Gbajabiamila said her confirmation had once again proved that Nigeria has experts that could compete favourably, both at home and abroad.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has congratulated Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her emergence as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Gbajabiamila, in a statement by Lanre Lasisi, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, on Monday in Abuja, said that Okonjo-Iweala’s track record speaks volumes.
Similarly, Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives through Rep. Ndudi Elumelu, the House Minority Leader, congratulated the former Minister of Finance for her successful emergence as WTO director-general in spite of all hurdles.
Gbajabiamila said Okonjo-Iweala’s unanimous confirmation by the General Council of the WTO to head the body was “a testament to her years of experience in the financial sector, both at home and abroad”.
The speaker said that the former two-time Finance Minister of Nigeria came to office with a wealth of experience that spans several decades, noting that her track records speak volumes.
He said with Okonjo-Iweala’s pedigree, she would take the World Trade Organisation to enviable heights during her term.
Gbajabiamila said her confirmation had once again proved that Nigeria has experts that could compete favourably, both at home and abroad.
He then called on the new WTO director-general to make Nigeria and Africa proud, while wishing her a successful tenure in office.
In his remarks, Elumelu commended Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as WTO chief officer, adding that her emergence had reinforced global confidence in international consensus.
He said it had also added to the recognition of competence and proficiency over provincial considerations.
“Indeed, the election of Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO is well-deserving, given her wealth of experience, competence, commitment and track records of performance in global finance and economy,” Elumelu said.
This, according to him, was evidenced in her successes as the Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Managing Director of the World Bank and various other international development bodies.
“We commend the global community for having confidence in Okonjo-Iweala and particularly, the U.S President, His Excellency Joe Biden, for the unwavering support given to her by his administration,” he said.
The minority leader said that the election was clearly in recognition of Okonjo-Iweala’s competence.Elumelu said that the caucus commended the understanding and spirit of sportsmanship exhibited by the South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, in withdrawing from the race.He said it was another loud testament to Okonjo-Iweala’s suitability for the task ahead.
The National Assembly Management Account also reveals that N673,081,242.14 was spent between April and October 2017 without any documents.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to urgently probe allegations that N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen, as documented in three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
In an open letter dated January 30 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “By exercising strong and effective leadership in this matter, the National Assembly can show Nigerians that the legislative body is a proper and accountable watchdog that represents and protects the public interest, and is able to hold both itself and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to account in the management of public resources.”
The agency believes that if the matter is not satisfactorily addressed, the allegations would undermine public confidence in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities to prevent and combat corruption, and to ensure the public interest, transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.
SERAP also expressed concerns that the allegations of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds amount to fundamental breaches of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
The letter, read in part: “Any failure to promptly, thoroughly and independently investigate these serious allegations, prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recover missing public funds and assets would undermine public trust in the ability of the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.”
“The Auditor-General noted in his 2015 report that the National Assembly account was spent N8,800,000.00 as unauthorised overdraft, contrary to Financial Regulations 710. The National Assembly also reportedly spent N115,947,016.00 without any documents. Another N158,193,066.00 spent as cash advances to 17 staff between January and June 2015 is yet to be retired.”
“The Senate reportedly spent N186,866,183.42 to organise Senate Retreat and Pre-Valedictory Session for the 7th Senate, although the money was meant to pay vehicle loan. The Senate also reportedly spent N15,964,193.63 as bank charges between July and December, 2015, contrary to Financial Regulations 734.”
“The House of Representatives also reportedly spent N624,377,503.30 to buy 48 Utility Vehicles. However, 14 vehicles were not supplied. The House also failed to make the 34 vehicles supplied available for verification. Similarly, the House spent N499,666,666.00 as cash advances to staff to carry out various assignments but has failed to retire the money.”
“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N70,560,000.00 as overtime and ‘special’ allowances to officials who are not legislative aides between November and December 2015 without any authority.”
“The National Assembly Service Commission reportedly failed to remit N30,130,794.10 deducted from the salaries of the Executive Chairman and the Commissioners as car loan.”
“The National Assembly Budget and Research Office reportedly spent N66,303,411.70 as out-of-pocket expenses without any documents. The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies paid N246,256,060.51 by cheques, despite the prohibition of payments by cheque by the Federal Government, except in extreme cases, and contrary to Financial Regulation 631.”
“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2017, the House of Representatives reportedly spent ₦95,212,250.00 without due process and without any documents. The National Assembly Management Account also reveals that N673,081,242.14 was spent between April and October 2017 without any documents. The Auditor-General reported that the funds may have been misappropriated.”
“The Senate Account also reportedly shows that ₦1,364,816,397.95 was spent on store items without any documents to show for the spending. The Auditor-General stated that his office was denied access to the store and to the Senate’s records.”
“The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies also reportedly failed to remit ₦2,181,696.50 from contract of goods and services. The Institute also paid ₦67,296,478.00 without any payment vouchers.”
“We would be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly.”
“The Auditor-General also noted in his 2018 report that the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies failed to remit N577,634,638,20 due from contracts and supplies, even though the deductions were made. However, the Institute claimed that it was the National Assembly that was required to remit the money, as it is the body that maintains the account on behalf of the Institute.”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Nigeria has ratified both treaties.”
The letter is copied to Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and Mr Mohammed Abba, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Twenty-hours later, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the president had agreed to address the lawmakers. Buhari later shunned the invitation.
Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Monday denied apologising to President Muhammadu Buhari for summoning him over the state of insecurity in the country.
“The president or the Presidency as the case may be never sought an apology from the House of Representatives for carrying out her constitutional responsibility to the Nigeria electorate,” House of Representatives spokesman Benjamin Kalu said in a statement.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the House never apologised to anyone for excercising her constitutional mandate.”
The denial by the House of Representatives was in response to media reports during the weekend that the legislative arm of government apologised to Buhari for summoning him over insecurity in the northern region.
One of the reports claimed that the House has dropped both “immediate and future” plans of inviting Buhari to address the lawmakers on rising insecurity in the country.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 1 passed a resolution and summoned Buhari to address the country over the killing of more than 40 farmers in Borno state.
