposing corruption, waste and inefficiency.
This is no doubt a responsibility which is hazard prone. However, as I have stated elsewhere, these hazards notwithstanding, it is a duty from which we cannot and must not abdicate.
“Let me assure Nigerians once again that we are totally committed to the fight against corruption and shall deploy all energies available at our disposal to fight this war. The old saying that “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” will continue to be our guide. I also wish to assure Nigerians that in fighting this war we recognize that we must, like Caesar’s wife be above board and suspicion.
“For the avoidance of doubt and the benefit of those who may be uninformed, all Committees of the House have constitutional backing.
“My dear Colleagues, we were not elected to lie on a bed of roses. Those who elected us expect that we represent their yearnings and aspirations.
Nigerians have chosen presidential democracy as a bulwark against dictatorship, against corruption and waste and above all against executive recklessness, this is the duty to which we have been called and we have sworn to promote, protect and preserve the will of the people enshrined in the Constitution.
The House of Representatives will continue to be a bulwark against injustice and vanguard for the promotion of good governance and the defense of the interests, yearnings and aspiration of Nigerians,” he added.
The Speaker has repeatedly said that the need to stimulate the socio-economic growth and development of the country is the cardinal objective of the Seventh Session of the House of Representatives. Accordingly, all hands are on deck to ensure that Nigeria becomes a great country that is the envy and pride of all.
This House, under Speaker Tambuwal, has certainly indicated its desire and willingness to redeem and re-order its perception among the populace as a pro-Nigerian parliament. The task ahead of us all is to rally round this objective and see to its realization.
Imam is the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Speaker of the House of Representatives