The Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has vowed to take up the issue of the refusal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, to honour the invitation of the lawmakers to brief them on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
Ministers, heads of MDAs and parastatals are known to willingly ignore invitations of previous National Assemblies without any consequences, but it is clear that the leadership of the 9th assembly is not ready to take that.
The apparently angry Gbajabiamila, who described the killing of Nigerians as a “nagging problem,” which required urgent and collective efforts of the lawmakers and the executive, expressed displeasure over Onyeama’s decision to ignore the House of Representatives’ invitation on the matter.
Referring ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet to the provisions of Section 88 and Section 89, Gbajabiamila warned that in the task of nation building in a democratic setting, no minister has the powers to ignore legislative invitation.
According to Gbajabiamila, “I am speaking directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs; I will be discussing further with Mr. President on the issue. I think if respect is reciprocal; if the House invites any member of the executive in our pursuit of happiness for all, then I think that should be respected.
“The minister has been asked on several occasions since this incident broke, by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and once, by the leadership of the House, for a full and proper briefing on what happened – what transpired in South Africa; because it is only when the committee or the leadership see the facts that we can actually address the issues properly.
“It is unfortunate that on all those occasions, the minister has not responded to the chairman’s invitation. And even when the chairman wrote that the leadership needed to meet with the minister, he did not respond.
“I believe we are one government and I believe we are here to serve the interest of Nigerians. Let me use this platform to send a direct appeal to the Minister of Foreign Affair, and all the ministers for that matter, that we need to respect the invitation that comes from this House, and particularly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs because of an issue that is so important.
“I would want to refer him to the provisions of the constitution, particularly Sections 88 and 89. And that is all I have to say on that matter; to refer him to the provisions of Section 88 and Section 89.”