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Nigeria’s National Assembly & The Unpublished Public Hearings and Corruption Probes

  • Overview
  • Organizational Tree
Senate
Abuja

It is over two decades since Nigeria began her fourth republic. Two decades of hope crested on our chests, yet with very minimal result to show for it. Nigeria’s National Assembly, comprising three Senate and the House of Representatives have been around for as long as the fourth republic. While many lawmakers have come and gone, there are also some others who have been holding offices for almost as long as the existence of the National Assembly. In this period, spanning over 20 years now, a lot of probes and public hearings have been seen and held.

Occasionally, the National Assembly tell when the probes are about to be heard, but its results, facts, names and information about them are hardly revealed to Nigerians. Many probes and public hearings have gone under the carpet, and several checks by Accountable Nigeria also show nothing substantial by the Senate or House of Representatives have been revealed. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that will allow citizens access top level information about the National Assembly and other public parastatals has hardly been effective.

Despite the presence of the act, lawmakers and other political office holders choose to reveal only what they want despite a myriad of requests by citizens. With very many public hearings and probes going under the carpet, there are renewed calls to the National Assembly to publish them and let the public know about what happened to billions of funds. The National Assembly, already a big spender in the nation’s annual budget must also help in the blocking of governmental leakages through corruption.

Publicly celebrated, the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the sacking of the IMC of the commission is a proof that many more agencies need to be probed publicly and their results announced. In spite of the checked development or underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region, the probe found out that the sum of N40bn was wasted and shared without recourse to the development of the region. Names were mentioned, denials and accusations were made and public collapses were seen. At the behest of this drama, the nation has seen the immense possibilities of a good national probe and results.

Nigerians have called for the result of other probes and public hearings swept under the carpet in the last 20 years and more. Members of the National Assembly have themselves called for the mismanagement of public resources, through several bills and motions. However, they have hardly walked their talk as they have not bothered checking and revealing the rot of the past. The House, for instance, set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the activities of the National Pension Commission and the violation of the PenCom Act. The committee was mandated by the House to probe the withdrawal of N33bn by PenCom from a Central Bank of Nigeria account, the alleged non-remittance of funds to Pension Fund Custodians and administrators, among many alleged atrocities. Names were not mentioned, yet Nigerians deserve to know who is ripping and dipping into their future. The 8th Assembly fronted this probe but never revealed its results.

In another probe, a joint Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff; and Marine Transport investigated the revenue leakages in the import and export value chain valued at N30tn. The committee presented an interim report in 2017 and laid claims to the recovery of N140bn from defaulting banks and companies. The final report however became a toast of the winds, flailing without grips till the 8th assembly left office in June 2019. In yet another probe that never saw the light of day, the National Assembly investigated the fuel subsidy mismanagement of 2014, with Nigerians still yet to know the results of the committee. While rumours have made the rounds that some ‘untouchables’ were pinpointed in the deal, calls have been made to the National Assembly to take a leap that will make it forever memorable.

In another major probe by the 8th Assembly, an inconclusive probe by an ad hoc committee, which investigated the local content elements and cost variations of the $16bn Egina Offshore Oil Project has been left untouched with those pinpointed yet to be revealed. On several occasions, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has accused public institutions of not judiciously using the nation’s resources. Corruption has eaten deep into the system, but on their part as the watch-gods, not much has been done to correct the anomaly.

On December 17, 2019, the House began the probe of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund over alleged illegal expenditure to the tune of N2.3bn spent on “staff training” without due approval. Nothing has been seen yet as tangible results or prosecution. In another probe on December 11, 2019, the House, coming on the back of a motion moved by Mr Benjamin Bem, commenced an investigation into the fast decaying infrastructure at the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports and the roads leading to the ports in Lagos. This caused Nigeria to lose N600bn revenue monthly.

On the 27th of November 2019, the House was pushed to investigate the sharp collapse of the Delta Steel Company built with $1.89bn. With several kickbacks expected from the deal, not a word has been heard ever since the probe came up. Six days earlier, the House launched investigation into the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency over a contract it entered into on behalf of the country. The contract, which was with a foreign private company, HLS International Limited, was for the supply of security and surveillance equipment systems.

The contract, worth a whopping $214,830,000, including $195,300,000 for the actual contract and an additional $19,530,000 that NIMASA agreed to pay to HLSI for ‘Management Training Consideration’, hasn’t seen the light of the day. On the 21st of November, 2019, the House began a probe into the Turn Around Maintenance of the refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, costing a total of $396.33m within four years. In the same month, a probe was launched into the failure to refund $7bn withdrawn from the foreign reserves by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2006. This money, according to the bank was paid to banks and assets managers. A very ‘Black’ and busy November in 2019 also saw thejoint Senate and House Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission launch a probe into the high level debts of the Federal Government and 17 local and international oil companies (IOCs) to the NDDC. The money was in the region of N72bn and $73m, while the Federal Government alone owes the agency N1.2tn.

There are many more investigated in 2019, with nothing heard about the probes while 2020 has also come with its baggage of result-lacking investigations. The North Eastern Development Commission (NEDC) is being probed in 2020 as an alleged N100bn can’t be accounted for. Also being probed is a sum of N613bn allegedly not accounted for by the Nigerian Correctional Service (formerly Nigerian Prison Service) The House of Representatives is also probing a supposed annual revenue leakage in the country as multinationals, banks and others are suspected of racketeering of $30bn forex.

A total of N467m and N43.5bn was reportedly spent by the Nigerian Communications Satellites Limited on NigComSat satellites that have failed to work ever since. No head is rolling so far as the probe is yet to provide results. The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had on May 12, 2020, inaugurated an ad hoc committee to probe the ridiculously high number and condition of capital projects abandoned by the Federal Government across Nigeria. This projects that have not been seen, across all levels of governance have been valued at N230bn. Environmental and hazards of million-dollars money-gulping projects have also been reported to be under investigation by the House. Till now nothing has been seen. On the 19th of March 2020, the House also established a committee to investigate N104,226,956,985.10 released by the CBN for the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme. There are a lot more to be investigated and the National Assembly are yet to publish reports of most of these public hearings and probes.

Accountable Nigeria will be on the watch and look forward to seeing what becomes of the probes as that will help us ask proper questions on the footing our leaders are taking.

Already, there are several litigations against the National Assembly on its failure to release results of these probes which are usually revealing the failings of the executive.