In continuation of our review of major trends and developments that shaped the activities of parliament in the last Legislative Year, we move our attention to major probes undertaken by both chambers of the National Assembly in the period under review (January – December 2022)
Going by the concept of democracy and the presidential system of government, as well as the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the legislature has three cardinal responsibilities – lawmaking, representation and oversight responsibilities.
For an evolving democracy like ours, much emphasis appears to be put on lawmaking and representation, while little attention is paid to oversight, except perhaps when there is a scandal or a screaming headline in the press. In this part of our review of the legislative year, we take a cursory look into Major probes undertaken by the Parliament in 2022.
1. Oil Theft in Niger Delta
Following public outrage against the massive stealing of Nigeria’s crude oil, which had seen the country lose huge earnings as well as hindered its ability to meet the quota allocated by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan inaugurated a probe panel.
The Senate on April 14, 2022, constituted a 13- member Ad – Hoc Committee on Oil Lifting, Theft, and the impact on Petroleum Production and Oil Revenues under the chairmanship of Senator Akpan Bassey, (YPP, Akwa Ibom North East) who is also the chairman, of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream).
The ad-hoc committee set up by the Senate to investigate oil theft, and consequent damage to the nation’s economy noted that Nigeria lost $2 billion, equivalent to N1.3 trillion, to oil theft between January and August this year.
2. Bad Fuel: Reps probe NNPC, SON, Others on roles in importation
Following a motion by the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Rep. Mohammed Tahir Monguno, on the havoc caused by the adulterated fuel in circulation to vehicles and other machines in Nigeria and its attendant economic challenges, the House vowed to investigate the matter.
It consequently mandated its Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) at plenary on Thursday, 10th February 2022, to ascertain the details of purchases of petroleum products made from January till date to ascertain whether they met the international standards.
The Committee was also to investigate the roles played by the NNPC limited, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Navy and all other regulatory agencies in the petroleum sector in the supply of the deadly product.
3. Senate probes non-compliance with Petroleum Act, Oil Mining Lease
The President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, inaugurated an ad hoc Committee to investigate non-compliance with the Petroleum Industry Act and the Oil Mining Lease.
The seven-member panel was chaired by the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi (APC, Niger North).
The Adhoc Committee was constituted by the Senate at plenary on 22nd June 2022 following a motion sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) to investigate the non-compliance with the extant laws in the oil industry.
4. Reps initiate probe on implementation of 2022 Electoral Act by INEC
The House of Representatives, before proceeding on its annual recess, passed a resolution on Wednesday, 27 July 2022, directing its Committee on Electoral Matters to probe the credibility, transparency and accountability of the processes of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly its Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise and Implementation of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The resolution was a sequel to the motion presented by Rep. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), who raised several issues concerning the electoral process.
First off was INEC’s insistence on ending the CVR exercise on 31 July 2022 in spite of many eligible registrants who were queued up to register. INEC extended the CVR process after its initially planned end date of 30 June 2022, and this followed several pleas from citizens and stakeholders.
5. Attack on INEC Facilities
On 30th November 2022, the House of Representatives set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the attacks on offices and facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country.
At its plenary, the House had earlier condemned all forms of attack on the facilities and buildings of the Federal Government in the country, particularly attacks on the facilities and infrastructure of the Independent National Electoral Commission..
It further urged politicians and stakeholders to admonish their supporters to refrain from attacks and violence before or during the 2023 general election.
6. N1.2trn Unclaimed Funds discovered in Banks, MDAs
The House of Representatives, in January 2022, commenced an investigation into ‘Unclaimed and Unremitted Funds’ said to be in various accounts in commercial banks in Nigeria.
The Ad-hoc committee on unclaimed funds in Nigerian commercial banks and infractions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was inaugurated to probe several accounts allegedly holding about N1.2 trillion specifically.
The committee was set up following the adoption of a motion sponsored by Rep. Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau).
7. Uneven disbursement of N500bn loans by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN)
Following a motion moved by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC-Borno) and co-sponsored by Ibrahim Bomai (APC Yobe) during plenary on Wednesday, 16th November 2022, the Senate set up an ad hoc committee to carry out an investigation into the alleged uneven disbursement of half a trillion naira loan to the six geo-political zones by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN).
DBN allegedly gave 47 per cent to Lagos alone, while the 19 states of the North got 11 per cent.
The committee is chaired by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Assembly Services, Sani Musa (APC, Niger East).
8. N5trn Service Wide Votes: Senate investigates 252 MDAs
The Senate began a holistic investigation of 252 government agencies that benefited from N5 trillion Service-Wide Votes (SWV), also known as the Consolidated Revenue Fund Charge, between 2017 and 2021.
Senate’s move to investigate the Service Wide Votes (SWV) followed the discovery that many agencies of government collected funds from the SWV (which is more or less the country’s contingency fund in the annual budget) without recourse to the National Assembly panels that is mandated by law to oversight the agencies.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), explained that the Service Wide Votes had become a major component of the nation’s budget considering the amount budgeted annually for it in the budget.
9. Reps probe attack on Kuje Prisons
The House of Representatives, on 22nd July 2022, mandated its Committees on National Security and Intelligence, Interior, Reformatory Services, Defence, Army, Airforce, Navy and Police to investigate the causes, dimensions and effects of the recent attack on Kuje Prison in Abuja.
The resolutions followed the consideration of a motion titled ‘Need to Investigate the Terrorists Attack on Nigerian Prisons, Kuje’ presented by Rep. Sha’aban I. Sharada at plenary.
10. Senate orders probe into planned concession of 700MW Zungeru power plant
The Senate on Wednesday, 23rd of November, 2022, ordered its Committee on Power to investigate the circumstances and conditions under which the 700MW Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Plant (ZHPP) in Niger State is being concessioned.
The probe also relates to the utilisation of the annual budgetary allocations made to the project, the completion level and the management of external loans from the Chinese Exim Bank, which is tied to the project.
The committee headed by Senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP, Benue North East) was also to look into the fate of unsettled host communities where the project is sited, the adequacy or otherwise, of selection criteria for the concessionaire and to generally establish whether the proposed concession of ZHPP is an exercise that would ensure that government get the deserved value for funds expended on the project.
11. Reps to probe N165bn appropriated for the Correctional Service in 2 years
On February 16 2022, the House unveiled plans to investigate the utilisation of the N165 billion appropriated for the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) over the past two years.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion of Urgent National Importance on the ‘Deplorable State of Inmates and the Unwholesome Working Conditions of Officers and Men of the Service in spite of Huge Budgetary Allocations with Attendant Adverse Effects on Security.’