Adaramodu: Tinubu Won’t Prevent Ministers from Honouring N’Assembly Summons

Senate Spokesperson, Senator Adeyemi Adaramodu, in this interview speaks on salient national issues and also clarifies President Bola Tinubu’s recent statement about need for federal lawmakers to reduce their frequent summon of his Ministers and other appointees. Sunday Aborisade brings excerpts:

Will the recent statement by President Bola Tinubu, asking federal lawmakers to reduce their frequent summon of his appointees not hamper the oversight functions of the National parliament ?

A – The President was once a senator. From my own understanding, no minister, no head of any ministry, departments or agencies of the Federal Government will be summoned by the National Assembly without a reason.

Even when we were being inaugurated, the President gave a directive and executive order to ministers and anybody that is managing any MDA to act and attend promptly to any summon and to answer any question that might be raised by the National Assembly.

So in the context, it’s not a negative comment passed by Mr. President. He is only saying that when any MDA head will be summoned, that person will be summoned based on substantial and substantive reasons and matters and that nobody in the National Assembly, no committee will call any head of any agency, frivolously.

In fact, it is just a standing rule in the National Assembly that you cannot call an MDA head without prior notice to them stating the reasons.

 It’s not going to be by phone call. It is not going to be by text message. It has to be stated in writing. The reasons must be stated in a letter. It is not going to be chairman of a committee’s matter. It is going to be the whole committee’s matter. It must be on policy matter. It must be on delivery matter. It must not be about internal affairs of that ministry or that agency.

If it is going to be internal matter of that ministry or that agency, whoever has any complaint against them must bring it in form of public complaint and through a petition. Such petition will be read by the concerned legislator at the open chamber for all senators to hear and then for it to be referred to the necessary committee to sit on it.

So with this, Mr. President is only trying to tell heads of the  MDAs and the legislature to find a coordinated nexus of meeting when and where it is necessary and that result will be gotten to enhance governance and development. So it is not an indictment on the  legislature. It is just that some people  are trying to misread the semantics of Mr. President’s words.

Are you satisfied with the  legislative performance of the 10th Senate so far? Should we expect something different from what usually happens in the past?

The legislature perfoms  three-pronged functions. It makes laws, it carries out oversight, and at the same time, it represents the people. Lawmakers ensure that they get across to their constituents always and give them feedback and advocate for them. So those are the three very major functions of the legislator.

On the issue of lawmaking within the chambers, the 10th National Assembly, especially the Senate, has done tremendously well because we have passed a lot of motions, life-changing, life-enhancing motions. We have passed motions on the economy, on infrastructure, and on security especially. We’ve done a lot. In terms of bills on security, arms proliferation matter, and trust funds. We have also legislated on the petroleum tax law, and several others like that.

On the issue of oversight, yes, we are doing great.

When should Nigerians expect aggressive oversight by lawmakers to the MDAs?

 The first budget that the 10th Assembly would pass was the 2024 budget. It will soon start running because the last budget of 2023, which was not passed by the 10th Assembly, is still running. It is until 2024 budget start in full force, that we can start to find the milestones where we are, what we have done. We will look at what the MDAs are doing with it. Apart from that, the oversight functions of the National Assembly is not fully limited to the issue of budgetary performances of the MDAs. Outside that, public interest matters. Like when we talk of labour matters, when we talk of even electoral matters when we talk about inflationary matters, when we talk about security matters, when we talk about even at times disasters. So those are areas that we have been having oversight.

Some committee chairmen have cited insecurity as reasons they can’t go on oversight. What’s your reaction to this?

I am not sure that is happening. Why I said I’m not sure that is happening is that, some kidnapping incidents occur in Nigeria nowadays on the main road and  the committee on works, headed by Senator Barnada Mpigi was with the federal ministry of works staff. They went around to inspect the various road projects that the federal government has contracted. For example, they came to Ekiti, we saw them, we met them, and then we even welcomed them and we spoke with them. So if committee that is saddled to do oversight functions on the road projects, building of road, maintenance of roads in Nigeria could just go out there to the roads despite the presence of the kidnappers on the roads, they are not in the air.

So definitely, if the committee that is carrying out oversight function on road construction, can be on the roads. So I don’t think the Committee on aviation will now give us the excuse of a worse security situation than that of the road where kidnapping do take place. So that’s why I said I’m not  going to aptly agree that any committee chairman could have given that one as an excuse.

Like me, I’m in the Committee on Youth Development and we visited the orientation camps of corps members, all over Nigeria. We have been to East, we have been to the West, and to the North and we are not endangered to the extent that we will not be able to perform our duty and our function as legislators who will do oversight functions on the MDAs. So if those two critical committees could go ahead and then do the oversight no other committee should complain. When the committee on the petroleum matters visited the Port Harcourt refinery, there was never an excuse of maybe the road is dangerous. They got there and then we saw what they did. They gave us report that the refinery, that of Port Harcourt was 90 per cent complete and that within a few weeks or months, that we  will start producing petroleum products from the refinery.

Two senators have been quoted in the media to have supported the Minister of Education that the minimum age requirement for admission into tertiary institutions should be pegged at 18 years. Is that the position of the Senate?

That is a comment. It is not a law. It is just a comment. It’s not a law. By the time the Senate resumes fully, whoever wants to bring that one out to make it a law, will bring it and then the procedures will take place because you can bring whatever to the floor in form of  a bill.

When you bring it, there’s going to be public hearing. All the stakeholders will sit down and talk about it, the  parents, teachers, legislators, civil society organisations, even foreign organisations. We will sit down and we talk. Even if they say that the minimum wage should be 30 or 12 we will all discuss it at an open forum. It is still a comment which cannot be taken to be the law.

We also learnt that the minister had instructed the JAMB leadership not to release the result of those who are not up to 16 years

There is nothing like that. It cannot happen. When the prospective applicants bought their forms, there were no such  conditions. So when they have bought forms under one condition, that condition cannot be changed along the line until the current set of candidates have been successfully attended to.

When the next engagement is to take place, then if the bill to increase the minimum age requirement is brought either as an executive bill or personal or private bill or the public brings it as a bill, then the National Assembly will now sit down and then allow it to go through the crucible of lawmaking.

This is a country, this is Nigeria. So all of us will sit down and deliberate, oh, this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. So, far anything said about it is just a mere comment, it’s just an opinion. It is not law yet. So once something is not law, then there’s the level of jaw jaw that we can do.

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