Seven key events that shaped Nigeria’s House of Representatives in 2018

House of Reps
House of Reps

Recalling events in 2018 at the House of Representatives will not be complete without some controversial yet memorable ones.

The 8th assembly led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara witnessed a lot of events that ranged from the famous NEMA committee report, faulty microphones and others.

Below are some of the events that helped shape 2018 in the lower legislative chamber.

1. Lifting Of Abdulmumin Jibrin’s Suspension

The House of Representatives lifted a suspension it placed on Abdulmumin Jibrin, a lawmaker from Kano.

This followed a letter signed by Mr Jibrin, allegedly apologising to the House.

Although the letter was not fully read before the parliament, the speaker paraphrased it by saying he has apologised and “met all the conditions given to him”.

“He has fulfilled all the conditions by writing this letter and so he is free to resume his legislative duties whenever he wants if he so wishes.”

Mr Jibrin was suspended in 2017 for a period of 180 legislative days for ‘unfolding’ budget padding scandal in the legislature.

His suspension, however, lasted for more than the stipulated 180 legislative days which is equivalent to one year, the longest suspension ever meted on a legislator since the return of democracy in 1999.

He later resumed his full duties and was appointed as the new chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport during a minor shuffle by the speaker.

2. Vote Of No Confidence On Minister

The House of Representatives in March passed a vote of no confidence on the then Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa-Bwari.

Mr Fayemi, who is now Ekiti State Governor, and Mr Bawa-Bwari ere absent at a sectoral debate on the steel sector scheduled by the House primarily to find solutions to the troubled Ajaokuta Steel Plant.

As the plenary began, the Speaker, Mr Dogara, informed members of how he personally wrote Mr Fayemi a letter on February 16, 2018, inviting him to address lawmakers on the state of affairs in the steel sector and on Ajaokuta in particular.

He said the minister replied on February 27, just two days to the debate, to say that he would be unavailable, while Mr Bawa-Bwari too had other official engagements.

The minister’s reply was written on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Abdulkadir Muazu.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, was scheduled to appear alongside with Fayemi.

However, Mr Dogara said while Mrs Adeosun called to explain that she was in Kaduna and would arrive in Abuja by 4 p.m. to address the House, Mr Fayemi merely said he was unavailable, but wished the House well.

The Speaker said he was amazed by the minister’s conduct, which he said appeared to give credence to the allegation that “some powerful interests” in the ministry had concluded arrangements to ‘concession’ the steel complex.

He asked how a nation would toy with a plant that had consumed $5.1bn and was so critical to the survival of its economy.

The motion to pass a vote of no confidence on the ministers was moved by the house leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, and unanimously adopted by the house.

Mr Fayemi However condemned the lawmakers’ action, describing it as “unwarranted and unfortunate.”

3. Summon Of Buhari

Sometime in April, the House of Representatives resolved to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it to explain the actions he had taken to halt killings in the country.

The lawmakers, who debated the incessant killings by herdsmen in Benue State and other parts of the country, said the unending attacks had confirmed that the Buhari administration had “failed.”

The House asked the president to deploy full military presence in Benue State “within 24 hours to smoke out killer herdsmen for prosecution.”

It also resolved that the killer herdsmen should be declared as “terrorists.”

In addition, members agreed to shut down legislative duties for three days in protest against the unending killings in the country.

The motion to invite Mr Buhari was moved by an All Progressives Congress member from Kano State, Bashir Baballe.

It was passed in a unanimous voice vote.

President Buhari, however, did not appear before the lawmakers as it was learnt that no communication was made to his office to that regard.

4. Faulty Microphones

The House of Representatives adjourned its plenary three times in two weeks over a defective microphone system.

This embarrassing development prevented the lawmakers from discussing crucial national issues.

Explaining the need for the adjournments, Speaker Dogara said the problem has not been fixed because it can only be done by the manufacturers.

“Unfortunately up till now we have been unable to fix the problem because we are not masters of this technology here,” he said. “I have been told that the microphones on the rows on my right are not working. Only rows seven to 11 are working. Rows one to six are not functioning.”

