It will no longer be business as usual for functionaries of the Executive arm of the Federal Government who feel they can disrespect the Legislative branch and get away easily with their unruly behaviour.
The leadership of the National Assembly has warned that the days of rascality by appointees of the Executive arm are over.
The fury of the federal legislators is coming following a recent shouting match of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), with members of the National Assembly over the recruitment of 774,000 youths for the special public works.
Similarly, the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Prof. Kemebrandikumo Pondei, on Thursday walked out on members of the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, which is currently investigating alleged misappropriation of the sum of N81.5billion within six months.
Keyamo had walked out on the lawmakers while they threatened to suspend the programme. The lawmakers insisted that the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) should handle the project and not the minister.
Tired of such brash, the leadership of the National Assembly says henceforth it will not tolerate any form of rascality from the Executive arm of government.
Such unruly appointees will not be allowed to go scot-free. Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, gave the warning while speaking to State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa on Thursday.
NDDC top officials including Pondei on Thursday walked out on members of the House of Representatives robe panel, after the committee took the roll call of invitees and confirmed that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, was absent, it called on NDDC to make its presentation.
Trouble, however, started after Pondei, who led the NDDC to officials demanded that the House Committee Chairman, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, should step down as he had also been indicted of various “crimes” against the Commission.
Pondei said: “Let just say that we are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee presiding over a matter which he is an accused party. The NDDC has over the time accused Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and its people, and he has responded in the press. He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit on his own case.
“We have no issues with appearing before the committee because we appeared before the Senate committee. And as long as he is the Chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentations here.”
The request was dismissed by some members of the committee.
A member, Shehu Koko, who repeatedly screamed “point of order” before Pondei concluded his speech, said, “before the chairman rules on what the Acting MD NDDC said, I want to state categorically that – and this is the stand of the parliament – if you have anything against the Chairman of this committee, there are many ways you can report your matter.”
Koko asked NDDC to petition the Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or the Department of State Services for any infraction allegedly committed by Tunji-Ojo, stressing that the rule of the parliament is that nobody can come and dictate to members that the Chairman ‘’cannot sit because this is not the matter in question now.
Another panellist, Benjamin Kalu, referred the committee and the invitees to the provisions of Section 60 of the Constitution, which allows the parliament to regulate itself.
“The House has decided that this is a committee affair and not a personalised affair. Since it is not about the Chairman of the committee, and there is no petition or official document before the House, and the motion that called for this probe by this committee has not been rescinded by the House, I think it is out of order for an invited guest to instruct us on how to regulate the activity of the House.
“I’m praying that the Chairman sustains this point of order”, Kalu says.
Ben Igbakpa, another panellist notes that Sections 88 and 89 give the lawmakers express powers to summon and seek for information to avoid waste, corruption and inefficiency, and that was what they were doing.
“Nobody has come here to discuss your allegation because it is not an allegation before us; there is no document before us. Whatever allegation you have made us in the air and it remains in the air. And you cannot come here to dictate to us, subject to Section 60.
“Obey that part of the Constitution and listen to what we have to do. Nobody is indicting you. You have the right to a fair hearing and that is why you are here. But if you feel that fair hearing is not good for you, then it is sad as a nation”, he said.
Apparently irked, Pondei and his team rose and walked out on members and out of the venue. Immediately, Kalu asked the House committee to put it on record that Pondei and others walked out on the panel.
Consequently, the robe panel has called for a warrant of arrest to be issued on the NDDC Interim management committee (IMC)members.
In the meantime, Lawan has expressed serious reservations about the recent conduct of some government officials in the Executive arm to the legislature.
The Senate president who was in the company of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, notes that the current National Assembly has a cordial relationship with the Executive because of President Buhari’s disposition to the legislative arm.
According to him, “the National Assembly will not continue to tolerate indiscrete attitudinal displays from appointees of President Buhari and the legislature would not define its relationship with the President by the misdemeanour of one appointee.
“If you are an appointee of the President, you are supposed to be reflective of the attitude of the President towards the National Assembly but the National Assembly will take exception to any attitude or disposition that is not in support of the harmony in the relationship between the two arms of government.
“I think the relationship between this National Assembly and the Executive arm of government, particularly Mr President, is beyond one employee of the President. I don’t know what you mean by that, but let me say that this National Assembly has been very supportive, very friendly with the Executive arm of government and there’s no doubt in my mind that the President has been quite supportive of the Legislature as well.
“You will recall that in the processing of the budget last year, Mr President made a very categorical statement that no minister at that time should travel out of Nigeria without going to the National Assembly to defend his or her budget.
“That had never been done before and that was in support and in almost every family engagement the President would commend the members of the National Assembly. So Mr President is in full support of the National Assembly and what we do.
“We have come to see Mr President on behalf of the members of the National Assembly and this is supposed to be a continuous engagement between the Legislature and the Executive arm of government.
“Whatever we’ll do to ensure that the administration works for Nigerians, we will do that and this is to enhance the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature to commit ourselves to ensure that we work together.
“Both the Legislature and the Executive must at all times work in the interest of the people of this country, we cannot afford not to do this because essentially, the government is for people to have service.
“And the essence of this particular visit is to ensure that the Legislature, the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government, led by Mr President, continue to work together to ensure that the relationship that we have, which has been working for this administration to deliver services to Nigerians is sustained.
“I believe the outcome of this meeting is going to improve the relationship between the two arms of government. I imagine that at the end of the day the trajectory of ensuring very good and purposeful operational way of doing things between the two arms will continue.
“We have had a very good engagement with Mr President. Mr President has always respected the Legislature, he has always commended the National Assembly members for always being there to ensure that the requests by the Executive, in the national interest, are processed.”
“We are sure that every member of the National Assembly has always been there to ensure that we do the right thing for this country and Mr President is in full support of our position that this relationship must be sustained at all times for the benefit of the people of Nigeria.”