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Amid Contentious NASS Committee Hearings, Leadership Shuts Sittings

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The House of Representatives on Thursday, August 19, directed all committees of the House to put their activities on hold, until the resumption of the National Assembly from its annual recess on September 15. Their activities include investigative hearings, public hearings, as well as committee meetings. This is a major intervention in the legislative workings of the House and is unprecedented. Vacation sessions of the National Assembly often provide a window for speedy legislative activities at committee levels, as the absence of plenary sessions and sittings means that legislators could conduct other legislative businesses. In recent weeks, controversy has emerged during public hearings and committee meetings, laden with drama and allegations of corruption in government agencies and departments and counter allegations by some public officials that legislators have demanded favours from them. Several observers perceive the halt to committee activities as an intervention by legislative leadership to protect the current government from what is turning out to be embarrassing allegations of corruption, which have severely dented the integrity and credibility of the government’s claim to fighting corruption.

It will be recalled that some committees of the House, such as the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols had been conducting investigative hearings in which they summoned government officials to appear before them and answer questions relating to the activities of their respective ministries, departments and agencies. Most recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi was involved in a heated argument with the Chairman of the Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols, Non. Ossai Ossai over bilateral loan agreements between Nigeria and China. Furthermore, in light of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected legislative activities among others, the activities of the legislature during its recess may have made up for lost time. However, Nigerians have expressed opinions to the effect that the legislature’s oversight activities are futile, as no one is held accountable or brought to book after all is said and done.