FULL TEXT OF SPEECH BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPS AT FRIDAY’S EMERGENCY PLENARY SESSION
The Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives gave a challenging speech at the emergency session of the House, summoned to deliberate on the allegations of $620,000 bribery scandal involving its member and Chairman of the Ad-hoc committee probing the fuel subsidy regime, Hon Faruok Lawan and Chief Femi Otedola.
Read the full speech below:
My Dear Honourable Colleagues,
I now formally welcome you to this Special Session of Plenary which has been summoned pursuant to Order 5(18)(2) of the Standing Rules of the House of Representatives. It is the Second Special Session since the 7th House of Representatives was inaugurated on the 6th June 2011.
The object of the Session, which you have just accomplished, is to deliberate on grave allegation of bribery brought against a member of this Hallowed Chambers. Hon. Farouk Lawan by Mr. Femi Otedola, an oil marketer, in connection with the work of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime empanelled by the House for that purpose.
In accordance with our Legislative Agenda we must continue to be, not only sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians but also proactive on all matters of urgent National importance, therefore, while I apologize for the inconveniences caused to members by this sudden recall from the recess, I trust, we all appreciate that this is a call to important civic duty for our dear country.
Hon. Colleagues, when we elected to pursue the entrenchment of probity, accountability and transparency in the conduct of government business as a cardinal Legislative Agenda we advised ourselves never to expect that it will be an easy task. Accordingly I have had cause to occasionally sound a note of warning and reminder that our constitutional task is inescapably hazardous requiring total commitment, diligence, transparency; determination and sacrifice.
The Constitution has given the parliament three broad duties, which include Law Making, Representation and Oversight. It is interesting to note that of these three, it is that last function, which gives legislature the powers to conduct oversight, that has tended to cause conflict between the legislature and the Executive and remains the most controversial. Yet. it would have been impossible to conduct the other two functions successfully if the Constitution had not given the parliament oversight powers: the single most potent weapon that makers of the Constitution put in place to check abuse by those who execute its law.
In full compliance with the Constitutional prescription in S 62(1) and (2) the House has always ensured that all Committees empanelled by it, be they Ad-Hoc or Standing, are given a clear mandate. I find it compelling to state for the umpteenth time that the constitutional power of investigation conferred on the Legislature is for the purpose of law reform and for the exposure of corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it. In the exercise of this function there shall be no sacred cows.
I have emphasized the constitutionality of the oversight function of the legislature because there lingers among many public officials, the notion that in holding public or investigative hearings, the Legislature is over stepping its bounds and also neglecting its other functions. Nothing can be further from the truth. The records of our performance for the first legislative year, which just ended on 6th June 2012, show that the performance in the area of legislation was equally impressive.
I wish at this point to make this pledge that the House of Representatives shall continue to act responsibly by ensuring that all investigations are instituted only when absolutely necessary. Furthermore, we shall insist on probity and fairness on the part of our members conducting such investigations; and we shall not hesitate to sanction anyone who in the course of these investigations overreaches himself or uses the process to intimidate anyone or engages in corruption.
The recent investigations into two Sectors, namely Oil Subsidy Regime and Capital Market were conducted in public, evidence and testimonies were freely given and taken and in the case of oil subsidy regime, monumental fraud was disclosed in the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee which has since been passed by the House and referred to the Executive for implementation by relevant agencies.
While we consider it preposterous and hasty to dismiss the current bribery allegations, pending the outcome of ongoing investigations, including our in-house investigation just instituted, we reject in totality insinuations being orchestrated in some media to the effect that the allegations have eroded the integrity of the Resolutions of the House on the report and rendered same unworthy of implementation.
Let me reiterate that the resolutions of the Hose over the fuel subsidy regime remain valid despite this recent controversy. We must as a country learn to separate institutions from individuals and we must admit that, in the present case, the alleged conduct of an individual cannot negate the conclusions of the whole House. Let me also reaffirm here that we have not been compromised and we shall never compromise our stand against corruption. The credibility of that report therefore remains inviolable and we stand by it.
May I, therefore, urge the Executive to match words with action in the implementation of these resolutions. As just resolved by motion, relevant Committees of the House must diligently monitor the implementation of the resolution by agencies under their supervisory jurisdiction and report back to the House within reasonable time.
My Dear Colleagues, the scope of our resolve for transparency in the conduct of government business includes all the arms of government; all public functionaries and all persons doing business with government or operating under Acts of the legislature. As members of parliament we enjoy no immunity and we seek none, let us therefore remind ourselves constantly that we must live above board. We offer ourselves for public scrutiny at all times in our effort to build a better Nigeria. As humans where we err and our attention is called we shall be willing to make amends in the overall national interest.
I call upon all of us to remain firm, resolute and committed to the execution of our constitutional mandate whatever the hazards. We must NEVER repeat NEVER be cowed or intimidated by any form or colour of antics that may be fashioned with intent to dampen our spirits and or break our resolve. It remains for me to say that, when the army suffers causalities of a few officers and men at the battlefront, it beats no retreat except it does not intend to win the battle. I am confident that men and women of integrity and character are in the overwhelming majority in our fold and we do not lack the numbers to prosecute the battle. We shall be judged not only by our words but more so by our actions.
To the good people of Nigeria we appeal for patience and understanding and wish to once more assure you of our sincerity of purpose and the determination to deliver the Nigeria of our dreams. The road may be rough and herculean but victory is sure.
Now therefore is the time to double the pace of our performance, including the investigative hearings, given that from the monumental fraud uncovered through these investigations, we know that we are surely on course.
The current unfortunate bribery allegation, whatever the outcome of ongoing investigation can only serve as impetus for us to do more, in the quest for the entrenchment of probity in governance.
In addition to routine oversight, we shall investigate everything that needs to be investigated in the process of the fashioning of a better Nigeria. In this regard, we shall continue to seek synergy with the other arms of government so as not to work at cross-purposes.
May the Almighty God grant us the Courage and Grace to do what is right at all times and in all situations.
Thank you all.