As the House plans to resume legislative activities for the year 2022 on Tuesday, it is essential to remind the lawmakers, particularly Speaker Femi Gbajabimila of some of its abandoned projects which definitely will form part of the appraisal of the 9th Assembly.
While it is not contentious that Gbajabiamila’s House has recorded many successes in almost three years, it’s has also recorded many lows, but there is ample time to ensure that its highs outweighs the lows.
To start with, it is essential for Speaker Gbajabimila to understand that beyond several political interests and considerations the House is accountable to Nigerians. He should also note that the public is not interested in the political undercurrents, hence the need to ensure that every probe embarked upon should be concluded and discharged fairly.
Therefore, a further delay in the very many probes which were arrested either by Gbajabiamila’s directive or swept under his office carpet is not in the public interest and it is already putting the APC government which campaigned on the strength on anti-corruption crusade in a bad light.
The Arms Purchase Probe
The House set up an inquiry into the quality and quantity of arms and ammunition purchased for security agencies in the country in the last 10 years. The Green Chamber inaugurated the ad-hoc Committee mandated to review the purchase, use and control of arms, ammunition and related hardware by military, paramilitary and other law enforcement agencies.
The Chairman of the Committee, during the inauguration, Hon Olaide Akinremi (Jagaba) from Ibadan North federal constituency of Oyo State, claimed that “Nigeria spent an estimated sum of $47.387 million in arms importation by 2019”.
He added that the Committee would proceed to investigate the quality and quantity of arms and ammunition purchased in the last ten years by a clear inquest into the relevant tools and equipment, as well as ammunition as to whether evidence exists or not.
The ad-hoc committee had, in one of its meetings told the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru to go back and prepare a comprehensive position for presentation to it, while also asking the Inspector General of Police to do same and report back to the Committee.
But the late Attahiru had told the committee to direct its enquiry at his predecessors, as he was not in office at the time the funds for arms were disbursed. Even before his untimely death, that was the end of the probe.
Surprisingly, while the probe was ongoing, Gbajabimila announced the dissolution of all as-hoc committees and the fate of the arms probe report remain uncertain.
The $500m Chinese Loan
The House Committee on Treaties and Protocols had launched an investigation into the $500 million loan from the Chinese government. The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, subsequently appealed to the National Assembly to halt its probe.
Amaechi during an investigative hearing by the Committee said the investigation being carried out by the National Assembly could frustrate the loan agreement between Nigeria and China on the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail project.
“We have the approval to construct the Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail lines. We are also at the point of negotiating for the loans. Summoning us to the National Assembly to come and address the loans would look like the government is no longer interested in the loan,” the minister had said.
The report of the probe, if any, is also being awaited.
The House also probed the alleged misuse of N81bn by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The probe, however, took a dramatic twist when the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, accused members of the National Assembly as being the most beneficiaries from the contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). He also fingered the chairman of the committee.
While responding to questions at the investigative hearing, Akpabio said, “The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region and 90 per cent or more of the resources of the country comes from there. If you closed it down in totality all you will have is chaos. You will have a lot of, not just militancy, you will have a lot of insurrection.
“So it is important that people, who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.”
When a female lawmaker interrupted his presentation and asked what benefits the lawmakers get from the contracts, the minister said, “I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly.”
Earlier, then acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Pondei collapsed while being grilled by the lawmakers. This forced the committee to suspend the probe. Eventually, the probe was concluded and report submitted. However, one year after the report was submitted, it is yet to be considered.