Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to honour an invitation from the lower chamber of the federal legislature to explain what he is doing about the rising wave of insecurity in the country.
He told State House reporters yesterday in Abuja, after leading a delegation to a meeting with the president, that they came to convey the resolution summoning him to appear before it.
The House, on Tuesday, had considered a motion, moved by Hon. Satomi Ahmed, on behalf of 10 other Borno State federal lawmakers, to summon Buhari, and to amongst other things, declare a state of emergency on security matters.
The motion was informed by Saturday’s killing of over 43 rice farmers in Zabarmari village, near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
If he keeps his promise, this will be the first time since he came to power on May 29, 2015, and after his re-election in 2019, that the president will honour such a legislative summon.
However, the House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, yesterday shed light on why Buhari had ignored previous invitations from past legislatures, saying it was because they withheld his budgets.
Gbajabiamila told the reporters yesterday that aside from conveying the resolution to the president, they also had the intention of fixing a date for his appearance.
But they later declined to fix the date in deference to the president’s office.
He added that they eventually reached an agreement with the president on the date he would appear before them. But he declined to make the date known, adding that it will be communicated to journalists later.
He said: “We came to see the president on developments in the country. He was so willing to listen as typical of the president.
“The usual democrat that he is. What we basically sought was to convey the resolution of the House and to fix a date which we did not fix out of respect for Mr. President and his very tight schedule since we don’t know what date will be convenient.
“We have agreed on a date and he will meet with the House to address the situation. We have a fixed date but we will communicate with you. He is a perfect democrat. He will come to the House to address members in the nearest future.”
Asked what was his perception of the president’s handling of security threats ravaging the country, Gbajabiamila said the president was concerned about the worsening insecurity.
He said he would, however, avoid pre-empting the president until he appears before the House.
According to him, when Buhari appears before the House, he will not be there to address only the lawmakers, but will use the platform to address the country.
“I think he is more concerned than me and you. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. We will leave everything until when he comes to the House. Let me not pre-empt him. All I can tell you for now is that he is fully committed to the security of lives and property of Nigerians,” Gbajabiamila said.
Ahmed’s motion which was the fallout of the heinous killings of 43 farmers on their rice farms in Zabarmari by Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday, also demanded a declaration of a state of emergency by the president on security matters in the country.
Ahmed had disputed the claim that the number of people killed was 43, saying the exact number was not yet known.
He had recalled how the insurgents tied up farmers and slit their throats.
However, Ahmed had in his motion deliberately omitted the prayer summoning the president, prompting one of the co-sponsors of the motion, Hon. Ahmadu Jaha, to raise a point of order, drawing his colleagues’ attention to one of the prayers in the motion which Ahmed had failed to express.
According to Jaha, all sponsors of the motion agreed that Buhari should be summoned to tell the House what he’s doing about the security situation in the country.
Jaha’s point of order, calling for the House’s resolution summoning the president received the backing of the majority of members, but some opposed it, thus throwing the House into a rowdy session.
Gbajabiamila had to intervene by calling for the dissolution of the House into an executive session to resolve the dispute.
It was after the executive session that the House ratified the demand to summon the president.
Well-meaning Nigerians and groups, including Afenifere and Northern Elders’ Forum, had thrown their weight behind the House’s motion to summon Buhari, lamenting how insecurity had become a norm in the country.
Earlier yesterday, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, had expressed optimism that Buhari will honour the invitation by the lawmakers to speak on the rising insecurity in the country.
He added that the president ignored the summons of the previous National Assembly sessions because they withheld his budgets.
Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, Kalu said Buhari has no reason not to honour the invitation, as the current legislature, unlike the previous ones, is not at war with him.
Kalu said: ”The president has been invited so many times, but he was invited by those who were at warfare with him. Remember the people who invited the president before were the ones who held his budget for six months and then you invite him and expect him to come? You want him to answer questions on issues he was supposed to use the money that you’re supposed to appropriate when you’re holding the money and you’re inviting him. But this Assembly has not held the budget of Mr President; we have given Mr. President his budget in good time; so, he has no reason not to oblige the request of the Nigerian people.”
He, however, said the invitation is not as important as the declaration of a state of emergency on security.
Kalu added that the legislature also gave the president the backing to declare state of emergency so as to be able to use other sources and mechanism to solve the security problem of the country.
He said: “Unless there’s a declaration of a state of emergency on security, Mr President’s hand will be tied to do what the former President Jonathan did, which was asking for external help and bringing in external help such as mercenaries and the rest of them to make sure we fight to clear the issue of security.
“The constitution will not allow Mr. President to act in this direction and that was why through legislative intervention, to tell you that resolutions are not dramas, they are the open doors that invite the executive to formulate policies and take positions that will help them achieve the desires of Nigerians.”
On the budget, he said the members were able to round up some of the targets they set for themselves as committees and the ones set by the leadership of the House, to make sure that before the end of the month, it will be done so that from the beginning of January, they are going to have a budget in place.
On why the House is not making use of its legislative powers to ensure some revenue generating agencies make their budget public, Kalu said: ”For the first time, NNPC came and presented their budget openly. That needs to show you the commitment of the Ninth Assembly we believe that certain things are not achieved just by flexing of muscles and boxing each other. Now on CBN and FIRS, on the need for them to be more transparent is true.
“As a people’s parliament, we’re on the side of the people. If the people want to get details as taxpayers of what is being done with their funds, I think it’s the right call and the feedback I’m taking from this is that we are going to speak to chairman banking and currency committee to look into this.
“For FIRS, I’m sure the chairman, finance committee, will also look into that. If we have missed it in this budget, maybe they’ve presented their report. I am sure, in the coming budget it’s going to be looked at, it’s a promise.”
He said the Committee on Special Duties will also look into service wide vote.