National Assembly’s probes without results

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
National Assembly’s probes without results
David Mark


Since the inauguration of the sevenath National Assembly, it has instituted several probes and passed many a motion. But, almost nothing has been achieved through these probes and motions, write VICTOR OLUWASEGUN, ONYEDI OJIABOR, DELE ANOFI and SANNI ONOGU

Since the inauguration of the Seventh National Assembly over two years ago, it has busied itself with one form of investigation or the other. Some of the investigations were successfully concluded while others were not. Some probes even dragged on for months and had to be abandoned halfway to the consternation of those who put much hope on the investigations.

For the National Assembly, it has been probe, probe and more probe. Apart from probes, there are also countless number of motions.

Of interest, however, is the fact that the resolutions of most of the investigations are never implemented. Where they are implemented, it is done as it suits the whims and caprices of the implementer.

It may be asked who really benefits from what has been described as the National Assembly endless probes? What was the cost of the probe of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) over the privatisation and commercialisation of Federal Government’s concerns or the Pension probe which dragged on for months?

Some observers have described the National Assembly investigations as mostly self-serving while others see the probes as avenues to intimidate, cajole, coax as well as to extort money from “recalcitrant and unwilling” government agencies that refuse to “play ball”.

Senate and its probes

Some of the probes that have been done by the Senate are: the oil subsidy probe, the Rivers State House of Assembly crisis probe, killing of Christopher McManus, a Briton and Franco Lamolinara, Italian in Sokoto by their captors, probe of alleged illegal 37 housing estates in FCT, Malabu Oil Field transaction probe, investigation of alleged $27 million Embassy funds and the probe of police pension funds.

Investigations still pending include Apo killings, Associated Airline crash, N255 million armoured cars purchase probe.

The probe of oil subsidy expenditure by the Senate followed a motion by Senator Bukola Saraki. The Kwara central lawmaker drew Senate’s attention to mind bugling expenditure made by the Presidency presumably as payment to oil marketers.

Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream), Appropriation and Finance swung into action to unravel what went wrong. The Senator Magnus Abe chaired joint committee after months of investigation turned in its report. The crucial report has not seen the light of the day after over one and half years.

The collapse of some Federal Government privatized companies and establishment prompted the Senate to raise the Senator Ahmed Lawan probe committee to look into the matter.

Lawan, (Yobe South), on July 19, 2011, brought a motion about the collapse of some privatised government companies.

On the strength of the motion which essentially considered the Privatization and Commercialization Act of 1988, Bureau of Public Enterprises Act of 1993 and the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act of 1999, the Senate resolved to raise a special committee to probe the ways and means the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) conducted the privatisation of the companies.

After months of investigation, which saw committee members traversing parts of the country in search of facts, the committee made 45 recommendations.

Apart from the recommendations, the committee also exposed shady deals perpetrated in the guise of privatisation exercise. Of importance to the upper chamber was a situation where most of the privatised companies became moribund after the exercise.

The Senate adopted the 45 recommendations wholesale apparently due to the weight of submissions made by the committee. Sadly , the recommendations had been hardly implemented two years after.

The Senate mandated its Committee on Aviation to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash of Dana Airliner on June 3, last year. The probe of the crash, which claimed the lives of over 153 persons, was touchy as it was emotional. To underscore the importance of the investigation the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation also joined.

The joint committee, after its investigation, recommended that the operations of Dana Airline should be banned. It also recommended that the then Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Mr. Harold Demuren, should be relieved of his appointment.

Apart from the removal of Demuren as NCAA DG, not much has been hear of other recommendations.

If the probe of Dana Air crash was emotional and touchy, the investigation of the N273 billion alleged looted pension fund was mind bugling. The Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration conducted the investigation.

Senator Aloysius Etok headed the probe into alleged massive fraud in the management of pension funds. The first phase of the panel’s report said N273 billion pension fund was looted in six years.

The Senate decided, among others, that the Pension Reform Task Force be dismantled while its chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, should be sent packing. Maina, who refused to honour invitation by the committee, went to court to clear his name. The matter is still pending with other twist and turns introduced into the alleged scam.

