OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has a propensity to set tongues wagging with high profile probes. It is hard to forget the controversial $16billion power probe under the Dimeji Bankole era or the Abdulrasheed Maina saga that has dragged for years and now in court.
However, most of these probes have something in common: little or nothing comes out of them. They end mostly being content for social media trends and television talk shows.
Despite the disruption by COVID-19 in 2020, the House as usual had some high profile investigative hearings and as usual the expected outcomes have been arrested. Those with reasonable resolutions mostly end up being ignored by the executive arm of government.
Here are some of the high profile probes of 2020:
- Arrested Chinese loans probe
Back in August, the House Committee on Treaties and Protocol investigated agreements in international borrowings made by the federal government with focus on Chinese loans.
During the public hearing, the chairman of the committee, Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), claimed that the Ministry of Transportation signed over $33billion worth of loans with the Chinese government. The claim caused a bit of a row between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and Mr. Ossai, as the former said his ministry only signed $1.2billion.
The real issue that set tongues wagging was the sovereignty immunity clause in the loans. Mr. Ossai interpreted the clause as ceding of Nigeria’s sovereignty to China, painting the scary picture of forfeiture of national assets in case of default. However, the minister and some analysts countered that such clauses are standard for international loans in the event of arbitration. The disagreement and ensuring drama, which forced a sudden appearance of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila at the hearing, remained sauce for media analysis for long.
The committee also summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on the issue. The probe was soon politicized as top operators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) saw the exercise as a move to embarrass the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Gbajabiamila reportedly had to defend himself as to why such would happen under his watch. Eventually the leadership of the House suspended the probe in controversial circumstances. Till date, nothing has been heard on the matter.
- NSITF and the Ngige outburst
In July, a House ad hoc committee held a public hearing on the firing of three heads of federal agencies by some ministers. Some of the agencies affected include the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The investigation followed the consideration of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Leke Abejide (ADC, Kogi), with heavy allegations of abuse against the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige.
Abiodun Faleke (APC, Kogi) specifically made weighty allegations of corruption against Ngige during the debate on the motion. This bad blood was carried to the investigative hearing where Ngige and Faleke had burst up with the infamous “see this small boy, ordinary Mushin boy talking to a Victoria Island boy” tantrum from the minister.
Although the House subsequently adopted the report of the adhoc committee with recommendation to reinstate the sacked NSITF management, the executive is yet to heed this resolution.
- NDDC and the fainting Prof. Pondei
The dramatic ‘slumping’ of Nigerian big men before courts of law was taken to the House of Representatives when the acting Managing Director of the Niger delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Pondei, ‘fainted’ for a few minutes during public hearing taken on live television.
The ‘slumping’ of Prof Pondi was just a small part of the drama that happened during the investigation. Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee had to recuse himself from chairing the hearing due to accusation of conflict of interest.
Later the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs at the hearing dropped a bombshell by alleging that 60% of the contracts were given to some members of the National Assembly with the acting Chairman of the Committee, Thomas Ereyitomi, trying to shut Akpabio by shouting ‘Honourable minister! It’s okay, off your mic!”
However, Sen Akpabio later recanted his statement following threat of legal action by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila who gave him 48 hours to reveal the names of the beneficiaries of the NDDC contracts. Akpabio later released some names of lawmakers who he claimed benefitted from contracts from the commission.
- School feeding, tradermoni and other social welfare probes
The Social investment programme of the federal government under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development has constantly been under spotlight and legislative scrutiny.
In June, the House Committee on Public Account launched investigation into the disbursement of N1.6trillion allocated to the Ministry from 2016 to 2019.
In August, the same committee invited the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the current Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, while it exonerated the Office of the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
It also summoned the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Director General (DG) of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Dr. Yemi Kale on the school feeding programme. But as it seems to be the character of this particular committee, a report is yet to be turned in on any of these probes.
- Power sector probe
The 9th Assembly has several legislative interventions into the power sector including compulsory metering of electricity consumers and three months free electricity during the height of covid-19 pandemic lockdown. While there has been a policy shift towards metering, however, the free electricity proposal by the speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila did not fly.
In July, an ad-hoc committee chaired by the Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Dogwa, commenced probe into the power sector with broad mandate to look into the sector.
The committee In August summoned the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and other players in the sector. The first summon was not honoured by the CBN Governor. He however sent a representative to attend subsequent invitations of the committee. Not much has been heard from the Doguwa-led panel since then.