…Says call for resumption of plenary unnecessary
SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday said that some of the investigative hearing was carried out without the knowledge of the leadership of the National Assembly.
The Speaker also described the call for resumption of investigative hearing and other oversight functions by some people as unnecessary, stating that the parliament was working in line with the legislative calendar.
Recall that the legal luminary and human rights activities, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, and about 39 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs had recently condemned the suspension of legislative and oversight functions by the National Assembly especially, the House of Representatives.
They accused the lawmakers of breaching the constitution by failing to meet the compulsory 181 days plenary sessions, adding that the National Assembly in its first legislative year from June 2019 to June 2020 did not sit up to the required 181days.
But, reacting to the development while fielding questions from State House correspondents in Abuja, the Speaker, said the call was hinged on misunderstanding of the workings of the parliament as going on recess was a legislative practice in all democracies.
According to him, “There has been a lot of misunderstanding and misconception. 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. I have perhaps been one of the longest-serving members in the House.
“I have never known of a situation, I’m yet to be proven wrong, when on an annual summer recess, members are working, conducting public hearings, doing investigations.
“I am not talking about any other recess. It’s a different thing when you close plenary and committees are still working. There is a big difference. But in the summer, we go on recess.
“Now, because there is COVID and people are forced to stay in, it’s 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.”
Continuing, he said, “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.
“Just last week, the Speaker of the House of the US Congress had to call her members back through a zoom conference because of the issue of US Mayor and the impending elections. They had a zoom conference. That is the way it is done the world over. That is number one.
“Back home in Nigeria, the Judiciary is on their annual recess. But we are not saying that because there is corruption, you will find one court opening, sitting, and hearing corruption cases. No.
“They have one or two courts opening for administrative purposes. But they are on recess. And this is not the only one. Work continues as usual.
“There must be a method in every organization. You cannot say that because you are a civil society, therefore, things should break. No. That is not how democracy works. It’s not how democracy works at all.
“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 an oil crisis during the summer. And we reconvened the House on a Sunday because of the urgency of that moment.
“So, I hope I have been able to answer the question of whether it’s the judiciary, whether it’s international, recess is recess.
On oversight functions, the Speaker said some members of Parliament were currently engaged in various tasks assigned to them by the National Assembly.
He said, “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 function and that hasn’t stopped.”