MADNESS IN THE HOUSE
The lackluster attitude of government to probing these allegations since I raised them is also a very, very sad commentary on the lack of preparedness of President Jonathan to fight corruption, no matter whose ox is gored. The protection that has been offered to dubious characters in government who have been clearly indicted by law enforcement agencies for fraud and forgery of certificates, in form of unexplained withdrawal of charges, provision of soft landing for accused persons, refusal to approve reports of law enforcement agencies sent to the Presidency e.t.c., is what has emboldened such characters as those in leadership positions in the House of Representatives to summon the effrontery and impudence to suspend those who have accused them of corruption.
If the slogan of the anti-corruption war is to 'see something and say something', how come those who 'say something' when they 'see something' get punished in this crude manner? What is the fate of the anti-corruption war when whistleblowers are subjected to indignities and name-calling? I am sad, very sad indeed, that we have sunk to this low state of moral debauchery. The obvious silence of the Presidency over the earlier report on the N2.3billion car scam that was reportedly sent to it for 'consideration' is what has led to this present display of crass arrogance and impudent show of power by the leadership of the House of Representatives in suspending and assaulting members who have raised their voices against corruption and corrupt practices.
I condemn this totally and entirely and call on President Jonathan to immediately release the report on the N2.3billion car scam reportedly sent to the Presidency so as not to constitute a cog in the wheel of the anti-corruption crusade . I also call on Nigerians to speak out with one voice and rise against this extreme injustice in the House of Representatives.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.'
Why the suspension cannot stand
The purported suspension of eleven members of the House of Representatives last week for daring to accuse the leadership of corruption is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. In suspending the members, the House relied on its internal rules which give it powers to suspend members for two weeks in some instances and for a session in other instances. In this case, the House claims that the suspension is for a session.
However, the law is that, the Constitution of Nigeria is supreme and by virtue of section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution, 'if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.' As a result, where the Constitution has clearly made provisions regarding any subject matter and has not expressly reserved to the National Assembly or any other legislative body the power to expand on or add to its provision regarding the particular subject matter, then any other law or rule made in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution would be null, void and of no effect. This is what is known as the 'doctrine of covering the field'.
What is more, even section 60 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the House of Representatives to make its own rules, makes it clear that those rules would be subject to the provisions of the Constitution. This is what section 60 of the 1999 Constitution says:
'Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.' Under what circumstances can a member of the House of Representatives lose his seat either temporarily or permanently? Section 68(1)(a) - (h) of the 1999 Constitution provides the answer:
'68-(1) A member of the Senate or the House of representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if-
(a) he becomes a member of another legislative house;
(b) any other circumstances arises that, if he were not a member of the senate or the House of representatives would cause him to be disqualified for election as a member;
(c) he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria;
(d) he becomes President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor or a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government or a State or a Special Adviser;
(e) save as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law;
(f) without just cause he is absent from meeting of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year;
(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;
(h) the President of the Senate or, as the case may be, the Speaker of the House of Representatives receives a certificate under the hand of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission stating that the provisions of section 69 of this Constitution have been complied with in respect of the recall of that member.'
None of the circumstances listed above allows the House to suspend its members for any reason whatsoever. The Constitution has clearly covered that field and no rule of the House can add to it or deduct from it.
The rationale behind the above reasoning is that all members are elected to represent different constituencies and it could never have been the intention of the framers of the Constitution to leave a particular constituency unrepresented for whatever reason for as long as a whole session.
What is baffling and unacceptable in the whole scenario is that fellow members of the House of Representatives were clapping for corruption when their fellow colleagues who braved all odds to raise their voices against corruption were being manhandled. They were clapping for a forty-inch flat-screen television costing as much as N540,000.00 per unit; they were clapping for the leadership of the House that took delivery of Peugeot 407 Comfort Automatic cars which cost about N5.1million per unit instead of the Peugeot 407 S.T. Sports Automatic cars which were paid for at the rate of about N6.2million per unit; they were clapping away the future of this country and the future of their children and their children's children; they were clapping at their spinelessness in failing to join their colleagues in challenging the leadership of the House to give an account. It is sad.