Says minister can defend himself at investigative hearing
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who the House of Representatives passed a vote of no confidence on him will have a chance to defend himself at the House investigative hearing.
Last Thursday, a vote-of-no confidence was passed on Fayemi and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, for their refusal to honour an invitation to appear before the House public hearing on the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
Shedding light on the circumstances that led to the vote-of-no confidence on Fayemi and Bwari, Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who spoke with journalists at his Mercy Eneli, Lagos residence yesterday, said when the two ministers appear before the lawmakers’ investigative hearing, they stand the chance to clear the air on sundry issues about the steel company.
According to the lawmaker who moved the motion against Fayemi and Bwari, the motion was not a personal attack on the duo, but a collective position of members of the lower chamber who felt embarrassed by the refusal of the ministers and other stakeholders to appear before the lower chamber of the National Assembly to clear the air on some allegations about the proposed concessioning of steel company.
“As a leader, I was asked to move the motion. The motion was to transform or elevate the meeting to setting up of an ad-hoc committee into an investigative hearing. It means there was something untoward, so as to give the ministry and the ministers opportunity for fair hearing.
“The members erupted. I tried to speak with some members but they insisted. So, it was a question of I have to do my job. I cannot put my head on the chopping board. I had to forget my affiliations to the person and my party, and I got up to move the motion. It is unfortunate that Fayemi put us in that condition. We saw the mood of the House.
“So now there is going to be an investigative hearing to look into Ajaokuta. I feel bad. Fayemi is my friend. He would have the opportunity to defend himself at the investigative hearing,” he said.
Noting that the motion was difficult for him to move because the ministers are not just his close friends, but party men, Gbajabiamila said lawmakers must carry out the responsibilities for which they are voted into office.
“The Speaker and some others went to Ajaokuta Steel Company. If you visit the place you will weep for Nigeria. If you consider the amount sunk into it, over $5bn. It is 98 per cent complete. It remains two per cent to complete. It is big for a country such as ours.
“We decided to invite all the stakeholders; the minister, the junior minister, the sole administrator and other stakeholders. Before you invite someone inside the plenary to address a full house, it must be very important such that only the full House can seat over it.
“We thought Ajaokuta required that kind of attention. So, we invited the ministers to come and brief the House and indirectly brief the public. The minister, in a letter written by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, have excuses why he wouldn’t be there.
“The Speaker replied that it is important and absenting themselves makes the allegations real. It was during the hearing a hurried letter was dispatched to the Speaker as second response. The language suggested that they are going ahead with their concessioning.
“The Speaker read all their correspondences. His letters, the Permanent Secretary responses and at this point, members got upset. There was disrespect, whether intended or not, to the institution. There was impropriety and a seeming effort to cover up something,” he said.
Asked what impacts the development could have on the ongoing reconciliatory efforts of the National Leader of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and if he was privy to the motion, Gbajabiamila said the party stalwart who is currently on a presidential mission to reconcile aggrieved party members is not in the know of the lawmakers’ decision.
“Tinubu has no idea of what is going on. It was not discussed with him. He had no prior idea of what happened,” he noted.
On whether the ongoing concessioning of Ajaokuta Steel Company could have been completed by the ministry, Gbajabiamila said: “I don’t see that as fait accompli. We are going to dig deep into the matter. It is more important than oil. It is something we are going to sit down and look at.”