SDP Gets First National Assembly Member

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has gained its first defector in the House of Representatives.

The member, Olamide Oni, who represents Ijero/Ekiti-West/Efo federal constituency of Ekiti state, announced his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday during plenary.

He cited division as his reason for leaving the PDP which sponsored his election into the House of Representatives.

Mr. Oni is the first elected official to formally join the SDP.

The SDP had announced that some governors and members of the National Assembly would join its fold from the ruling APC and PDP.

Outside the National Assembly, some of the PDP leaders who left include two former ministers, Jerry Gana and Tunde Adeniran.

Reps Summon Buhari Over Benue Herdsmen Killings

President Muhammadu Buhari has been summoned by the House of Representatives.

The President was summoned on Wednesday over incessant killings in the country.

He was summoned during plenary on Wednesday.

The lawmakers asked the president to appear before them to give reasons for the killings and to brief them on the security situation in the country.

Reps Flay Buhari On Payment Of $462m For Fighter Jets, Says Its Impeachable Offence

Members of the House of Representatives did not mince words on Tuesday when they said President Muhammadu Buhari committed an “impeachable offence” by authorising the purchase of $462million jets for the military without appropriation by the National Assembly.

Buhari is buying 12 Tucano aircraft from the US with the money.

The planes will be delivered in 2020.

The lawmakers became angry as soon as the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, read a letter from Buhari, informing the House that the expenditure was done in “anticipation of approval” by the National Assembly.

They noted that the letter was a “mere afterthought”, as the expenditure had been done already.

The anger caused a brief rowdiness on the floor, forcing Dogara to intervene in a bid to calm down the lawmakers.

The eventual decision on Tuesday was that the letter should be properly tabled for debate on another date by the House so that it would take a position on the next line of action.

But, before the resolution, it was the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, who raised a point of order to draw the attention of members to the alleged “constitutional breach” by Buhari.

He said both the 1999 Constitution and other laws in the country did not recognise spending by the President in “anticipation of approval” by the legislature.

Chinda stated, “This matter ($462m) came up last week. Today, Mr. President has admitted that the expenditure has already been incurred.

“We are supposed to be a watchdog, but as it is, we cannot bite. This is an impeachable offence and there is no misconduct that is more serious than this.

“I propose that we commence the impeachment of Mr. President, based on this infraction.”

Reps To Investigate Payment Of Lawyers In Abacha Loot Recovery

The House of Representatives on Thursday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the payment of $16.9 million to lawyers by the Attorney-General of the Federation for the recovery of ‘Abacha loot’.

The committee is also to investigate the controversy surrounding the engagement of Nigerian lawyers for a fee of N6 billion after the actual work had been concluded by another set of lawyers.

The Cable reported that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, refused to approve the payment of $16.9 million fees to two lawyers for the recovery of the loot worth $321 million.

It said Mrs Adeosun also wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, raising objections to the payment.

But the minister has denied being involved in any controversy over the issue.

Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer hired by the Federal Government since 1999 to work on recovering Abacha loot, had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was Attorney-General of the Federation.

Mr Monfrini had also been paid his fees by the Federal Government.

The recovered money was then domiciled with the Attorney-General of Switzerland, pending the signing of an MoU with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.

All that was left after the signing of the MoU was a government-to-government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria.

But Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, engaged the services of another set of lawyers in 2016 for a fee of about N6 billion.

The lawyers are Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo who both worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressive Congress (APC) when Mr Malami was the legal adviser of CPC

In the unanimously adopted motion moved by Mark Gbilah (Benue-APC), the House called on President Buhari to suspend the payment of the said fee of $16.9 million or any part thereof pending investigation on the matter.

The committee is expected to conclude the investigation within six weeks.

House Of Reps Adopts Bills To Prevent Concession of Ajaokuta

According to reports, the House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted two bills seeking to prevent the concession of Ajaokuta steel company and to ensure its completion.

The bills, each sponsored by 301 lawmakers, were introduced for first reading on Wednesday, March 21. The bills are An act to provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company completion fund and a bill for an act to amend the public enterprise privatisation and commercialisation Act.

It was then passed for the second reading on Thursday, March 22 and subsequently referred to the committee of the whole.

Considering the committee’s report during plenary on Wednesday, the lawmakers resolved to use one billion dollars from the Federal government’s share in the excess crude revenue for the completion of the company.

The lawmakers also said that the money should be applied by the minister only for purposes of the steel company’s completion, and as approved by the National Assembly.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that there had been a lingering controversy surrounding the Ajaokuta Steel Company.

The lawmakers had earlier asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct Mr Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, to stop the process of the concession.

The bill amending the privatisation Act sought to remove the steel plant from the list of public assets which the Federal Government had powers to privatise or concession.

The lawmakers also wanted to strip the National Council on Privatisation of its powers as the only body backed by law to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.

The bills were unanimously adopted by the members when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.


Reps Reintroduce Peace Corps, Election Bills

In a bid to possibly override President Muhammad Buhari’s veto, the House of Representatives has re-introduced the bill to establish the Nigerian Peace Corps for a first reading.

It also reintroduced the bill amending the sequence of general elections.

Both bills were rejected by the president weeks ago.

Other bills reintroduced for a possible override of the president’s veto are A Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Treasury Management; A Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Council for Social Works; A Bill for an Act to amend the currency conversion, freezing orders act to give discretionary powers to the judge of high court to order for forfeiture of assets of affected persons, and a Bill for an Act to establish the police procurement fund.

Others are a Bill for an Act to amend the environmental health officers council registration Act, a Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management of Nigeria, a Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria.

Also included are a Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Exports and Community Brokers of Nigeria, and a Bill for an Act to establish the Federal University, Wukari.

