Powers of The National Assembly (Legislature) To Summon Members of The Executive Arm Under The 1999 Constitution

Barr S. G Idress, PP S. G Idress & Co. (Al-Mufeed Law), Bauchi State, Nigeria.

The recent seeming show of shame by the National Assembly in its joint Committee seating where it invited the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN) has exposed the National Assembly, especially when after raising some concern or allegation of corruption or wrong doing in public, they later while the Minister did not get the full opportunity to respond to the issues raised, called for Executive Session and the Minister in his wisdom refused the offer.

Let’s consider section 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) which gives the National Assembly the power to summon any member of the Executive with the view of examining the extend of their power in that regard. Section 88 provide thus:

” (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed investigation into –

(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, and

(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –

(i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and

(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.

(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –

(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and

(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”

It is obvious from the provision of section 89 of the Constitution that the only reason that enable the members of the National Assembly to invite the members of the Executive is for the purpose of law making or exposing corruption and in doing so it laid down the necessary procedures for so doing. The section provide thus:

“(1) For the purposes of any investigation under section 88 of this Constitution and subject to the provisions thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to –

(a) procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and examine all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material or relevant to the subject matter;

(b) require such evidence to be given on oath;

(c) summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, and examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, subject to all just exceptions; and

(d) issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the committee in question, and order him to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in compelling his attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or neglect to obey the summons, and also to impose such fine as may be prescribed for any such failure, refused or neglect; and any fine so imposed shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.

(2) A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may require.”

Having a community reading between section 88 and 89 of the Constitution will only suggest that the National Assembly power under section 88 (2)(b) allow them to expose corruption, but one can hardly understand how they can expose corruption by going behind closed doors.

By: Barr. Idrees Safiyanu Gambo

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