Amid the controversy arising from the summons of President Goodluck Jonathan by members of the House of Representatives, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, said that there was nothing wrong with the House inviting him to appear before it to answer questions on the country’s security situation.
The governor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said this at the Lagos State House, Ikeja when the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha and some principal officers of the lower chamber of the National Assembly paid him a courtesy visit.
He insisted that it was in order for members of the House of Representatives to issue summons to any person to defend actions or deeds and provide clarifications before the lawmakers.
Fashola said that the summons by lawmakers should be seen as an opportunity for public officers to defend their actions.
He said, “If the legislature summons you, you respond but I understand that it’s a learning curve. Mondays, usually, are our Council meetings, but if the House of Assembly summons a commissioner, he has to go and answer, each ministry has a budget, it’s the right of the people to know because their constituencies ought to know.
Meanwhile, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo has stated that summon issued by the House on Jonathan is in order with the law of the land.
In a statement made available yesterday, Kayomo said, Section 89 (1)(C) of the 1999 Constitution (amended) empowers the national assembly to “summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other things in his possession or under his control.”
“From the sections of the constitution quoted above what is clear is that the constitution does not exclude any person whosoever, including the president of the country from being summoned by the National Assembly to appear before it.
However, the subject matter of the inquiry must be a matter within its constitutional legislative competence.
“In this case, the subject matter of the inquiry relates to the peace, order and good government of the country which is the primary responsibility of the National Assembly by virtue of section 4(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Therefore, the House of Representatives have acted purely within the scope of its powers in inviting the president to appear before it.”
However, Keyamo explained that that was as far as the lawmakers could go in respect of the matter as the constitution does not allow any criminal or civil proceedings against the president while in office; according to Section 308 (1) & (3) of the constitution.
He added that the constitution clearly shows that the national assembly “lacks the power to enforce its summons against the president, because no warrant of arrest by anybody, institution or whatsoever can be issued or enforced against the president.