The motion was moved by Satomi Ahmad, lawmaker representing Jere federal constituency, and nine others from Borno State. The lawmakers insisted that Buhari had to address the lower legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
Nigeria’s attorney-general Abubakar Malami argued that the House lacked the constitutional powers to summon the president.
While the House is yet to speak on Buhari’s refusal to honour the lawmakers’ invitation, House of Representatives spokesman Kalu said it will “not do anything to desecrate or destroy the critical institution of democracy.”
“We strongly believe that President Muhammadu Buhari subscribes to these democratic ethos and ideals as well.
“Media professionals are advised to uphold the ethics of their profession.”
The third major reform, according to her, is the alignment of the Company Income Tax and the Capital Gains Tax rates, aimed at eliminating the current abuse the two are being subjected to.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has reiterated the commitment of the House to speedily pass the 2020 Finance Bill.
Speaking at a one-day public hearing organised by the James Faleke led House Committee on Finance, the speaker underlined the need to ensure the passage of the finance bill to achieve the goal.
According to him, “The Finance Bill which we have gathered here to consider and to contribute to, will determine amongst other things, our ability as a nation to fund the 2021 budget, meet the obligations of government and implement policies to build infrastructure, address the problem of insecurity, grow the economy, and provide jobs that pay a living wage and lift families out of poverty.
“It is an important piece of legislation, deserving of thorough consideration, and reasoned debate by the parliament of the people, acting in the best interests of the people.
“We have a responsibility as legislators to meticulously review and examine every aspect of this Bill to ensure that we produce a legislative document that is clear in its objectives, thoughtful in the mandates it imposes and reflective of the best aspirations of all our citizens.”
Gbajabiamila said that the public hearing provided an opportunity for a broad-based discussion on the bill, urging full participation from major stakeholders.
He stated that, “This public hearing moves us closer to that laudable objective by providing an opportunity for citizens and legislators to jointly consider the contents of the Bill.
“It is expected that over the course of this public hearing, citizens will advance ideas and make recommendations that will improve the quality of the legislation and ensure the varied interests and considerations of all Nigerians are taken into view before final enactment into law of this essential legislation.”
In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Usman, said the major reason behind the bill was to address issues that were lacking in the 2019 Finance Bill as well as deepen the innovations it had started.
However, she said the 2020 proposal dealt largely with taxation and tax administration.
“There are four major priority reforms that are in this bill.
“The first is the reform in the Customs and Excise Tariff Act, which is the proposal to provide fiscal support for mass transit by reviewing import duties and levies downwards.
“Second is the reform in Stamp Duty Act which is not to remove the tax but change it to a new legislation to conform with present times.”
She also said the bill sought to address the federal issue of division of taxation power so that opportunities would no longer be lost as presently being experienced.
In his opening remarks, the chairman, House Committee on Finance, James Faleke, said the proposed amendments to 18 tax-related and dividend laws were in line with the Legislative Agenda of the 9th House.
“The 9th House of Representatives in its legislative Agenda clearly identified as priority to “Conduct a review of all Federal tax laws to encourage investment; to incentivize enterprise; ensure fairness and curb tax avoidance and evasion through the use of ICT in tax collection and administration,” Faleke said.
“As encapsulated in the 9th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, the priority economic strategic goals for the House of Representatives include: creation of an inclusive, thriving and resilient economy for Nigerians, attainment of substantive reduction in the percentage of poor and unemployed Nigerians.”
Condemning the Speaker for taking the issue lightly, Ezekwesili said that his statement released earlier today on the vendor’s death falls terribly short.
Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili has attacked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila for his involvement in the reckless murder of an Abuja vendor identified as Ifeanyi Okereke.
Recall with NoRM that Okereke was killed on Thursday, November 19 by a stray bullet from the gun of a police orderly attached to the convoy of the Speaker.
In a series of tweets posted on Twitter, Ezekwesili called for a justice plan over the killing of Okereke.
According to her, Okereke was killed by the overzealous policeman for no reason but ‘Bigman syndrome’.
“That reckless killing of Ifeanyi Okereke, a vendor yesterday, by an overzealous @PoliceNG detail of @femigbaja @HouseNGR Speaker for no reason but Bigman-Syndrome is deeply painful.
“The Speaker’s statement falls terribly short. Let’s hear a real Justice Plan for Ifeanyi.
“You’ll be shocked how overzealous security details are, relating with members of the public around their Principals.
“A carryover from military rule. It behoves sensible public officials to reorientate and insist on Respectful Culture from their Aides to the public. Many fail.
“Our heartfelt condolences to the family of Ifeanyi Okereke. May our good Lord comfort them on all sides and give peace that passes all understanding.
“We shall keep our eyes on @femigbaja @HouseNGR Speaker on this matter to see how seriously he pursues Justice for Ifeanyi,” Ezekwesili’s tweets read.
The Service also pledged to be transparent and accountable in the investigation of the killing, promise to liaise with appropriate authorities to achieve this objective.
Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services, DSS, says it has detained its operative who allegedly shot a newspaper vendor, Ifeanyi Okereke dead in the Three Arms Zone of Abuja on Thursday while on the convoy of Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Speaker had in an earlier statement on Friday, identified the killer security operative as one Abdullahi .M. Hassan,in a statement he personally signed.
Gbajabiamila also said the operative has been handed over to the DSS for investigation and appropriate administrative and judicial procedures while pledging to ensure that there is justice for the deceased vendor.
While also confirming that the security operative involved in the shooting incident is its staff, the DSS, in a statement by Peter Afunanya, its Public Relations Officer, said Hassan has already been withdrawn from the Speaker
It added that as part of its disciplinary procedures, the operative has been taken into detention, while a detailed investigation into the killing of the Vendor has commenced.
“The Service condoles with the family of the deceased and his loved ones. It has promised a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident and will surely keep to this,” Afunaya said.
Witnesses said there were multiple shots from the Speaker’s convoy, making it difficult to immediately identify the bullet that killed the vendor Ifeanyi Elechi.
Abdullahi M. Hassan has been identified by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila as the officer who opened live rounds and killed a newspaper vendor in Abuja on Thursday.