The probe of the controversy surrounding the sale of the $1.092 billion OPL 245 oil bloc involving Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and Shell/Agip was sequel to a motion sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi. After much debates, not much has been heard about the probe.

The House also probed

To some people, the House of Representatives is probe-centric. While some think the House is playing to the gallery in its desire to be seen as being on the side of the people and that the probes are a waste of time, others are of the opinion that the investigations/probes have added value to the country.

Sections 62, 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution empower the House to entertain petitions against public officers.

During the 7th Assembly,one of the high profile investigation embarked on by the Aminu Tambuwal-led House of Representatives is the probe on the fuel subsidy regime in which over N1.3 trillion was said to have been disbursed.

The adhoc committee headed by Farouk Lawan, which was set up in January last year, was well received. The committee shocked Nigerians with revelations on the level of plundering that was in the petroleum sector and how the country had been defrauded of over N2 trillion through collusion between government officials and fuel importers.

Sadly, an allegation of $620,000 bribe request from an oil businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, against Lawan rubbished what was seen as one of the shinning points of the seventh House.

On July 15, the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes commenced a three-day public investigative hearing to unravel the status of all assets seized and recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since inception.

According to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Drugs, Narcotics ad Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, the House was inundated with complaints from the public on seized assets by the Commission, which led to the Committee being mandated to find out the status of the seized and recovered assets by the Commission since its inception in 2003.

He, however, accused the EFCC and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) of deliberately refusing to be investigated and of hampering investigation.

On July 28, Reps opened a probe into the Aviation Ministry over a N9 billion contract. The investigation was also extended to the SURE-P and the Ministry of Works too.

The assignment was given to the House Committee on Anti Corruption, National Ethic and Values, to investigate the Ministry of Aviation over the award of contracts running into billions of naira paid for but not executed.

Chairman of the Committee, Abiodun Faleke, said the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) as well as the Ministry of Works were to be investigated for breaching Public Procurement Act over No Objection Certificates.

According to him, the Committee was prompted into the investigation as a result of the extent of abuse the No objection Certificate has been subjected to by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA), the report is yet to be submitted.

The House on July 25 began a probe of the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Bala Mohammed over alleged land swap deals. The lawmakers were charged with investigating all cases of land allocation by the FCT from 2010 to date in order to ascertain the propriety and or abuses that borders on racketeering.

The Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal constituted an eight-man ad hoc Committee chaired by Bimbo Daramola (APC Ekiti) to investigate the matter. The investigation is yet to commence at the time of filing this report.

The investigation of the Bonga oil spill began in the House on July 14, as the Committee on Environment headed by Uche Ekwunife summoned SNEPCO, its parent company, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigerian Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) over 2011 Bonga oil spill.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) were also invited to explain their roles in the spill alleged to have destroyed the means of livelihood of 83 communities along the Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State. The investigation is still ongoing.

Reps decided to investigate the Rivers State security situation July 3, having expressed concerns over the degenerating security situation in the State as a result of the face-off between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Commissioner of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu.

The adoption of a point of order on July 9, on a matter of urgent public importance by Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers) had the lawmakers resolving to probe attack on Rivers State House of Assembly. Uchendu posited that democracy is under threat as ex-militants attacked members of the State House of Assembly a day previously.

Consequently, the House directed the Deputy Leader of the House, Leo Ogor (PDP,Delta) and the Majority Whip, Ishaku Bawa (PDP, Taraba) to liaise with the ad-hoc Committee that was constituted earlier to look into the crisis between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu. The investigation has been concluded.

Not long after this, the House named a 14-man ad hoc Committee to investigate oil theft in the country and also to look into the propriety of contracting the protection of our water ways and oil pipelines to private firms.

The Ad-Hoc Committee was also mandated to investigate the allegation made by the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Akpobolekemi, of the involvement of influential people in oil theft and the fact that his organisation has seized ships belonging to the oil thieves and report back to the House within two weeks.

In addition, the Ad-Hoc Committee is to ensure compliance on the issue of putting automated metering system on oil wells, flow heads and export terminals, so as to have accurate data on all processes, and report back to the House by end of January 2014.

The House, on July 2, mandated its Committee on Petroleum Downstream to investigate the issues raised by the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) as well as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Comments by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala over the 2013 budget set the tone for an investigation by House Committees on Finance, Appropriation and Legislative Compliance.

The Minister was quoted to have told Nigerians that the the collapse of the economy is imminent and that by September workers would no longer be able to draw their salaries unless the National Assembly pass the amendment bill and restore funds requested by President Gooluck Jonathan. Her comment were seen by the lawmakers as an attempt to incite Nigerians against members of the National Assembly over the 2013 budget amendment bill. The Minister was hauled before the lawmakers to explain herself. The joint Committee was given seven days to submit its report.

On June 3, the issue of malfunctioning Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in banks caught the attention of the lawmakers and an investigation into allegation of wrongful withholding of customer’s monies through malfunctioning Automated Teller Machines (ATM) commenced.

The decision of the lawmakers followed the adoption of a petition on the issue presented by Ali Ahmad (PDP, Kwara) who noted that the trend is a threat to the country’s transition to a cashless economy. Ahmad, who is also Chairman, House Committee on Justice in the petition narrated how customers went through harrowing experiences through malfunctioning ATMs. The report is yet to be submitted.

Why would the country award its Internet monitoring contract to a foreign firm? This was the question members sought to answer on the 30th of May as they began the probe of the award of $40m internet spying contact to a foreign company by the Federal Government.

The project was to monitor computers and Internet activities of over 45 millions Nigerians on the web. The lawmakers said the process of awarding the contract failed due process and in breach of Fiscal Responsibility Act, and Bureau of Public Procurement Act 2007.

Consequently, the House Committees on Information and Computer Technology, Human Rights, and National Security were mandated to conduct inquiry into the project and report back in three weeks.

The decision followed the adoption of a motion under the matters of urgent public importance raised by Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (ANPP, Zamfara), who noted that the project violated basic privacy provisions of Chapter 4 Section 37 of the 1999 constitution (as amended)

A N275 billion Customs contract came under the lawmakers’ periscopes on January 23, as they expressed concern over the management of N275 billion Destination Inspection Scheme (DIS) between the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Ministry of Finance.

The DIS contracts were awarded to four foreign firms- Cotecna Destination Inspection ltd; SGS Scanning Nigeria ltd; Global Scan Systems ltd and Webb Fountain (Nigeria) ltd to provide scanning services, risk management techniques, electronic platform at various ports in the country.

The Committee on Customs and Excise was given the assignment to investigate the whereabouts of the money.

Last year, there were also probes and investigations by the House. these include the resolution of July 17, last year, which was stimulated by a tanker tragedy on July 12, last year that led to loss of lives of no fewer than one hundred and fifty persons.

The House subsequently resolved to investigate the dualisation of the East-West road project. According to them, the condition of the road was a major contributory factor to the accident.

Also in December, the House Committee on Finance began an intensive probe of remittances by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA).

Joint Venture Agreements became a source of worry for the House on July 5, last year as it decried what it described as connivance between the Nigerian National Petroleum Coporation (NNPC) and some multi- national oil companies in the Joint Ventures Operations otherwise known as Joint Venture Companies (JVC). Consequently, Committee on Petrouleum (Upstream) was mandated to investigate the operations of Joint Venture Agreements (JVA) in respect of revenue leakages.

Additionally, a forensic review of the JVC records to establish the amount of income tax that had accrued to Joint Venture partners in the past seven years and the amount remitted to the Federation Account was to be carried out.

According to the lawmakers, the country has been denied funds that could have accrued to it from some benefits from the Joint Ventures. The report is yet to be submitted.

Sequel to what the House considered a faulty administration and payment of pensions and gratuities to retired officers of the Custom, Immigration and Prisons Office (CIPPO) the House resolved to set up an Ad – hoc Committee to carry out an investigation on the issues on June 21, last year.

