LAWMAKERS in Nigeria’s House of Representatives have begun deliberating a bill that will empower the National Assembly to summon the president and state governors to answer questions about prevailing developments in the country.
In November last year, President Buhari was summoned by the House of Representatives to appear before lawmakers to explain his government’s security policy following the murder of 43 rice farmers in Borno State by Boko Haram. he, however, declined the invitation, saying the constitution does not give the National Assembly such powers.
After weeks of rancorous debate, the bill to summon the president was eventually withdrawn by lawmakers from Borno State who sponsored it. To get round the problem, the House has begun debating a new bill which passed its second reading yesterday.
Known as the Constitution Alteration Bill it will also give states houses of assemblies the powers to summon their respective governors. Leading the debate on the bill, Hon Sergious Ogun from Edo State said it is about deepening accountability.
He cited the controversy that trailed the summoning of President Buhari in November last year and the response of the attorney-general Abubakar Malami. Mr Malami had argued that the House of Representatives lacks the power to summon the president.
Hon Ogun said: “The bill seeks to amend the principal Act by inserting a new sub-section which will read: Nothing in this section shall preclude any chamber of the National Assembly from summoning the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from attending the joint session of the National Assembly to answer questions on national security or any issue whatsoever which the National Assembly has powers to make laws.
“What this bill intends to do is that if we have powers to make laws for the federation and for which we appropriate for, we should also have powers to invite or summon the president. This bill seeks to amend sections 67 and 107 of the 1999 constitution.”
After the motion for the second reading was passed, the bill was referred to the Special Constitution Amendment committee of the House. Last year when this matter first came up, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of the House of Representatives had said it would not be ideal to invite the president because security matters cannot be discussed in public.