By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai and his counterpart in Public Accounts Committee, PAC, Hon. Woke Oke Tuesday split over the procedures of probe of the Chinese loans.
It will be recalled that Ossai and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi who took questions during a public investigative hearing of the committee on the loans on Monday last week had a shouting spree.
The altercation prompted Oke who was co-opted into the committee to call the attention of the Chairman for input, perhaps to arrest the escalating argument between the two.
Ossai in return told him to wait for formal recognition to speak as the Minister still had the floor.
But Oke in an interview on an Abuja based FM station lifted and published in a national newspaper (Not Vanguard), faulted the investigative hearing on the bilateral agreements between Nigeria and China, alleging “that the (Ossai’s) committee was functioning outside of its mandate”.
Reacting in a press statement on Tuesday in Abuja, Ossai described Oke’s comments as “unparliamentary and false”.
He further described the statement by Oke as “familiar coming from him, saying that it does not in any way reflect the trueness of the committee’s mandate and productive outcomes it has recorded through its legislative oversight engagements on the subject matter”.
Ossai said he “considers Wole Oke’s statement to be false in its entirety, unparliamentary, unpatriotic and does not in any way reflect the trueness of the committee’s mandate and productive outcomes the House committee has recorded through its legislative oversight engagements on the subject matter.”
The statement further read: “The chairman will like to clarify that Hon. Wole Oke is not a member of the House committee on treaties, protocols and agreements; and thus may not be well acquainted with the mandate of the committee with respect to the on-going public hearing on the bilateral agreements between Nigeria and China including the unique oversight technique adopted by the committee to achieve its goals.
“Contrary to the Honourable member’s claims, the House committee on treaties, protocols, and agreements is a statutory standing committee of the House of Reps, established in the spirit of sections 62(1) and 12 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), with powers as prescribed in sections 88 and 89 of the constitution, guided by the mandate/jurisdiction as provided in the Standing Order of the House of Reps especially Order 18(B), Rule 93.
“The committees cannot effectively carry out the enormous responsibilities of reviewing the agreements with a view to ascertain their viability, regularisation, domestication and possible renegotiation without reviewing the commercial contracts agreements upon which the facilities were secured.
“The committee’s engagement with ministries of finance, Debt Management Office (DMO) and Office of the Attorney General of the Federation revealed that not only are the invited ministers the custodians of the commercial contracts and key parties to the negotiations; they were also the end-users of the facilities for projects domiciled in their various ministries.
“They were also charged with the responsibilities of instructing the ministry of finance when to issue irrevocable notices of drawdown on the loan facilities in line with levels of work executed by the contractors as provided for in the agreements including the counterpart funding components of the agreements.
“Therefore, the committee rightly invited the ministers to provide relevant documents relating to the projects financed by these agreements in order to accurately ascertain their viability, review the provisions of the agreements to ensure compliance to local content laws.
“It is therefore self-serving and unparliamentary for an Honourable member of a ranking status to go to the media and attempt to discredit the constitutional legislative oversight duties of an agent of the first arm of government or strangely barge into the committee public hearing to seek privilege to provide direction on procedure when the substantive chair is sitting and presiding. These actions are strange to legislative practices, procedure and conventions.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the specific mandates of the committee with respect to the current public hearing was pursuant to House resolution no (87/09/2019) via a Motion on “Transmission of all treaties and bilateral/contractual agreements by all federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to the National Assembly”, wherein the House resolved to call on the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to transmit all signed, ratified and domesticated Treaties and other International Agreements both bilateral and multilateral to the Registrar of Treaties in the Federal Ministry of Justice and to the National Assembly”.
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