By Umar Sa’ad Hassan

All the ‘Acting’ MD of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei had to do was appear before the House of Representatives’ probe committee and ‘faint’. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila was waiting in the wings to announce that he will no longer appear before the committee while the public was busy reacting to what happened.

Its a lot like when the Buhari administration ignored several calls to place travel restrictions when coronavirus was forcing far more advanced countries to shut down and he refused. When they were to embarrased to announce 5 new cases at the same time from the UK and the US, they announced restrictions and then the new cases about an hour later. Nigerians were too pre-occupied with the news of the ban to notice and blame Buhari for his inaction. The ‘Acting’ NDDC boss,Pondei will be the butt of jokes for a while but more importantly,he will get off thanks to Gbajabiamila; the lawyer accused in the United States of stealing a client’s $25,000. It was very cleanly executed.

Gbaja and his fellow rubber stamp senior colleague at the Senate, Ahmed Lawan are being said to have been issued a N37bn allocation for renovation of the NASS complex to help keep as many of their boys happy. Little wonder why even a PDP lawmaker like Wole Oke, who was accused by his former colleague, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin of receiving from Dasuki’s arms loot, would order the clerk of the house committee investigating financial irregularities linked to them to write the President over the refusal of top government officials to appear before them instead of issuing an arrest warrant as stipulated by law.

These officials include Godwin Emefiele-Governor of the Central Bank, Mele Kyari-the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Hadiza Bala Usman-the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority and Alex Okoh-the Director of the Bureau for Public Enterprises. The CBN, NPA and NNPC particularly have featured greatly in public discussions after the NDDC show of shame with many Nigerians wondering what would be discovered in these agencies that deal with way more money than the NDDC.

As should be expected, the heads of these agencies are scared of any probe and have refused to respond to valid summons issued by the House of Representatives. The thing is no one gets to do that. Section 89 (1)(d) of the Nigerian constitution mandates the House (operative word ‘shall’) to not only issue a warrant of arrest against anyone who disobeys a summons to appear before it but to also have them cover the costs incurred in executing that arrest. That section also bequeaths a power to impose a fine if prescribed in a secondary legislation. No where in the Constitution or Legislative Houses Act (which also stipulates arrest for defiance of a summon), is it stated that a letter should be written to the President if his appointees refuse to honour an invitation by the House of Representatives.

The legislature exists primarily to make laws and act as a check on the executive, it does not exist to service its whims. So what will happen if Buhari doesn’t order the invitees to attend? The probe will be put to bed? The President is known to fiercely protect his corrupt cronies till he no longer can. He stuck to Ibrahim Magu as EFCC boss and didn’t toss him to the side till he had fallen out with his Attorney General and refused to reach out to him despite knowing fully well that Magu had been indicted for living in a N20M per annum residence paid for by highly suspicious persons and also that he was found guilty of tampering with EFCC files by the Police Service Commission in 2010.

Former SGF, Babachir Lawal was absolved of any wrong-doing after a sham of a probe by his Attorney General and only got penalized when public outcry became unbearable. The House of Reps should under no circumstance, ever subject what is right to the discretion of a man like Buhari who not only oversees the most corrupt nigerian government in recent times but relies on a man like Abubakar Malami to handle legal affairs. Malami was saying just days ago that the clause waiving sovereignty to China in a loan agreement COULD mean waiving our ‘sovereignty to a contractual obligation’.

Malami, who is Chief Law officer and is supposed to study all agreements entered into by this country, isn’t himself sure what we have gotten ourselves into. He is guessing. To clarifiy, that clause specifically allows us retain military and diplomatic assets over what is ceded to the Chinese. How he came about the nonsense on ‘sovereign contractual obligation’, only he knows. The same constitution which confers on the House of Reps power to compel attendance is what the man honestly believed gave him the power to disobey valid court orders; what even a first year law student would find preposterous.

Following the NDDC drama, corrupt government officials will try as much as possible to evade public hearings, the truth is they have no choice but to attend and it is imperative that the National Assembly orders the arrest of anyone who doesn’t.

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano