…nobody is above the scrutiny of the National Assembly- Lawan
By Ayo Fadimu & Shorunke Tunde
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige called a member ad hoc committee, James Faleke a ‘small boy’ at the Federal House of Representatives hearing.
The minister appeared before the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee investigative hearing over suspension of the management of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
Faleke, who is representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, is a member of the Adhoc committee investigating the suspension. Ngige, before answering questions, had started by saying that members of the committee were his younger brothers, except Faleke whom he said might be up to 60.
Faleke interrupted the minister, saying he was well over 60, but the minister said the lawmaker was a small boy and that he is of the same age bracket with Asiwaju Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who is seen as Faleke’s political godfather.
According to Ngige, “So, you are near my age, at least I am seven years older than you. I’m the same age with your mentor in Lagos, Asiwaju, “And I was governor with him at the same time. He was a senator, I was a senator. I am a two time minister, he isn’t a two time minister.” He added Uproar as Ngige calls Faleke ‘small boy’ at Reps hearing
Again, Faleke interrupted saying Tinubu “won all his elections very well.” The remark appeared to be a mockery of Ngige whose election as governor of Anambra state was nullified in 2006.
Responding again, Ngige said; “no problem about that, just like you won your own in Kogi state very well. And you are now the deputy governor and governor of Kogi state.”
Faleke, who was running mate to Abubakar Audu, in the 2015 Kogi governorship election was denied the governorship ticket when Audu suddenly died as the election was almost completed.
When Faleke asked the minister to respond to questions, he said; “I’m responding my friend, if you yab me, I yab you ten times. I am a Lagos boy, you are just a small boy in Lagos. Look at this Mushin boy, he’s talking with a VI boy. I lived in Victoria Island. Look at this Mushin boy from Kogi o.”
The situation which led to this drama was the controversial suspension of the management of the NSITF which the Ad hoc committees are investigating.
In a letter on July 1, 2020 and addressed to the Managing Director of NSITF, Adebayo Somefun, Ngige said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the suspension of the management, that Somefun heads over “misappropriation and other gross misconduct”.
Somefun was instructed to hand over to the most senior official in the board, and face a panel that would investigate procurement dealings of the agency from 2017 to 2020.
Reacting to the letter, NSITF, however, had said the president has not given such a directive.
In the meantime, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that nobody is above the scrutiny of the National Assembly.
Lawan stated this in his closing remarks moments before the Upper Chamber adjourned plenary till September 15, 2020.
Lawan’s statement came few hours after Labour Minister, Ngige had confrontation with the House of Reps Adhoc Committee. Speaking on the gains of a harmonious working relationship between the Legislature and the Executive arm of Government, the Senate President advised appointees of the President against needless confrontation with the Committees of the National Assembly.
According to him, engagements with Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government by the Committees of the National Assembly are carried out to serve public interest and in accordance with the
provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“As for what has been happening recently, let me take this opportunity to advice that it takes both arms of Government to work together in a cordial and harmonious way.
“We are desirous of working together with the executive arm, and we expect that the Executive arm would be desirous of working with us. We want to work in harmony.
“Nobody should feel that he is above the scrutiny of the National Assembly. The function of the National Assembly is enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Therefore, it is important that whoever takes public office also understand that there has to be this type of engagement on behalf of the Nigerian public,” Lawan said.
The Senate President urged the relevant Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream); and Gas to engage the Executive arm of Government, particularly the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to be submitted to the National Assembly.
He added that such engagement between both arms of government would reduce the time needed to carry out legislative work on the bill when it is finally sent to the Legislature for consideration and passage. “I urge that our oil and gas committees continue to engage with the Executive arm of Government, particularly the NNPC, DPR, and all the Petroleum related agencies and work with them as if the bill has been presented to us, so that we reduce the time that we need to spend considering the bill when it is finally presented to us.
“It is our hope and desire that we are able to break the jinx that has visited the PIB since 2007.
“The PIB has defied passage and assent, this time around we want to work assiduously with the Executive arm of Government to ensure that we pass the PIB and that the President signs it into law, because we have everything to lose if not passed this year. “If we are able to do it, we will get more revenue into the coffers of the Federal Government, as well as attract and retain investments into the oil and gas sector in Nigeria,” the Senate President said.
Meanwhile, the Senate during Wednesday’s plenary passed three bills. They are: Police Act (Repeal and are-enactment) Bill, 2020; Banks and other Financial Institutions Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020; and the
Nigerian Railway Corporation Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2020. The Police Re-enactment Bill was passed following the consideration of the Conference Committee Report of the National Assembly Committee on Police Affairs.
Similarly, the Banks and other Financial Institutions Bill; and the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill were both passed after a clause-by-clause consideration of the reports of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions; and Committee on Land Transport.