The officer was named in a statement by the Speaker on Friday afternoon. It came hours after witnesses at the scene told NoRM that the shooting came from a police officer, although the police have denied firing the fatal shot.
Gbajabiamila disclosed that the officer who fired the fatal shot has been suspended pending the conclusion of the inquiry.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has confirmed that one of the security operatives attached to him shot a citizen dead.
The incident occurred in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Thursday.
In a personal statement issued Friday morning, the lawmaker narrated that in the evening as he left the National Assembly, he stopped to greet newspaper vendors.
The Surulere representative said it was a friendly exchange as many of them have known him since he first moved to Abuja
He recalled that after the convoy set out in continuation of movement, unidentified men obstructed it, which made the security men “shot into the air to disperse them”.
The Speaker said after getting to their destination hours later, he was informed that someone was hit by a stray bullet.
“Contrary to an earlier report by men in the convoy that they applied their security discretion to shoot in the air. I have caused a report to be made to the local police station and an investigation has commenced,” he said.
“My value for human life and my respect for all people – irrespective of socio-economic status – is what endeared me to these vendors and these are the reasons why I stop my convoy quite often to connect with them.
“For one of them to have been shot by my security detail is horrific and I cannot begin to imagine the grief and loss Ifeanyi’s family must feel on this sad day. No family should have to go through this,” he said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain added that he was distraught about the death and offered his sympathies to the victim’s family and Abuja vendors.
He called for thorough investigation into the incident that led to the death of some innocent Nigerians.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has condemned the attack on protesters of End SARS at the Lekki tollgate on Tuesday night.
Gbajabiamila noted that the Incident is a reflection that Nigeria has not grown despite celebrating 60 years weeks back.
The Speaker in a statement released through his media aide, Lanre Lasisi, said, “Events in my home State Lagos, last night (Tuesday) and up until this afternoon (Wednesday), have left my heart heavy and my spirit disturbed.”
“After sixty years, our democracy should have grown beyond the point where conflicting visions of nationhood result in violence on the streets and blood on the ground.”
“It is unavoidably and painfully clear that there were a number of casualties as a result of gunfire at the Lekki Toll Gate.”
“Therefore, there needs to be a quick and thorough investigation to determine the facts of what happened last night in Lagos. Our nation urgently needs and the Nigerian people deserve an accounting of the acts that led to the events of last night”.
“I urge for calm whilst we get a truer picture of events.”
“In Lagos and everywhere else, too much blood has already been spilt in our country, let there be no more.”
“May God bless and keep you all. And may God bless and keep our Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Gbajabiamila urged the youth protesting against police brutality to shun violence and partner government for a new Nigeria.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila says he will not not sign the 2021 Appropriation Bill if compensation for victims of police brutality is not captured.
Gbajabiamila said this while addressing members of the house at the Tuesday’s plenary in Abuja.
The speaker also said that the budget must meet the reasonable demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) before he signs it.
The rep said that there is no better time to rethink the system of funding for higher education in Nigeria than now as the current system does a great disservice to the country.
According to him, we must commit to changing it so that we can make our institutions of higher learning to be citadels where innovation thrives and excellence is given.
Gbajabiamila promised to visit some of the families of those who lost loved ones to police brutality next week and to honour the memory of those lost.
He pledged that the House of Representatives will pass an Electoral Reform Bill in time for the next general elections to continue to improve the process of electing political representatives at all levels.
The lawmaker said that he supports the amendment of the Constitution to ensure that the provisions on fundamental human rights have teeth.
He said that he supports an amendment that will ensure resource control is dealt with equitably so that the next generation of Nigerians does not inherit evident dysfunctions of the current system.
He noted the maturity of the young people across Nigeria who had led the protests and called for change as midwives of national rebirth.
According to him, you have moved a nation to action, and now you must join in doing the hard work of making real the vision of a more just, more prosperous, and more resilient nation.
“We see your true cause, please do not allow your righteous cause to be hijacked by those with bias motives, who see in this moment as an opportunity to pursue vendettas, to spread division, exploit the many existing fissures that exist in our society and bring our nation to its knees.
“You have raised your voices and marched to demand a better Nigeria, from Abuja to Washington, to Calgary and London; your voices have been heard.
“Do not allow anybody to convince you that to withdraw from the streets now is to concede defeat.
“This is the time to move your agitation from the chaos of the streets to the painstaking deliberations and strategic partnerships that will birth policy and produce legislation.
“It is time to mobilise your voices in support of specific policy interventions that will deliver on our shared objectives of national renewal and a country that reflects the best of us,” he said.
In his brief welcome address, Mr Lawan expressed the readiness of the parliament to pass the 2021 budget before the end of the year.
“We expect that before the end of the year, the 2020 budget would have been fully implemented,” Mr Lawan says.
He said the passage of the 2020 budget and assent in good time was a clear indication of the smooth working relationship between the executive and legislature.
He added that the implementation of the 2020 budget has shown remarkable improvement compared to previous years.
He also said he hopes the 2021 budget would be targeted at a consolidation of the gains of the 2020 budget, adding that it should also be targeted at creating more jobs.
Nigeria has in the past seven years operated an irregular budget circle.
Promise kept – Gbajabiamila In his closing remarks, Mr Gbajabiamila also thanked his colleagues for making the budget circle of January – December a reality.
“We promised that we would pass the budget promptly, free of the rancour that had bedevilled the process in time past. We delivered on that promise.”
“I thank my colleagues in the National Assembly for the dedication and commitment they showed last year during the appropriation process.”
“Senators and members of the House of Representatives toiled night and day, sometimes through the night and into the wee hours of the morning to ensure that we achieved our commitment to return to the January to December budget cycle as envisaged by the constitution.
“I do not doubt that we will exhibit the same commitment to nation-building and deliver a good budget on time. We cannot afford a return to the old practices, and we must do everything in our power to avoid such an outcome.”
“We also promised to pass a budget that reflected our priorities – healthcare, education, public infrastructure and the development of an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels and gives to all Nigerians, the ability to achieve their dreams equal to their effort and commitment,” he said.
