National Assembly Complex
The House of Representatives yesterday justified its decision to summon President Goodluck Jonathan and service chiefs in the wake of renewed terror attacks in Yobe and Kaduna States.
Reacting to criticism over its Tuesday’s summons of the president to brief the House on his administration’s efforts to tackle insecurity, the House stated that Section 89(1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution confers on it the powers to summon anyone, including the president on any matter which is within the purview of the National Assembly.
Section 89(1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution reads: “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 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.”
Sub-section 1(d) goes to provide that in the event a person fails to appear, the Senate or House of Representatives shall, “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…”
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, said the invitation to the president was in the best interest of democracy.
Mohammed said it was mischievous for some section of the public to insinuate that the House had ulterior motives in inviting the president.
He accused those who interpreted the invitation as an affront to the executive by misrepresenting the issue, stressing that there was nothing undemocratic or unconstitutional in the matter.
“We want to make it abundantly clear that we have not in any way overstepped our bounds. People should stop overheating the polity by reading ulterior motives to every action we take.
“As a parliament, we are deeply concerned with the worsening state of insecurity and we believe that we need to be proactive by interfacing with the president and the service chiefs,” he said.
Despite the House’s position, Mohammed failed to take into consideration Section 308(1)(c), which precludes the National Assembly from instituting any process to compel the appearance of the president.
Specifically, that section states, inter alia: “No process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued.”
This, analysts argued, negates the power of the National Assembly to issue warrant, which in itself is a process of court.
In summoning the president on Tuesday, the House said Jonathan was being invited in his capacity as the nation’s chief security officer to brief the parliament at an executive session on the security situation in the country.
Some of the lawmakers, in their contributions to a debate on a motion on the security crisis in Kaduna and Yobe States, questioned the rationale behind Jonathan's trip to Rio de Janerio, Brazil for the United Nations Earth Summit Rio+20 at a time when the country was under siege.