The seventh House of Representatives recently marked its first year anniversary. ADESUWA TSAN and EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE in this weekly roundup look into major developments last week with the Lagos bound Dana airways crash topping the list.
When the seventh House of Representatives was inaugurated on June 6, 2011, 360 federal lawmakers as a road mark adopted the National Legislative Agenda. Watchers say the agenda opened a new episode in parliamentary administration in the country.
Adjourn engagements over Dana air crash
The Lower House cancelled most of its committee meetings to join other Nigerians in mourning victims of Dana Aircraft crash which happened last week Sunday.
House Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, started by calling off a retreat for correspondents covering the House holding in Kaduna State on Monday.
Tuesday plenary was brief, concentrating on the crash and the need to take action on the matter. The lawmakers also resolved to investigate the immediate and remote causes of not just the Dana Air crash but also that of Allied in Ghana which took place on Saturday.
Recall that on June 3 and June 2, a Dana plane with 153 passengers on board and Allied plane crashed at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos and Ghana respectively.
The Lower House Committee on Aviation which was mandated to carry out the task was also mandated to ascertain the airworthiness of all other airlines operating in the country and make appropriate recommendations.
Chairman of Aviation Committee, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha (PDP-Abia) had raised the motion on Tuesday which was unanimously adopted.
According to Onyejeocha, the crashes were clear indications of failure and negligence on the part of regulatory authorities in the aviation industry which if left unchecked, can lead to more devastating air mishaps in the future.
She said that the Dana air crash was an indication of a monumental rot in the aviation industry.
“The aforesaid crash is a defining moment for a clinical re-examination of our aviation norms and operational procedures with particular reference to regulatory functions”, she said.
Other reps also contributed to the debate. Rep. Samson Osagie (ACN, Edo), the Minority Whip, attributed the crash to inefficiencies of regulatory agencies in the industry.
“We are quick to react to disasters, but not quick to provide solutions to the problems. We cannot continue like this as a nation”, he said.
Similarly, Rep. Adeyinka Ajayi (ACN, Osun) said that there was need for a serious overhaul of the aviation industry and called on the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to step up its investigation, while the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should sit back.
Asking the investigation to be taken on a broader scope, Rep. Ayo Omidiran (ACN, Osun) called on the committees to carry out an elaborate investigation to unravel the causes of the crashes.
She urged Nigerians with relevant information to oblige the committee with such information that would enhance their work while Rep. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi (PDP, Enugu) blamed the Dana plane crash on regulatory agencies who failed to ground the aircraft even when they knew it was not air worthy.
He said the owner of the airline committed mass murder for insisting that the aircraft must lift passengers from Abuja to Lagos on that fateful day.
A meeting scheduled to hold between the committee on Appropriation and the minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to evaluate the level of implementation of the budget was also cancelled by the chairman of the committee, Hon John Enoh.
The lawmakers proceeded on a brief recess on Wednesday.
Reps talk tough on presidential assent to laws
The House seems ready for a showdown with the president over bills lying unsigned on the shelves of the presidency.
To create more emphasis on the stand which was stressed by the speaker during the Democracy Day celebrations, the chairman of Rules and Business committee of the House, Hon Albert Sam-Tsokwa made this known at a press briefing on Thursday.
He was however quick to add that though the lawmakers have moved to override the president if he withholds assent on bills passed by the House, there is no discord between the legislature and the executive.
“Henceforth, any bill which is in the interest of Nigerians which is not given assent to in the statutory 30 days may be passed by a two-third of members of the House”, he stated.
It will be recalled that the lawmakers had earlier in the week made this point during one of their sittings.
Similarly, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had also made this position known to the president when he raised the issue of about 10 pending pieces of legislature which were passed by the National Assembly but were still not assented to by the president
6,000 Nigerians in foreign prisons for grugs, NDLEA tell Reps
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Thursday told the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora that Nigeria currently has over 6, 000 of its nationals serving various jail terms abroad for drug-related offences.
NDLEA’s Director General, Mr Femi Ajayi told the Abike Dabiri-Erewa led Diaspora Committee that Iran has 4,000 inmates, Brazil 500, Thailand 500 and Malaysia 300.
Ajayi said a bulk of Nigerians caught for drug-related offences outside the country were from the South-East with majority from Anambra state.
“I do not know what we can do to the upsurge of our brethren from the South East who indulge in this kind of business. Can you believe that out of the 500 Nigerians in Thailand prisons, 480 of them are from the South East and 450 from it are from Anambra state”. DG NDLEA said.
Ajayi decried low funding for the agency’s activities. He said poor funding impacted negatively on its ability to fight the scourge of drug trafficking.
“In 2011, our capital budget was N84.5 million but only N61 million was released... overheads also reduced from N630 million in 2011 to N600 million despite the fact that our staff strength increased from 3, 200 to 5, 300”, he lamented.
The NDLEA boss also explained that Nigeria is now vulnerable to the activities of drug couriers since the expulsion of the agency from the nation’s seaports adding that although a scanner costs only N30 million, Nigeria has not been able to buy at least one for its airport commands since the inauguration of the agency.
Poor funding stalling N349 billion East-West road completion - Minister
Nigeria’s Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Godsday Orubebe told federal lawmakers that inadequate funding was threatening the completion of the N349 billion East-West road dualisation project.
Orubebe told the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta that a total of N133 billion had been expended on the project, with an outstanding liability of N24 billion.
The project was inherited from the Federal Ministry of Works in 2009 with 10 per cent work completion.
According to the Minister, the road project was initially scheduled to be completed in 2010, but due to poor funding, has been further shifted to December 2014.
He said only N23 billion was appropriated for the project in the 2012 budget with an additional N21 billion under the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) funds.
“The 2012 budget as passed and assented to by President Jonathan is posing a very serious challenge to us as monies approved for projects are grossly inadequate.
“We have not gotten the funds needed for the development of the Niger Delta”. He told the Warman Ogoriba led Lower House committee.