He said, however, that more needs to be done to assure Nigerian that the National Assembly will continue in this regard.
He also seized the opportunity to announce a new protocol in the National Assembly.
“Let me also use this opportunity to announce a new protocol in the House. Henceforth, all ministries, departments and agencies who come to defend their budget proposals, will do so without their security details present.”
“We must take this course of action to prevent the unacceptable proliferation of sidearms in the hearing rooms during such engagements.”
“Additionally, the House intends to adhere to the COVID-19 social distancing protocols, and we need to be able to limit the numbers of people in these hearing rooms at any point in time,” he said.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and some African Speakers of Parliaments have called for debt cancellation from their multilateral and bilateral partners.
Gbajabiamila said the initiative is to establish the Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament (CoSAP), a body that will facilitate increased collaboration between Speakers, Heads of Parliament and National Assemblies across Africa to get a boost.
In a statement by the spokesman to the Speaker, Lanre Lasisi, the African Speakers will also seek to advance the African development agenda within and outside the continent in conjunction with both the executive arms of government as well as African regional institutions.
These emerged following a virtual meeting conveyed by Gbajabiamila on Monday with Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia; Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, PhD, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana; Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya; Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda; and President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal.
Read Full Statement Below:
Press Statement from the Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives August 17, 2020
Gbajabiamila spearheads African Speakers’ push for debts cancellation
…Nigeria to host maiden Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday convened a meeting of some African Speakers of Parliaments where it was agreed that there is an urgent need to push for debt cancellation for the continent from their multilateral and bilateral partners.
This is as Gbajabiamila’s initiative to establish the Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament (CoSAP), a body that will facilitate increased collaboration between Speakers, Heads of Parliament and National Assemblies across Africa got a boost.
The African Speakers will also seek to advance the African development agenda within and outside the continent in conjunction with both the executive arms of government as well as African regional institutions.
These emerged following a virtual meeting conveyed by Gbajabiamila on Monday with Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia; Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, PhD, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana; Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya; Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda; and President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal.
In his opening remarks, Gbajabiamila said there was an urgent need to join local and global efforts to push for the cancellation of the external debt owed by various countries on the continent.
Saying that development across the continent has become stunted due to the heavy burden of the debts, Gbajabiamila noted that the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has compounded the issue for the continent, considering the socio-political and economic consequences of the disease.
“We all agree that Africa’s debt burden has become an existential threat to our societies, our economies and the future; we leave to posterity, and we need to do something about this and treat it as a continent-wide priority.
“It is safe to say that the burden of debt servicing, vis-à-vis spending on education and health care for example, is a threat to our continent’s stability and development, especially in the era of Covid-19.
“When we find ourselves having to make policy choices between paying debts or saving lives, we know something is not morally right. And as democratically elected representatives of our people, we cannot be silent. We must speak up and we must act. And the time to act is now.
“Furthermore, is the need for us to reflect on, the processes that led to Africa’s heavy indebtedness in the first place, the role parliamentarians can play to address this going forward and what assurances we as parliamentarians can give our borrowers that if our debt is cancelled, the freed-up resources will be invested in social and economic development of our citizens.
“If we want debt cancellation, we must be able to build the confidence of the borrowers that the cancellation will indeed save lives and livelihoods across the continent, and we, as Speakers and Heads of our parliaments, will ensure that is indeed the case”.
On the need for the establishment of the Pan-African Speaker’s Conference, Gbajabiamila noted that collective efforts at tackling challenges facing the continent have become expedient.
He said: “The motive behind this initiative is that each year we identify a theme, issue, or challenge that is pan-African in scope and we meet to deliberate on how we can work together across parliaments in Africa to tackle these continental issues and challenges.
“As heads of our respective parliamentary entities, it will also be a good platform to share experiences and expertise in different aspects of our legislative duties pertinent to the growth, development and sustenance of our economies and our societies; and on ways to enhance the capacity and impact of our parliaments on our democracies and the lives of the peoples we all represent.
“We have spent decades learning from the rest of the world, now we must begin to learn from one another”.
Throwing his weight behind the two initiatives, Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia, noted that though almost every government on the continent has been trying to seek debt forgiveness, this should not, however, stop the parliaments from contributing to the efforts through a platform such as this.
“As representatives of our people, we are to come together, advise and campaign about the issue, we don’t have to keep quiet because debt cancellation would be good for the resuscitation of our economies that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
In the same vein, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana noted that the debt burden is essentially a common challenge on the continent, as most African countries have to depend on foreign loans to execute their national budgets.
He, however, noted that the Speaker’s group, in its efforts to push for debt cancellation must be able to convince the creditors about accountability if they hope to succeed.
He said: “Donor agencies are interested in accountability because they are confounded about the issue of corruption, and we must be able to give the assurance and that is why the Speakers Conference is critical. And if nothing is done, there may be no economy to service the loans”
Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya also emphasised the need for the initiative, adding that, the coronavirus pandemic has undermined most African economies because conditions attached to most of the loans have been eroded by the consequences of the novel pandemic.
On her part, Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda, while noting that African countries depend on and heavily burdened by loans even before the pandemic, however, added that the group must be clear about the kind of debt it is seeking to address and from which partners.
While President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal also regretted that the pandemic has affected all economies on the continent negatively, he, however, suggested that opinions of members of the forum must be sought on how to solve the issues between suspension or cancellation of debt “We must be convinced that we have a job to do at the level of parliament,” he added.
It was also agreed that a Communique would be released in the first week of September 2020, while the campaign for implementations of the plan of action would begin in the second week of September 2020 as well.
According to the forum, the third week of September would be devoted to the planning for the 2021 conference by the Secretariat.
While it was decided that Nigeria would host the maiden edition of CoSAP chaired by Nigerian Speaker the Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, the new body is expected to meet again in the first week of September to approve the plans and swing into action.
Signed: Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Federal republic of Nigeria.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila says Nigeria needs to impose “deep cuts” in the cost of governance in the country.
Gbajabiamila said this on Thursday at the beginning of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) revenue considerations with revenue-generating agencies.
