By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
House of Representatives, Tuesday, passed for second reading a bill mandating the appearance of the President and Governors to the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly on issues of national security or related matters at the state level.
The bill has a long title “A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Grant the two Chambers of the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly Powers to summon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors of States to answer questions on issues of National Security or any Matter whatsoever, over which the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly have powers to make laws; and for Related Matters (HB. 1216).”
It is being sponsored by Serguis Ogun representing the Esan federal constituency of Edo State.
The bill listed for the second reading did not however encounter any debate or opposition as it was unanimously supported and voted for when the presiding officer, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila put the question for passage.
It will be recalled that the House had on December 1, 2020, through a motion on the heels of the massacre of over 43 rice farmers in Zarbamari village, Borno State invited President Muhammadu Buhari for a briefing on security matters.
But the President failed to honour the invitation after the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila in a chat with State House Correspondents assured that the President would be addressing the lawmakers.
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The bill when eventually passed into law would make it mandatory for such summons to be made on the President who must also cause the appearance to both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly.
The same situation also applies to the Governors in their respective states.
Leading debate on the bill, the sponsor, Ogun recalled the last December, saying that with such law in place, the president would be compelled to answer the summons.
He said: “In December 2020 and in a bid to find answers to the security challenges bedevilling our nation, a resolution was passed by this hallowed Chambers, calling on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to appear before this House and provide explanations on the rising cases of banditry, kidnapping and other forms of killings in the country. This summons came on the hills of a motion of urgent national importance, moved by Hon. Satomi Ahmed.
“In his reaction to the summons of the House on the President, the Attorney General of the Federation, said that the National Assembly has no powers to summon the President.
“He averred that the management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President by Section 218 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
“He asserted that “an invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law-making beyond bounds,”
“Mr Speaker and dear colleagues while the assertions of the Attorney General of the Federation may not be the correct interpretation of combined reading of the relevant sections of the Constitution on the subject, the fact that there is no express provision in the Constitution to the effect that the two chambers of the National Assembly have powers to summon the President to answer questions on issues of national security or any matter whatsoever, is perhaps the reason for such a misplaced interpretation of the Constitution. This amendment, therefore, seeks to make express provision in the Constitution for the powers to so do.”