he speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says sometimes, lawmakers carry out investigative hearings without the knowledge of the leadership of the National Assembly.
The speaker said those hearings were not backed by any resolutions of the House.
He was speaking to State House reporters on Monday after President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led Executive/Legislative/Party Consultative Committee.
The House of Representatives had suspended all activities of its various panels and ad hoc committees till September 15 when the National Assembly resumes from its two-month annual vacation.
The probe of the controversial Chinese loans sought by the executive is among the hearings affected by the suspension.
Also affected by the suspension was a probe of the $11bn withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account for the implementation of the failed National Integrated Power projects as well as the probe by a House ad hoc committee on the increment of tariffs by digital television service providers, especially DSTV.
Before the suspension, the House was also probing the alleged illegal spending and mismanagement of N81.5bn by the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Thirty-nine civil society organisations had on Sunday flayed the House for suspending investigative hearings by its committees as well as oversight functions amidst the compelling need to keep pace with the executive in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to the criticism by the CSOs, Gbajabiamila yesterday dismissed the insinuation that the lawmakers had abandoned their oversight functions.
He said the country’s parliament, just like her counterpart in the United States of America, only suspended public and investigative hearings during their ongoing annual vacation.
The speaker also stated that there had been a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions.
“First of all, whatever form of democracy you practice anywhere in the world, there is always an annual recess. We are not re-inventing anything. Recess has only one meaning in the dictionary. You are either on recess or you are working,” he said.
.Gbajabiamila stressed: “Now, because there is COVID-19 and people are forced to stay in, it is no excuse to continue work the way we continue.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, you hear of investigative hearings that even the leadership is not aware of, investigative hearings that have not been backed by resolutions of the House. That is a conflict in our procedure.”
According to him, “Now, for the civil society to talk about why are you going on recess, we are always happy to look at advanced democracies whether it’s Germany, America, or England. We are always happy to compare Nigeria’s legislatures to those places. As I speak to you, the US Congress is on recess. It’s their annual recess. You won’t hear of any investigative hearing or public hearing.
“To paint a clearer picture, we are only doing what is in keeping with what has been done when I got to the House.
“In fact, the first time ever that the House had to recall itself was many years ago when Aminu Waziri Tambuwal was speaker and there was oil crisis during the summer. And we reconvened the House on a Sunday because of the urgency of that moment.
“On oversight functions, you can see that some members are on the road right now doing their work. That is a different kind of work. But it’s not public hearing and investigative hearing. Members are actually out on oversight functions and that hasn’t stopped.”