It was organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance.
According to him, with the country facing a fiscal crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to reduce the cost of governance to free up revenue for infrastructure development.
“We have a responsibility to act with urgent determination to build the infrastructure of opportunity that is required to lift millions of our fellow citizens out of poverty,” the lawmaker said.
“We recognise that we cannot accomplish these objectives using loans and outside financing alone.
“Therefore, we need to impose deep cuts in the cost of governance and improve internal revenue generation and collection so that we can free up resources that can then be deployed to fund policy initiatives that will enhance the lives of our people.”
While restating that revenue-generating agencies have a role to place in helping the country increase its revenue base, he lamented that there is a “consistent failure to adhere to the revenue remittance agreements to which many of these agencies have committed.”
The Speaker added: “We have credible reports that these desperately needed funds have in many cases, been diverted to finance unnecessary trivialities. At the same time, the Government is left scrambling for alternative sources to fund priority projects.”
He said as a critical part of the government, the legislature is backed by law to ensure the country’s resources are used judiciously for the betterment of the masses.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, urging them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.”
The organization also urged them to “disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects. The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”
In the FoI requests dated 25 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”
SERAP said: “The most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards. This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”
The FoI requests, read in part: “We urge you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”
“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.”
“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”
“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”
“SERAP notes that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.”
“SERAP is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”
“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.”
“The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability, as well as the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general, including by publishing widely the reports of all corruption-related public hearings since 1999.”
“There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.”
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.”
“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has announced a new legislative agenda for the green chamber, in line with the current realities triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Gbajabiamila revealed this on Saturday at a retreat for the leadership and members of the House in Abuja.
The House came up with its initial Legislative Agenda about a year ago but did not envisage “that the world will soon change drastically, and with consequences beyond our wildest imagination,” the speaker said.
“Before now, the extent of our difficulties was well known to us,” he added. “We have population growth that far outpaces the rate of economic growth. Insecurity has made vast swathes of our country uninhabitable for citizens and unattractive to investment.”
The new agenda, according to him, seeks to tackle the issues of education, insurgency, and others.
“We are at war, fighting insurgents in the North East who want to remake our world in the image of a medieval theocracy,” he said.
The lawmaker decried the fact that schools do not teach the realities of the modern world as it pertains to our reality, noting that “we are producing graduates who cannot compete in the 21st-century knowledge economy.”
The House of Representatives has resolved to institute a legal suit against the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, following the expiration of a 48-hour ultimatum.
On Tuesday, the House issued an ultimatum to the minister to publish the names of lawmakers whom he claimed had received contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The clerk has been directed to issue a criminal complaint of perjury and civil defamation suit against Mr. Akpabio.
Meanwhile, the Senate ad-hoc committee investigating financial recklessness in the NDDC has concluded its investigation and has presented its report before the Senate.
In the report read by the committee chairman Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, he said the NDDC spent 1.3 trillion Naira between 2015 and May 31st, 2019.
Many of these expenses he said contravened the law and were extra-budgetary.
He said the committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.
The investigation further revealed that the NDDC paid 4.9 billion Naira to staff for numerous allowances including COVID-19 relief, tour duty allowances, overseas travel, and international scholarships.
Curiously, the payment for overseas travel and scholarship was during the lockdown and cessation of flights abroad.
The committee also observed that the ministry of Niger delta is culpable if negligent supervision of the NDDC.
It further observed that the performance of the interim management committee IMC is a major issue as the record of the IMC has not shown any record of prudence and it should be dissolved.
The committee also raised an alarm over the forensic audit called for by President Buhari, stating that it is at a rudimentary level with the recruitment of the auditors still underway even after eight months.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has said that the House would provide funds for the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the 2021 budget to be presented to the National Assembly in September.
Gbajabiamila said apart from budget funds, the House would also provide all necessary support as well as partner with relevant stakeholders for the fight against GBV to succeed.
The Speaker stated this on Wednesday in response to a request by the country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, Ulla Elisabeth Mueller, who led a delegation of United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) Spotlight Initiative on a courtesy call to his office in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila said the issue of gender-based violence in the country has become disturbing hence the need for all stakeholders to come together to nip it in the bud.
He assured the delegation that the House would work on the Sexual Harassment Bill forwarded to it by the Senate as soon as members return from their annual recess.
“You talked about the Senate Bill, though we’re going on a long vacation, I can assure you that as soon as we come back, the House will work on the bill,” he said, noting that after due diligence, the Green Chamber will speedily concur with the Senate.
“On the issue of funding, as I said, it’s like a pandemic. There’s no way you can confront a pandemic without funding. The budget is coming in September, and once it comes, we’ll make sure adequate funding is provided for this issue.
“On the issue of domestication of the VAPP 2015 and the Child’s Rights Act, my office has done a lot. We had a conference with the Speakers of the State Assemblies. The Chairman of the Conference of Speakers promised that they would domesticate it in Bauchi, and I’m glad to say that it has been done.
“We’ll continue to engage with others to see that they domesticate the laws. This is something we’re championing, and we’ll continue to do that. For us in the House of Representatives, we’re giving this issue all the seriousness it deserves.”
Gbajabiamila said the issue of gender is prominently featured in the Legislative Agenda of the House, a new version of which would be launched on Saturday.
The Speaker commended members of the delegation for the work they have been doing, saying he hoped there would be a sustained partnership between them and the House to end gender-based violence in Nigeria.
The leader of the delegation, Elisabeth Mueller in her remarks said everybody has the responsibility to say no to gender-based violence.
She said they would advocate for a budget line to be committed to the fight against gender-based violence, adding that the House should also ensure that the funds are released accordingly when appropriated.
As part of their work, she said they were working on a concept to organise engagements with different stakeholders including Speakers of State Assemblies.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, has given the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, 48 hours to publish the names of lawmakers who were awarded contracts by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as well as the details of the contracts.
Should the minister fail to publish the names, the speaker said the House will employ the full wrath of the law to ensure he does so.
The Speaker issued the ultimatum during plenary on Tuesday, a day after the minister claimed that most of the contracts awarded by the NDDC were awarded to lawmakers.