He said the House is not ashamed to be criticised because they are the house of the people.

The stationary microphones were later substituted with wireless microphones.

5. Defections

The House witnessed large defections when 37 members defected mostly from Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Of this number, 33 joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while four joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Many members have since cross-carpeted from one political party after the mass defection. Mr Dogara is one of the latter defectors. He left Nigeria’s ruling APC for the PDP.

6. NEMA Fraud Report

One of the major events in the House that dominated the political space in 2018 was the Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness report that indicted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

It accused him of illegally approving N5.8 billion North-east Intervention Fund which the lawmakers said was mismanaged by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The committee chairman, Ali Isa (PDP, Gombe) while presenting the report said as the then acting president, Mr Osinbajo illegally approved the release of N5.8 billion in June 2017 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account to NEMA.

He said the authorisation for the release of the fund for emergency food intervention in the Nort-east contravened Section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The section states that “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”.

The lawmakers also stated that the authorisation did not follow due process as taxes and interest accruable to the government were not deducted or remitted to FIRS and no meeting of the Federal Executive Council approved the contracts.

The committee said the funds were credited directly to the individual banks of the companies and NEMA’s bank account, in violation of the approval limit allowed by law.

The committee said out of the N5.8 billion, NEMA got N829 million for logistics and claimed it spent N369.5 million on general logistics; N189 million on branding and packaging; N248.6 million on branding and packaging and N21.9 million on contingency.

The House, adopting the recommendations of the report, called for the dismissal and prosecution of the director-general of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, for fraud, corruption and embezzlement of N33 billion Emergency Intervention Fund, as well as all the government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the fund.

It also said the Central Bank of Nigeria, being the banker to the federal government, should not have been involved in giving loans to private companies and as such, should be investigated for the N2 billion loan said to have been given to four named companies.

The committee’s investigation of NEMA covered the release of N5.8 billion and N3.1 billion emergency food intervention of food security in the North-east in 2017; the 6,779 metric tonnes of rice donated by the Chinese government to IDPs in the North-east and the payment of about N800 million demurrage on the donated rice.

The committee stated that N33 billion was lost by the federal government due to Mr Maihaja’s mismanagement and outright embezzlement of funds.

The House unanimously agreed to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the director-general of NEMA of his duties and hand him over to relevant authorities for prosecution.

The Vice President, however, in a statement by his spokesperson, Laolu Akande, denied the allegations, stating that there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the approval of the funds.

He said approvals were well within the clear constitutional authority of the Acting President, who needed to take emergency steps to forestall acute food shortages in the affected states.

7. Budget Presentation

President Muhammadu Buhari was interrupted and booed intermittently by protesting lawmakers mostly from the House of Representatives while addressing the joint session of the National Assembly.

The action by the lawmakers threw the parliament into a rowdy session while the president presented the 2019 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.

Lawmakers from different political divides booed and cheered the president as he explained the budget details.

Mr Buhari had, in his speech, proposed a budget of N8.83 trillion for 2019.

The proposal showed that about a quarter of the sum (N2.14 trillion) will be used for debt servicing while capital expenditure is expected to gulp N2.031 trillion.

But as the president mentioned each of his achievements, some lawmakers mostly of the opposition PDP chorused, ‘No!’.

The development forced the APC lawmakers to clash as the opposition lawmakers booed the President.

The protests continued, particularly when Mr Buhari said his administration had made success in its anti-corruption campaign.

The president’s response, and composure, was met with applause by other lawmakers mostly of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

As soon as the president concluded his speech, the session turned rowdy again.

It was time for Saraki and Dogara to present their speeches but while APC lawmakers chanted ‘four more years,’ their PDP counterparts screamed, ‘no more years.’

After several minutes into the drama, the Presidential Guards Brigade band suddenly drew the curtain by playing the National Anthem.

The ceremony ended abruptly without speeches from the presiding officers of both houses.

Security operatives led the president out of the chamber.

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