By Emman Ovuakporie
The House of Representatives resumes from the yuletide break today with the scars and scandals of the last year still on the agenda.
SPEAKER Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives may not always sleep with his two eyes closed this year given that there are more than enough challenging issues to engage him and the House this year. One major issue he must handle is the repositioning of the 89 standing committee chairmen who have largely performed below expectation.
Of the 89 committees only 14 could score above average as some were glaringly invisible in the last 18 months. A source close to the leadership of the House who pleaded anonymity said that some of the chairmen rode on the back of their godfathers to get appointed into juicy committees but today the leadership knows better and may be amenable to adjusting the composition of the committees.
The remaining 75 committees as at the close of business last year are viewed in some quarters as having refused to wake up from their slumber. e-Parliament was one of the major ingredients of Tambuwal’s Legislative Agenda when he assumed office in June 2011.
Information reaching Vanguard clearly indicates that work is at an advanced stage on the project within the NASS Complex. The e-parliament when installed would ease work for legislators particularly those among them that hardly enter the chamber.
Petroleum Industry Bill
The Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB is another proposed legislation that may tear the House apart if not properly managed. The drums of war have started to echo and there are indications that the House may dance to the tunes of regional beats. If the north throws its weight against it, then the bill may have to wait for the eighth Assembly for passage. It would be recalled that during the dying days of the sixth Assembly, the bill was dumped.
The current leadership has so far steered it’s wheel against such an ugly development. Maintenance of financial transparency has been one major area that has given the House leadership a lot of headache. When a group of legislators raised their voices last year to know the state of the House’s coffers, they looked stupid as Tambuwal was found to have lived above board.
During the executive session, a principal officer painstakingly and exhaustively explained the state of the House finances. The rumor then was that there was an impeachment plot against Tambuwal. It is believed in some quarters that lack of financial probity dented the image of the sixth Assembly irrespective of whatever good works that were achieved.
It was learnt that some of the legislators who raised their eyebrows in this direction were those who collected huge loans of up to N200 million but forgot about repayment. Some bought cars worth N25 million and even refused to invest the money.
Farouk Lawan/Femi Otedola saga
This is one report that is dangling like the Sword of Damocles over the whole House. The allegation of bribery raised against Alhaji Farouk Lawan by Femi Otedola was one of the lowest points of the House last year as it considerably denigrated the image of the House in the eyes of many Nigerians.
The decision of the House to investigate the allegation that Lawan and a committee clerk collected $620,000 from Otedola to compromise the report of the House investigations into the subsidy scam was seen as a way of redeeming the image of the House. However, more than two months after the report of the House ethics committee on the issue is yet to receive consideration.
Similarly, the House is also faced with the challenge of resolving the crisis brought on by the allegation of extortion made against the former chairman of the House committee on Capital Matters, Herman Hembe. The allegation of extortion was made by the director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms Arunma Oteh. The issues arising from the Hembe affair led to the indictment of Ms Oteh and the House resolution on her ineligibility to hold the top position in the apex capital market regulatory body.
The House is now locked in a face-off with the administration over Ms Oteh leading to the non-appropriation of funds for the commission in the 2013 budget. It is an issue that will inevitably shadow affairs between the two chambers this year.
The gas sector of the Nigerian economy is one area the House has vowed to x- ray this year. It is said that since operations started in that sector no kobo has been remitted into the federation account.
Vanguard reliably gathered that the House is not happy as a lot of underhand dealings are going on in the sector.
The fragile relationship between the House and the executive arm of government is also a challenge to Tambuwal. Legislators who spoke to Vanguard had repeatedly said there is no rancor between both arms.
Another explosive issue awaiting the lawmakers upon resumption is the investigation into the petition written by Capital Oil and Gas management that was not concluded last year. All these notwithstanding, Tambuwal’s panache and patience may help him. After all, the speaker is reputed to know all members by their first names.