A bold claim During a testy appearance before the House Committee on NDDC on Monday, Senator Akpabio claimed that the lawmakers were “the greatest beneficiaries” of NDDC contracts.
Asked how the lawmakers benefitted, he said, “I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly”.
The Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, made his bold claim when appeared before a House of Representatives committee on July 20, 2020.
The Speaker who accused Senator Akpabio of pulling the oldest trick in the book with the claims, believes the minister owes it the country to publish the names in the interest of transparency.
On Thursday, Mr Gbajabiamila had to intervene in the sitting of the committee after the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Daniel Pondei, slumped while being grilled about spendings by the commission.
He had called for calm and assured all those invited to appear before the committee that the invites were in the interest of the country and not targetted at anyone.
Stressing that it was a fact-finding mission, the Speaker wished Pondei quick recovery and urged the committee to proceed quickly and wrap up its investigations, stressing that Pondei had already submitted documents to them.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Nigerian National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, sponsor of the Infectious Disease Control Bill, suffered shocking setback at the first public hearing on the controversial bill on Wednesday. The speaker lost grounds to notable stakeholders who opposed the bill and rejected continuation of its legislation.
The controversial bill which passed second reading by fiat in the House of Representatives on April 28, was vehemently rejected by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) at the public hearing on Wednesday.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), cited section 36 which he protested usurped the powers of governors to intervene in the control of infectious disease outbreak in their states.
The NGF chairman also cited some other sections of the bill which constitute breaches of the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens. The governor said too much powers are concentrated on the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Fayemi pointed out that the coercive test and compelling the victim to bear the cost or sanctions will be imposed is highly autocratic. He also noted that the discretional powers to enter and confiscate property by the DG of NCDC on mere suspicion, or the arrest without warrant, constitute arbitrary powers.
Fayemi had declared at the Wednesday public hearing in Abuja which proceedings were monitored from Lagos: “The public should have an opportunity to participate in the formulation of policies and laws and implementation should be open and clear to promote public trust which is crucial for preventing infection spread.
“Rights of individuals to contest an order or proceeding should be protected as much as possible.
“In cases of considerable economic losses as a result of the imposition of such measures, international recommendations proffer that fair compensation be provided to those individuals.
“Any intervention seeking to provide a comprehensive legal and policy framework to ensure the effective management of cases involving infectious diseases…must be conducted within the context of the federation, carrying every stakeholder along and holding extensive consultations.
“The NGF is concerned that the governors were not consulted in putting the Bill together, neither was any role created for them, in utter disregard for their constitutional functions.”
National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Wabba, identified 17 grey areas that are undemocratic and dictatorial.
Wabba had declared inter alia: “Having read through the Bill, the only reinforcing and overwhelming voice is that of dictatorship.
Wabba had declared: “In presenting this memorandum, we choose to uphold our concern that the claim of commitment to the protection of public health and safety does not turn out to be an excuse for the provision of a tool in the hand of an autocrat, empowered to ride roughshod over the fundamental rights of the Nigerian People.”
President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, condemned the powers for compulsory treatment or vaccination in the bill. He declared that it is against the ethics of medical profession, as well as infringes on the right to privacy and other freedoms.
Embattled Speaker Gbajabiamila in his desperation to enforce the passage of the controversial and unpopular bill had argued that the oppositions to the proposed bill are coming from the viewpoints that the legislation “has been ill-informed and outrightly malicious”. He is yet to show willingness to abide by the populist views which have pointed out overwhelming dangers of the legislation.
The public hearing on the controversial Infectious Diseases Control Bill which is being initiated to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926, the Nigeria National Health Act (2004), National Programme on Immunisation Act (2004) and the Environmental Health Officers (Registration ETC) of 2002, continues on Tuesday.
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, may make an appearance on Thursday to make a presentation on the Bill.
The Conference of United Political Parties (CUPP) has boycotted the public hearing on the controversial Infectious Diseases Control Bill holding this Wednesday, which the organized opposition and other stakeholders in Nigeria referred to as plagiarized legislation by the Nigerian National Assembly.
Spokesperson of the Opposition Coalition (CUPP), Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, disclosing the boycott, said that attending the public hearing is a waste of precious time, describing the event as media show and Owambe gathering [not official state function] organized by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, under the guise of public hearing for the questionable Infectious Diseases Bill he is fronting as sponsor.
The CUPP spokesperson ridiculed the Nigerian National Assembly over what he considered as “a plagiarized legislative work that has brought global shame and ridicule to our lawmakers in international press with suspicious provisions against Nigerian people for which the promoters were about secretly passing without public input before Nigerians and opposition exposed them.” He advocated that “the only thing for the parliament to do is to force the Bill promoter to completely withdraw his copy and paste controversial Bill pending the time a clean work is done with the support of all stakeholders, especially, NCDC.”
He maintained: “The best thing the parliament can do is to start cleaning the image of the House by forcing the Speaker to resign for disgraceful act of plagiarism and past dishonest act which have tainted the image and integrity of the House and will continue to haunt the present House.”
Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, accordingly, declared: “We will not be part of a process led by a tainted man to use an afterthought/stage managed so-called public hearing to stamp into law a suspicious anti people legislation. Total withdrawal of the suspicious bill and reintroduction of a non-plagiarized version by a lawmaker without a dirty past is the only condition that can give Nigerians and the Opposition the confidence to attend and make contributions.”
He started that “this is a House that have a Speaker that has brought so much disgrace to the Institution of lawmaking, especially, with the legendary passing of a wicked and frivolous 22.7 billion and 5.5 billion dollars borrowing plan in a day and in less than one hour despite experts and Public outcry against approving a lopsided borrowing plan that contains owambe projects that will plunge generations unborn into debts.”
Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere admonished that “If courageous lawmakers do not rise up now and flush Gbajabiamila and his cabal out of Office, his actions will continue to bring shame and public anger against the House that still has men and women with honour.”
