Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba
By Tokunbo Adedoja
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba has said that the National Assembly would use the powers at its disposal to ensure compliance with its resolutions on the sack of Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Aruma Oteh, and arrest of the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Funds, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Ndoma-Egba said in an interview with THISDAY that the National Assembly would not present itself as helpless in the circumstances.
The SEC and pension issues have been a source of friction between the National Assembly and the Presidency for some time now, with the former withholding appropriation for SEC in this year’s budget. While the House of Representatives has pushed the question of Oteh’s dismissal for alleged lack of qualification to occupy the post of SEC director general, the Senate issued the arrest warrant against Maina.
To try to force the implementation of their positions on the two public officers, the National Assembly inserted a clause in the 2013 Appropriation Bill, which it passed in December, holding back funding for SEC for both recurrent and capital expenditure until Oteh ceases to be head of the capital market regulatory agency.
Ndoma-Egba, who gave an insight into the shape of the brewing faceoff, lamented what he called the levity with which the arrest warrant had been treated by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar.
“We now have a situation where he (Maina) is invited to the Senate, he does not appear. A warrant is issued, he is not arrested. So, an individual is now bigger than an institution. All I can say on that is that this Senate will never be helpless,” the senator said.
He vowed that the National Assembly would not beat a retreat on the issues, stressing, “Are you expecting the National Assembly to just raise its hands in helplessness? Is that the kind of institution that you want to see to check the executive? An institution that confesses helplessness? Is that the strong institution that Nigerians would want to see to check the executive?”
On SEC, he faulted insinuations that the National Assembly was dabbling into issues that fall strictly within the powers of the executive by trying to determine for the president who to hire or fire.
Ndoma-Egba likened the National Assembly’s stance on the seeming refusal of the executive to implement the legislature’s resolutions to the attitude of the court to those that flout its orders.
“We talk of SEC, that we are dabbling into the powers of the executive to hire and fire. If you had a judicial issue and a court made an order saying a certain position should be maintained, and you went ahead, flouted the order and you came back to the court, do you think that the court will present itself as a helpless institution? They will nullify whatever you have done.”
The senate leader said the National Assembly had never been reckless with its powers over the executive, explaining that of the several appointments that have been made by the president, the legislature had issues with only two.
“There are thousands of appointments that the president has made, how many has the National Assembly dabbled into? We are talking of thousands and thousands...
“The National Assembly is not reckless. There was a public hearing; it was debated on the floor. There are thousands of appointments that are made, how many have we dabbled into? Can you actually say that we have been reckless in the use of that power?” he queried.
Ndoma-Ega said, “There is no institution of government that is going to present itself as helpless. If for whatever reason the National Assembly says, Mr. President, we are not comfortable with this situation, the president has a million options. I think that it is needless for us to paint the picture of confrontation.
“The ministers that you have today, how did they become ministers? By resolution, isn't it? What of the doctrine of necessity? A resolution. Why pick and choose which to follow? And you want the institution that empowered you, in the first place, to appear helpless? There is no institution that would present itself as helpless. There is no such institution. Keep the person, if you must. We will use the powers that we have to also enforce our position.”
Ndoma-Egba agreed that it was the House that Oteh had issues with, but he said the senate adopted the position because the National Assembly would not take inconsistent positions on an issue.
In the exclusive interview, the senate leader also spoke on the growing influence of Peoples Democratic Party governors the disagreement between the executive and legislature over the budgeting process, factors militating against the emergence of a strong legislature, and the controversy surrounding the salaries and allowances of lawmakers, among other issues.