The resolution of the lawmakers followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Jerry Alagbaoso ( PDP, Imo ) who noted that the introduction of contributory pension has created many avoidable challenges for those retired before the scheme.

Though the committee was given six weeks to report back after being constituted, the investigation is still said to be ongoing.

Reps began the probe of tax evading companies on May 24, last year by investigating all forms of unpaid taxes to the Federal Government by corporate organisations in country with a view of taking action on how to recover them.

The decision of the lawmakers followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Babangida Ibrahim (CPC, Katsina) who regretted that all revenues accruing to the Federal Government have been dwindling in recent times.

On May 16, last year, the lawmakers decided to investigate the state of the airports security system in the country. According to the lawmakers, in view of the prevailing global security challenges and the on-going renovation at the airports by the Federal Ministry of Aviation, it has become pertinent to adopt preventive measures against breach of passenger and aircraft safety in the country.

Reps, on May 3, last year, summoned the Minister for Education over illegal loans from agencies, parastatals. The lawmaker alleged that the Federal Ministry of Education had been obtaining illegal loans from parastatals and agencies under its supervision over the years,

The issue of the N6.1b sim card registration by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) came to the fore on April 26, 2012 as Reps purposed to investigate NCC After faulting its handling of the N6.2b Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) card registration.

The Reps expressed doubts on the sincerity of the telecommunication regulatory body on the registration process affirming that Nigerians have been deceived.

The House, on April 3, last year, waded into the N42b revenue generated for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) by Maevis Ltd under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) and expressed its determination to ascertain the true position of the controversial revenue

The decision of the lawmakers followed the absence of FAAN at a hearing organised by Committee on Treaties and Agreement into breach of contract between the airport authority and Maevis Ltd.

On March 28, 2012, Reps queried the Federal Government over deductions/ withdrawals from Stabilisation Account and described the withdrawals as illegal. specifically, the lawmakers questioned specifically, the withdrawal of N114b from the account in eight months and expressed willingness to investigate the matter.

They insisted that the revenue sharing laws provide for the remittance of 0.5 per cent of funds accruing to the Federation Account to be kept in the Stabilization Account. They subsequently mandated the Committees on Appropriation and Finance to investigate the issue and determine the amount of monies so far withdrawn, in addition to ascertaining the legality or otherwise of the expenditure made from the account. The Committees were given four weeks to report back to the House.

On February 23, last year, members decided to investigate poor quality of police welfare and sought immediate compensation for families of fallen officers The investigation was also to identify factors responsible for the poor quality of police kits and the prevailing welfare condition of the personnel of the Nigerian Police.

On that day, the lawmakers urged the Federal Government to immediately award scholarships to the children of Sergeant Sunday Bandang, who was blown up while attempting to defuse a suspected Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Kaduna on February 14, last year .

According to Rasaq Bello-Osagie (ACN, Edo) and 64 others in a motion seeking to find solution to the plight of policemen in the country regretted that policemen wear uniforms of various texture as well as different kinds of boots and sometimes found wearing bathroom slippers or sandals while on duty.

On February 14, last year, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement questioned the Minister of Defence, Haliru Bello over the contract for the purchase of 4 fairly used 332 C1/B1 Helicopters worth 65 million Euros.

The contract, which was with the French government, was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and was awarded on August 4, 2011.

The Jumoke Okoya-Thomas-headed committee, during an interactive session with the ministry at the National Assembly also took the Minister to task over the maintenance contract for two C-130H Aircraft (NAF 912 and the NAF 918) with the American Government worth N2.8 billion.

While the compendium from the Bureau of Public Procurement shows that the purchase of the helicopters from France have been processed and paid for, the Minister said the contract was cancelled and that the ministry never took delivery of the helicopters.

These are some of the investigations the House has embarked on sequel to requests of members or trending national concerns. While some people said they were stimulated by patriotic zeal and nationalistic concerns, others presented opposing arguments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.