I have read and listened to several arguments as regards the powers of the National Assembly or chambers of the National Assembly to summon the president for questioning. Although, the argument is not in any way new to our democratic development, the provisions of section 89 (1) and (2) which ought to be jealousy guided by the parliament has not been subjected to judicial interpretation to determine whether or not the president is exempted.
It also appears that the leadership of the House of Representatives is not only good at manipulating the voice vote of members, they are also very good at playing the double game of betrayal against the House they lead.
The recent revelation by the senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari in National Assembly matters (House of Representatives) Hon. Umar El-Yakub came to mind when thinking about how cheaply the leadership of the House surrendered its power as enshrined in section 89 in the name of cordiality with the executive arm of government.
When pointedly asked about President Buhari’s hesitation to honour the House of Representative’s invitation, since the president prides himself as a leader who revered the parliament, El-Yakub who acknowledged the powers of the House to summon the president said the leadership changed their mind on the summon/invitation.
“of course, the President respects their rights to that invitation and certainly there was a change of thinking by the leadership, otherwise, the President would have been there for the briefing,” he said.
Surprisingly, the House waited in vain for the president to appear for a detailed explanation on the nation’s security challenges, unknown to the majority that they have been sold out by their leaders.
When the House decided to invite President Muhammadu Buhari for questioning over the poor state of security in the country, Nigerians were excited, thinking that the Green Chamber finally grew some balls.
If the El-Yakub account is anything to go by, the speaker would later scuttle the arrangement by telling the president not to appear after his failed attempt to persuade the House against issuing the summon.
For clarity, the decision to summon the president was reached on Tuesday, 1st December 2020, after the House considered a motion moved by members from Borno State on the massacre of 43 rice farmers near Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents.
However, the debate on the motion turned rowdy when the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila appealed that it would be inappropriate to invite the president to disclose the actions being taken towards handling the security situation in the country. The majority of the members, were, however, opposed to the speaker’s position and this threw the House into a rowdy debate.
Consequently, the House went into an executive session to resolve the matter. After the executive session, Hon Ahmed Jaha who is one of the sponsors moved an amendment to invite the President to brief on the security situation in the country.
Nevertheless, irrespective of their choice of words, the president never appeared before the House, and the leadership of the House up till this moment did not offer any explanation.
It is rather worrisome how cheap the House surrendered such sensitive power without even a second thought, at least the constitutional provision would have been tested in the court.
All thanks to Hon Sergius Ogun, who has sponsored a bill seeking to amend the constitution to compel the president and governors to respond to issues of security or any other matter before parliament. The bill has passed through a 2nd reading and has been referred to the special committee of the House on the review of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Nigerians are watching and hoping not to have the ‘Wase magic’ on this bill when it’s being considered at the committee level or returned to plenary for consideration of the report.
Instructively, Gbajabimila, going by El-Yakub’s revelation has recorded another low in his sojourn as a speaker, nevertheless, he has a little more time to redeem his image before Nigerians. The time is ticking!