The House of Representatives had through its spokesperson, Abdulrazak Namdas, said it would overrule Mr. Buhari on the bills.

It however said it would not override the president on some aspects of the election bill, because the House agreed with the president’s argument on the matter.

He said the House will instead look into the areas of the bill the president disagreed with and re-introduce it for passage.

“We agreed with the first one that the amendment of Section 138 of the principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process. On this, we’ve agreed with the president,” he said.

“We have also agreed with the reason advanced that the amendment of Section 152 of the principal Act, which raises constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections. This too we have agreed with. We know that we don’t have the power to act on that.”

Reps: We Won’t Recognise Fayemi As “Honourable Minister”

The House of Representatives resolved on Thursday that having passed a vote of no confidence in the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, it would no longer accord him the recognition of addressing him as ‘honorable minister.”

The lawmakers also noted that in other climes, passing a vote of no confidence in a minister was enough grounds for the President to sack him, adding that the House did not need to stress it.

In a resolution in Abuja, the House observed that Fayemi’s decision to engage PricewaterhouseCoopers, a “globally discredited” firm, to conduct a technical audit on Ajaokuta Steel Company, meant that he was bent on concessioning the firm.

To stop Fayemi, the House proposed to amend the Privatisation Act immediately by expunging ASC from the list of public assets in the schedule that can be privatised or concessioned by the Federal Government.

It also sought to further amend the Act by removing the powers of the National Council on Privatisation as the authority to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.

Senate Commence Move To Over Ride Buhari’s Veto

The House of Representatives and the Senate have both commenced plans to over ride President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto after his continuous refusal to assent to the new amendment to the Electoral Act, which seeks to re-order the sequence of the polls during general elections.

According to reports the lawmakers are getting members to actualize it, just as they have however vowed to get the two- third majority required to override the president.

Before the letter from the President was read by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate had moved into an executive session at 11.04am and resumed its plenary at 11.35am. Senate President Bukola Saraki reported at the end of the executive session that the Senate deliberated on the workings of the upper chamber, the National Assembly and CBN.

According to Vanguard, a source at the executive session disclosed that Senate President Saraki alerted his colleagues that the bill had been rejected by the President and that the senate would need to take another look at the bill, just as the senators were said to have resolved to get further clarifications from the Legal Department of the National Assembly before going ahead with the planned override of the veto.

Meanwhile, it was also gathered that no fewer than 65 Senators have signed up to join in the battle to override the president’s veto, just as 43 Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are said to be solidly backing the decision to override the veto while so far 22 Senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are said to be supporting the idea.


Reps Recall Suspended Lawmaker, Jibrin

The House of Representatives has recalled its former Chairman, Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumini Jibrin, from suspension.

It may be recalled that Jibrin was suspended on September 28, 2016 for 180 legislative days.

Since the House of Reps sits thrice in a week, Jibrin’s suspension lasted over 17 months.

At the time of his suspension and based on a motion recommended by the House Ethics Committee Chairman, Nicholas Ossai, and adopted by the entire lawmakers, the embattled Jibrin was also barred from assuming a position of authority in the current National Assembly.

Jibrin drew the ire of his fellow lawmakers when he read a speech during the plenary on July 20, 2016 alleging fraud in the budget, and afterwards revealed some documents to the media, which his colleagues considered damaging.

Reps Move To Veto Buhari On Critical Bills

The House of Representatives on Thursday resolved to draw up a list of bills the National Assembly passed but which have not been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The move is preparatory to a possible override of the President’s veto on such bills.

The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, specifically directed the Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Orker Jev, to compile the bills and forward it to the floor for members to look at them and decide whether to override Buhari’s veto on them.

The decision followed a point of order raised by the Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, who complained that several bills passed and forwarded to Buhari were neither signed into law nor returned to the National Assembly.

Nkem-Abonta, a Peoples Democratic Party member from Abia State, recalled that some of the bills dated back to 2017.

He argued that this was contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the House and Senate rules, which provided that there “shall” be communication from the President to the National Assembly on such bills within 30 days of their passage.

Nkem-Abonta noted that the President was expected to either sign a bill or communicate the withholding of his assent within 30 days.

He added that where the President withholds his assent, the National Assembly still reserved the power to accept his reasons for withholding assent or proceed to override his veto.

Nkem-Abonta sought that the provisions of Section 58 of the Constitution should be invoked in respect of the bills.

Section 58 (1-5) read, “(1) The power of the National Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and, except as otherwise provided, by Subsection (5) of this section, assented to by the President.

“(2) A bill may originate in either the Senate or the House of Representatives and shall not become law unless it has been passed and, except as otherwise provided by this section and Section 59 of this Constitution, assented to in accordance with the provisions of this section.

“(3) Where a bill has been passed by the House in which it originated, it shall be sent to the other House, and it shall be presented to the President for assent when it has been passed by that other House and agreement has been reached between the two Houses on any amendment made on it.

“(4) Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.

“(5) Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”

The House sustained Nkem-Abonta’s point of order.

However, Dogara intervened to say that Buhari has always communicated his decisions on bills to the National Assembly, with reasons, where necessary, why he would not sign them.

Reps Receive NFIU Bill Conference Report

The conference report of both chambers of the National Assembly on the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIU) bill was on Tuesday laid before the House of Representatives.

This came a week after the Chairman of Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, Chukwuka Utazi, accused his House of Representatives counterpart, Akinloye Babajide, of hindering the progress of the bill by not attending scheduled meetings of the conference to fine-tune the bill.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had on Sunday in a social media message assured that the bill will be passed this week.

The bill seeks to make Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit, currently under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), totally independent.

The NFIU, which is domiciled in the EFCC, was in July 2017 suspended by the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units for not being independent.

Egmont Group is a global financial intelligence gathering of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) of 156 countries.

It is a platform for members to share expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.