The speaker of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Thursday cleverly avoided a motion to discuss why President Muhammadu Buhari shunned the parliament’s invitation to brief it on the escalating security situation in the country.
It would be recalled that on December 1, the lawmakers passed a resolution inviting the president to appear before it.
The invitation was occasioned by the November 28 beheading of over 60 rice farmers in Zarbamari village, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents.
Consequently, presidential aide, Ms. Lauretta Onochie announced gleefully that Buhari had accepted the invitation and would appear before a joint session of the national assembly today, Thursday December 10.
Gbajabiamila who conveyed the resolution of the House to the president also confirmed that Buhari had agreed to address the legislature.
However, the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami said yesterday, December 9 that the national assembly lacked constitutional powers to invite the president.
Consequently, the president failed to make good his promise.
At the plenary on Thursday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker from Rivers State, Mr. Solomon Bob invoked Order 6 of the House to seek explanation from Gbajabiamila why the president had not showed up.
Relying on the Order of Privileges, Bob said: “Last week, I recall that this House passed a resolution. Subsequently, I read that the president has considered our request.”
He expressed shock that the president later reneged on his earlier promise to appear before the House.
Demanding explanation, the legislator said: “If this House can pass a resolution and we have a situation where such a resolution is abused, it means our very existence is being questioned. I think that the speaker should address us on the current situation. The entire country is watching. It bothers me.”
After Bob had made his submission, Gbajabiamila responded thus and hit his gavel: “Honourable, your point of Privilege is well noted. We wait for official communications from Mr. President as opposed to newspaper publications.”
In its reaction, the minority caucus in the House urged the president to comply with the constitutional mandate and honour the invitation.
It advised the president to avoid being distracted by those who have demonstrated that they do not wish Nigeria well.
House minority leader, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu who conveyed the caucus’ position in a statement specifically expressed displeasure at Malami’s eleventh hour declaration that the national assembly lacks powers to invite Buhari to address Nigerians on the growing insecurity, killings and acts of terrorism in the country.
Elumelu stated that such assertion amounts to standing the law on its head and portrays the attorney general as an officer who is not in touch with the laws and the realities on the ground.
He argued that the same section 218 cited by the Malami as well as sections 88 and 89 clearly grants the national assembly the powers to request Mr. President’s attention on his handling of security and operations of the armed forces.
“Section 89 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended clearly empowers the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with Section 62 of the Constitution, to procure evidence, written or oral, and to ‘summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place,” he said.
The caucus noted that the president, in response to the invitation, had already agreed to appear before the House to address Nigerians.
“Mr. President’s apparent backward steps on the invitation just because handlers like Abubakar Malami, are afraid of the people, puts him in very bad light before Nigerians and the world,” the caucus stated.
“Indeed, as lawmakers, we are surprised that an individual who calls himself a Senior Advocate of Nigerian and who sits in office as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation can reason in such manner.
“The fundamental reason for the existence of any government is the security of life and property and such is directly vested on the president as the commander-in-chief.
“Today Nigerians are killed, kidnapped and maimed every day in all parts of our country. Nigerians live in constant fear and they are asking questions; they seek reassurances, which only Mr. President can offer.
“As elected representatives of the Nigerian people, members of the House of Representatives are mandated by law to ask questions on the state of the nation, especially on issues of security and that informed the invitation to President Buhari.
“It is therefore sad and a great disservice to the nation and the president that the only opportunity Mr. President had to remedy his name by addressing Nigerians through their elected representatives is being thwarted by individuals pursuing their selfish interest not the interest of Mr. President or that of the Nigerians people,” the lawmakers stated.
“We as lawmakers therefore urge President Buhari not to allow officials like Abubakar Malami to ridicule his office and further alienate him from Nigerians.
“Mr. President, having agreed to appear before the House and given that the invitation is backed by the constitution, should take steps to honour invitation and not allow himself to be distracted by persons who have demonstrated that they do not wish the nation well,” the caucus stated.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the House said the president was yet to send a formal communication on whether or not he will appear before the parliament for a briefing as earlier scheduled.
Spokesman for the House, Mr. Benjamin Kalu stated this while giving an update on the development.
He said the president was not under investigation, adding that the house could not compel him to appear before the House.
He also affirmed that the House has the powers to arrest anyone who fails to honour the invitation or summon by the house.