After WWII, the world became aware of the holocaust which was the genocide against Jews. This mass extermination, preceded by lockdown, arrests and deportation to Concentration camps, of Jews was an organised quarantine carried out by civil servants obeying official instructions. In order to forestall the reoccurring of such actions and activities by governments and citizens, the United Nations Charter of Human Rights was set up. This charter protects the universal natural rights of all human beings bestowed on them by the Creator of life. These rights are inalienable and unnegotiable and they must be recognised and protected by all nations and governments.
These Rights include: The Right to Life The Right to Personal Liberty The Freedom from Degrading and Inhumane Treatment The Right to Personal and Family Life The Right to Privacy The Right to Acquire and Own Property The Freedom of Movement The Freedom of Religion These Rights are held sacred and inviolable. Thus courts in Nigeria, on numerous occasions have struck down Acts of Parliament and other legislation (including executive orders of government) which do violence to any of these fundamental rights as provided in Chapter IV of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the above understanding, and looking at the contents and provisions of this proposed bill, one wonders whether our law makers who swore to protect and uphold the constitution of our Federal Republic are committed to keeping the pledge they made. Reading through this law and looking at the timing, the true intention of the promoters of this bill is questionable. We can dare say that the promoters of this bill are not interested in any sincere control or prohibition of infectious diseases in Nigeria. The world is presently battling a virus that has affected several nations with no officially announced cure as yet. Fear and dread has been stirred up in people across the world by the media, most unfortunately, about the effects of this disease. It is this fear that some agents, who are behind this bill, want to ride on to rush this law through.
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE BILL. Firstly, aside the first 3 sections of the bill which make mention of the declaration by the President of the Federal Republic of a public health emergency such as Covid-19, all remaining (over) 77 sections of the law talks about matters and/or issues that are not of any urgent importance now, to warrant the National Assembly (breaking the lockdown order and attendant risks to themselves) to gather in Abuja to pass the law without any input by public health workers and other very relevant stake holders in Nigeria.
SOME ODD PROVISIONS OF THE BILL
S.3(8) empowers the DG of NCDC, all by himself or any officer under him or a police officer on his direction, to enter into any premises or gathering of people in any area declared by the President as a public health restricted zone without a warrant. This is clearly in breach of the right of Nigerians to freedom of assembly, right to liberty, etc. This kind of power in the hands of over zealous police officer or NCDC official can cause serious civil unrest. A religious zealot in office as NCDC DG can close up a church crusade or church service or mosque gathering if he so chooses. He doesn’t require a warrant. He doesn’t require any scientific or medical proof to do it. It’s his prerogative. And he cannot be challenged in court.
S.5(3). This section empowers the DG to compel you (or any person) if you are SUSPECTED by him of having an infectious disease or being in contact with anyone suspected, to undergo a medical examination or test that he (the DG) prescribes. This sub section also allows the DG to take the blood or any other sample from the person for purposes of public health surveillance. So God help you if your church or Muslim sect is in conflict with the DG or the government in power. You can become a suspect. You cannot appeal to any court or even apply for an interim injunction. This of course is in breach of the constitutional Right of every Nigerian to his privacy and Right to respect of his human person. Please note that this sub section, like the other provisions of this bill, has nothing to do with whether there is a public health emergency or not. It is a permanent provision of the law exercisable at any time at the delight of the DG. If you refuse to allow the DG take his samples or do the prescribed test, you are guilty of an offence. S.6 also has a similar provision.
S.8 makes it obligatory for your personal doctor or lab scientist or nurse treating you to release to the DG, your medical details and records without any regard to the age long professional code of confidentiality between a doctor and his patient. But, alas, the bill renders this professional etiquette a crime to refuse to release the information requested. The DG can do this without recourse to getting a court warrant etc to procure these records which is the usual judicial practice. Of course, you cannot appeal or have recourse to the courts.
S.13 empowers the DG upon only a MERE SUSPICION NOT MEDICAL INFORMATION that you are infected with an infectious disease and/or just recovered from an infectious disease, arrest you and detain you FOR AS LONG AS HE DEEMS NECESSARY WITHOUT A WARRANT OR COURT ORDER at any isolation center of his choice and it is an offence to resist him. Of course, you cannot challenge this order in court. We know Nigerians and our history. If the DG or his staff should have a private issue against you or your tribe or your religion, only God can help you.
S.15 is the only section referring to the Federal Minister of Health in this part of the bill. He can declare any premises whether public or private as an isolation center and the moment this is announced, nobody will be allowed to enter or leave the premises without the authorisation of the Minister. Your church or your mosque or your school etc can be converted into an isolation center. Your right to enjoyment of your property is thereby taken away WITHOUT COMPENSATION as required by our Federal Constitution.
S.16, the DG CAN DECLARE ANY BUILDING OR GATHERING (vigil, campmeeting, political rally, convention etc) as OVERCROWDED AND WITHOUT ANY COURT ORDER or WARRANT ENTER THE PREMISES USING SUCH FORCE AS HE DEEMS NECESSARY TO DISPERSE THE GATHERING AND MAY ALSO CLOSE THE BUILDING. A similar provision is in S.17. This is probably the most dangerous provision in this bill. It can be, and will be, very much abused. You or your church or mosque or political party etc cannot challenge this in court.
S.23 authorises the DG or an enforcement officer of his agency or police to seize anyone walking on any street whom he SUSPECTS of having an infectious disease without any warrant or court order. You can say goodbye to your son or brother or husband etc in the morning and that would be the last time you see them for the foreseeable future. All that is required is a suspicion. Do you know that the bill empowers your neighbour to report you or your family members if he suspects you of having an infectious disease? If he suspected you but didn’t report it, he’s guilty of an offence. So egungun be careful before you reject an unwanted sexual advance.
S.19 EMPOWERS THE DG TO CLOSE ANY MEETING OR PUBLIC GATHERING OR EVENT HE CONSIDERS TO LIKELY INCREASE THE SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE WITHOUT ANY COURT ORDER. With this provision, mega churches, mega crusades, mega vigils, and anything mega: bye👋
S.30 makes vaccination compulsory if you are leaving or arriving Nigeria. Whether you like it or not. Whether you want to or not. You must vaccinate.
