NASS on Resumption After Two Month Annual Vacation

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The weekly report is back as the National Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday to face a plethora of national issues left unattended to during the lawmakers traditional annual break observed by lawmakers globally.

This week’s edition will focus on the following:

  • NASS may focus attention on the state of insecurity, lingering resident doctors strike and the raging war on Value Added Tax, VAT.
  • Petitioner wants Reps committee chairman replaced after an alleged request for N10m
  • Gbajabiamila wants legislative interventions on hate speech, misinformation

Insecurity, VAT, Resident doctors strike may top lawmakers agenda on Tuesday As the National Assembly resumes on Tuesday, one burning national issue in the country for the past six years is insecurity which has remained unabated and took a massive twist as Nigeria’s foremost military training academy, the Nigeria Defence Academy, NDA was raided by bandits and a serving Major abducted while lawmakers were on recess. This was the height as this singular development drew the flak of most Nigerians who concluded that the Nigerian security architecture has collapsed if such a fortified academy could be raided successfully by the bandits. NASS as usual will invite security chiefs, hold a close door session or go a little further to constitute investigative panels and the case will be rested. Nothing will be achieved at the end of the day.

Secondly, the lingering Resident doctors strike that started on August 2, is one area that NASS members may immediately focus on as Nigerians are dying on a daily basis as all government health facilities have remained inactive due to the industrial action. Nigerians are expecting lawmakers to perform miracles to ensure doctors call off the strike as the Federal Government regularly issues threats which has yielded no positive results. Another raging issue of VAT that is gradually snowballing into a sensitive matter as Rivers and Lagos states have passed a law empowering them to legally collect tax on consumables. It’s also in the public domain that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS has smuggled a Bill into NASS to quickly add VAT into the Exclusive List. The general believe is that if PIB and other well opposed Bills that are not people friendly were passed by NASS, the smuggled Bill too might just sail through and as usual nothing will happen, Nigerians will only mourn and patiently wait till 2023.Petitioner wants Reps committee chairman replaced after an alleged request for N10m bribe The last dispute between a petitioner, Mr Finidi Jahbless and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), may not have been heard following fresh petitions against those from whom he had sought for redress in NASS.

Mr. Jahbless, a resident of Warri in Delta State, South-South Nigeria, has been enmeshed in a fight with the oil giant, Shell, over alleged nonpayment for contract he claimed to have executed for Shell, and for which he had petitioned the House of Representatives ever since. Leakers Post recalls that the petitioner had previously accused the committee chairman, Hon. Jerry Alagboso and his Clerk, Mr Yilzy Yakubu, of working in favour of the respondent at his expense. He also alleged that the committee Clerk demanded for a N10m bribe to enable him procure favorable recommendations in the report. While the Clerk, Mr Yakubu has denied ever asking him for anything including monetary gratification, the chairman, Alagboso did not answer calls nor respond to messages requesting his reaction to the allegations. However, in a petition dated 28 June, 2021 and addressed to the House of Representatives’ Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Arc. Amos Olatunde Ojo, the petitioner is asking that chairman Alagboso be made to step aside for his deputy to preside over the matter, just as he prayed the CNA to call the committee Clerk to order and make him answer some queries.

The petitions were submitted before the matter was ordered for reconsideration on July 9, 2021 by the deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase who rejected the committee’s recommendation laid before the House.

The prayers are as follow:

  1. To step the committee chairman aside(sic)
  2. To probe the chairman
  3. To direct the panel to address the injustice, more so, this matter (sic) has been lingering since the 7th Assembly to this present Assembly and has suffered setbacks because of human factors.

