By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS— NIGERIA Employers Consultative Association, NECA, yesterday, said it has dragged the House of Representatives to court over frequent summoning of chief executive officers, CEOs, of companies.
According to the group, the actions of the lawmakers have been undermining business sustainability and growth.
NECA is specifically praying the court to interpret Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution, which the lawmakers rely to summon the CEOs in the name of oversight functions.
“It is the conviction of our lawmakers that they have unrestricted power to dabble into any issue or the affairs of any enterprise in the economy, be it public or private.
At a briefing in Lagos, Director-General of NECA, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, who accused members of the House, especially its committees, of disregards to court processes, contended that the continued disregard of court processes and persistent summons of chief executives of organised businesses to National Assembly smacked off flagrant disregard for the rule of law and legislative rascality.
Oshinowo singled out the House of Representatives Committees on Labour, Employment & Productivity; Steel; Telecommunications; Public Safety and National Security;Ad-Hoc Committee on the Abuse of Pioneer Status by Companies and Ad-Hoc Committee Investigating Operational Activities of Telecommunications Equipment and Service Companies/Vendors in Nigeria, as the most guilty.
He lamented that petitions to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over the activities of the committees had not been addressed till date, noting that to worsen the situation, members of the committees, instead of attending to CEOs directly, chose always to act through consultants.
He said: “All efforts at exploring the avenue of dialogue, advocacy and lobbying as evidenced through our several correspondence to the House and submissions at hearings and visits to the National Assembly seem to have been ineffective in protecting the economic rights and interest of businesses in this environment.”
‘’The legislators only listen to themselves and have become law unto themselves. Therefore, we have been left with no option but to seek judicial solace to protect enterprise rights and provide some reliefs to business by staving off the negative attitude of the legislators.
“Currently, the following cases are pending in court against the House of Representatives: (A) Case involving the House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance instituted in 2013, currently at the Court of Appeal – NECA & 2 Others vs. Attorney-General of the Federation & 5 Others. (B) Case challenging the powers of the House of Representatives’ Joint Committee on Interior, Labour and Productivity to investigate the abuse of Expatriate Quotas instituted in 2012, currently at the Supreme Court – NECA & 2 Others vs. Attorney-General of the Federation & 5 Others.
‘’The crux of these cases are as follows: What are the scope and extent of the constitutionality of investigatory authority /powers of the Lawmakers in Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution? Under what circumstance can the legislators exercise oversight power on companies in the private sector?
‘’To what extent would it entail usurpation of the responsibilities of the executive arm of government and the agencies? Can it be delegated or outsourced to a consultant? Whether the National Assembly is empowered under Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution to invite and investigate any person and for what purpose, and to what extent?
‘’While we have our position and views on these questions, the fact remains that the ultimate responsibilities and indisputable authority on interpretation of the constitution rests with the judiciary, thus our approach to the court for succour.
“Despite on-going court processes, organised businesses are still being inundated with torrents of summons / invitations and requests from the House of Representatives. Recently, the following committees have been very active in their disregard of court processes.
“In one instance, a company is currently being hounded with invitations from about seven committees of the House of Representatives on issues they could ordinarily have sorted out with regulatory institutions that supervise activities in that sector of the economy.
‘’The continued disregard of court processes and persistent summons of chief executives of organised businesses to the National Assembly smacks off flagrant disregard for the rule of law and legislative rascality, to say the least.
‘’We expect speaker of the House of Representatives, who is a lawyer himself, (and by extension all the committees and adhoc committees within the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the National Assembly, among others, who are all restrained by the sub-judice status of this case to exercise caution until the determination of the matter.
“We are even taken aback by the House Committees’ non respect for its own Standing Order IX Rule 5 on rules of debate which provides as follows: “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the speaker’s opinion prejudice the interest of parties thereto”