S.47 Empowers the DG to direct COMPULSORY VACCINATION in an outbreak or a SUSPECTED OUTBREAK. SOME SALIENT POINTS
The bill sanctions any failure to comply with the directive of the DG of NCDC as an offence . THE ESSENCE OF THIS IS THAT THE BILL SEEKS TO TURN THE AVERAGE NIGERIAN into a Criminal on a sensitive issue of health. 2.The bill gives so much power to the NCDC DG with the attendant risk of abuse by an occupier of the position and the rank and file officers of NCDC. The DG has more powers than the Federal Minister of Health in an area that is under the ambit of the Minister and his ministry.
The Bill fails to take into consideration the Federalism status of Nigeria with the overreaching authority given to NCDC DIRECTOR -GENERAL and the Minister of Health on matters under the exclusive powers of the States.
There are no specific provisions to check the potential abuse of powers of the DG and the MINISTER of HEALTH in the bill.( NO CHECKS AND BALANCES).
The authority to take over the PRIVATE PROPERTY OF NIGERIANS and turn them into ISOLATION CENTERS in S.15 of the Bill at the instance of the DG and the Minister of Health in any part of the Federation is a potential abuse of the rights of Nigerians to own and enjoy property is in direct contravention of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
FINALLY, THE BILL OUSTS THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURTS. THE BILL SAYS THAT ANYONE WHO IS AGGRIEVED WITH ANY DECISION OF THE DG OR ANY OF HIS ORDERS CAN ONLY APPEAL TO THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND SUCH DECISION IS FINAL.
DOESN’T THIS REMIND YOU OF DECREE 4 OF 1984? THAT LAW WAS MADE IN AN ERA WHEN THE CONSTITUTION WAS SUSPENDED AND NIGERIA WAS UNDER THE MILITARY. ARE WE BACK THERE TODAY? IS DEMOCRACY GONE?
Senator Ike Ekweremadu is not a man known for pulling punches often but he did last week when he hit Femi Gbajabiamila below the belt. At the centre of the face-off was a certain ‘Infectious’ bill which the former alleged was more dangerous than COVID-19.
Perhaps, no bill brought recently before the National Assembly has gained more attention than the Control of Infectious Diseases bill, 2020, sponsored by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila, and other two members namely, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu.
The 47-page controversial bill hurriedly passed the first and second readings at the floor of the House in April. And, this was allegedly done without providing members copies of the legislation until motives of the sponsors were investigated. Hell has since been let loose after lawmakers discovered to their chagrin that there were many contentious provisions.
While featuring in a radio programme ‘Political Voices’ in Enugu, last Friday, the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, asserted that the bill was not likely to be passed as it was inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution.
“Let me use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that the bill as presently presented will likely not be passed by the National Assembly; a lot of parliamentarians have lined up to oppose it,” he affirmed.
Ekweremadu did describe the bill which seeks to replace the Quarantine Act of 1926 as more dangerous than the COVID-19 pandemic it intends to help tackle.
This is not unconnected with the scary details in the bill which tend to stigmatise and criminalise infectious diseases and confer the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director-General extra-constitutional powers including over and above that of security agencies on issues that deal with law and order, above the courts in judicial matters.
It also appears to make nonsense of the federal structure, personal liberty and privacy of citizens. More troubling is Section 30 of the bill which supports forceful vaccination against a person’s choice. Subsection 2 specifically states: “Notwithstanding subsection (1) (b), a Port Health Officer may require such a person to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis and may subject him to isolation or surveillance for such period as the Port Health Officer thinks fit.” Also intriguing is the power to confiscate and turn a property in any State of the federation into an isolation centre.
These, unfortunately, are a far cry from what Gbajabiamila noted was the objective of the bill, viz to “build on what is already in existence to achieve a particular objective of strengthening our health work and the management of our public health.”
Ekweremadu may have his minuses but his straight shots at Gbajabiamila fits perfectly into public expectations from the country’s lawmakers. And, what are these? The primary concern of many is constructive engagement and focus on matters of overriding national interest.
A bill which confers discretionary powers on a government appointee and ridicules the rights of citizens is, indeed, one which must be subjected to the most frugal debate and scrutiny.
Going back to the drawing board and addressing all the loopholes in the bill while engaging in critical consultation with key stakeholders, especially those in the health sector, should be top priority for Gbajabiamila and his team. Nigeria cannot afford to walk this road ridden with deadly potholes.
“If you look at some of the provisions, it says if you have any problem with the order or the action of the DG of the agency, then you have to appeal to the minister and whatever the minister says is final.
“That is not in tandem with the provisions of our Constitution, especially Section 4, 8 of our constitution. That is Section 4, subsection 8 that deals with the issue of courts and court jurisdictions. Section 4 sub-section 8 says that ‘no attempt should be made by either the National Assembly or any state Assembly to make a law that purports or in effect houses the jurisdiction of the court.
“You must have access to go to court if you have any issue that demands that; so to that extent, that bill is null and void, it is unacceptable, it is unconstitutional,” Ekweremadu said.
He also faulted the Executive Order 10 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The order, which Buhari issued last week, wants financial autonomy granted to state legislature and judiciary as already contained in the amendments to the constitution, carried out by the 8th National Assembly implemented.
“There has been a lot of misconception regarding that Executive Order. In the first place, it was quite unnecessary.
“We, the members of the 8th Assembly, passed the amendment to the constitution to grant financial autonomy to the state judiciary and legislature because we believed that for the sake of their independence, they should be on the First Line Charge of the states’ Consolidated Revenue Account.
“When we passed them, the President dutifully signed them into law (over a year ago). That should have been the end of it because the amendments are self-executing.
“We expected that having done that, the states should go ahead to work out the modalities, but that didn’t happen.
“So, the President now set up a committee headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementation.
“I think it was at that point that they deemed it necessary to come up with an Executive Order to strengthen the implementation. But regrettably, they have simply mutilated those provisions of the Constitution as amended,” Ekweremadu said.
He, therefore, called on the governors to reach out to the president, pinpoint those mistakes for withdrawal in the Executive Order.