Leakers Post recalls had reported previous allegations by the petitioner against the duo saying that the committee chairman, Hon. Jerry Alagboso (PDP, Imo), had at one of the hearings tried covering up a case of forgery allegedly perpetrated by Shell Petroleum. Lawyer to SPDC, Ama Etuwewe (SAN), had on March 4, 2021 tendered a document before the panel indicating that an agreement was reached and signed following negotiations with stakeholders including the Petitioner, for payment which had since been made. Lawyers to the Petitioner, Karina Tunyan (SAN) & Co in another letter dated March 9, 2021, and addressed to the committee chairman, also raised the alarm about a forgery allegedly perpetrated by Shell, purporting to have reached an agreement with its client, Mr Jahbless, towards an amicable settlement of their dispute. Titled: ‘Disclaimer of the Signature of our Client, Mr Finidi K. Jahbless on the Purported Document, that was Presented to the House Committee on Public Petition and Investigative Hearing…,’ the lawyers said: “we write on behalf of our client, to categorically disclaim the said document, which to the best of our knowledge, never existed because for over the years that this matter started, right from Public Complaint Commission, we never set our eyes on this document.” “We therefore challenge Barrister Ama Etuwewe (SAN), to present before this Honourable committee, all the parties that their names and signatures appeared, as being in attendance during the purported negotiation” the petitioner’s lawyers charged.

The committee upon establishing the forgery claim had ruled that SPDC should seek amicable settlement with the petitioner and report back to it. However, in the report submitted to the House and considered on July 9, 2021 shortly before the annual recess, the committee recommended that the House discontinue the matter on the ground that the respondent had gone to court to challenge its jurisdiction and competence. “The committee hereby recommend that the House discontinue the matter pending the determination of the suit before the Court of Appeal, Abuja in a Suit No. CA/A/711/2017,” Jerry Alagboso, chairman of the committee said in his presentation. However, the presiding chairman, and deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Idris Wase rejected his submission, asking him to “go back and do a thorough job”. “This is not an acceptable recommendation on this matter. From my understanding, this case has been before the House long before the despondent ran to court. So we can’t stop it because they quickly ran to court just to frustrate the process,” he said. On the part of the Clerk, who has denied the bribery allegation against him in a previous report, the petitioner is praying the CNA, to call him to order, whilst prevailing on him to explain:

  1. Why he should lie against the Deputy Speaker for his misdemeanor
  2. Why he lied against the chairman and staff of the committee on Rules and Business to cover up his flaws
  3. To explain the purpose of the N10m bribe, as well as his use of uncomplimentary words on him in the media.

Gbajabiamila wants legislative interventions on hate speech, misinformation The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that tackling hate speech and misinformation has become the responsibility of all major stakeholders, especially Parliaments around the world, as the negative consequences of the two can only be imagined. Gbajabiamila said parliaments must find in all regulatory or legislative interventions, a balance between protecting the right to free speech and the right to life, peace and dignity. According to him, proper and legal means should be followed in countering hate speech and misinformation both off and online so as not to tamper with the rights of citizens to free expression. Gbajabiamila spoke on the topic, ‘Countering Misinformation and Hate Speech On and Offline Requires Stronger Regulations’, at the the recently concluded Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament taking place in Vienna, Austria.

The Speaker said technology and new media had led to the democratisation of public debate in a way that, if appropriately managed, could be to the benefit of citizens and nations worldwide. “However, at the same time, it has created the ideal circumstances for bad actors to spread misinformation, and to manipulate people in ways that threaten our societies,” he added. Gbajabiamila said the right to free speech was not without limits as it did not include the freedom to plant wilful misinformation and that it did not excuse the actions of those who sought to use the freedom of public debate to exacerbate existing fissures in the society, “and it does not include a right to ignite social tensions, through lies and fake news in our societies, without consequence.

Leakers Post recall, Members of the National Assembly have resumed plenary after about five weeks of recess over the Coronavirus pandemic. The Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers returned to the Assembly Complex in Abuja on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, after they went on break as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. In the upper house, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, led the Lawmakers into the Chamber after which plenary started at about 10:30am as soon as the Lawmakers were seated. Amid the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Senators were asked to maintain social distance inside the Chamber by giving a space of two seats between themselves. Shortly after the proceedings began, the Senate went into a closed-door session. Similarly, the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, led the Lawmakers into the Chamber of the House for plenary.

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