OrderPaperToday – Do you know the National Assembly can help you get redress on injustice meted on you by public and private institutions in the country? By a simple petition to your senator or House of Representatives member you could have a wrong addressed in your favour.
A petition is a request appealing to an authority regarding a particular cause in other to obtain some favour, right, mercy, or other benefits. The National Assembly has a mechanism that treats petition from members of the public who feel aggrieved, have suffered injustice or have been short-changed in one way or the other.
Both chambers of the National Assembly have a Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions constituted to address petitions from citizens. The Committee is generally guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended); Standing orders of the Senate/House of Representatives (as amended); and the principle of equity, fairness, and justice.
How to petition the National Assembly
A member of the public who is aggrieved and wants the National Assembly to intervene is required to present his/her case through a lawmaker. Although it is common for citizens to approach the lawmaker representing them to forward their petitions, Nigerians are at liberty to present their case through any serving lawmaker of their choice.
All petitions must be addressed to the Senate President or the Speaker through a serving lawmaker. The petition must narrate the issue that needs to be addressed and contain a prayer (what the petitioner wants the Senate or House of Representatives to do regarding the case). Finally, the petition must be dated and signed. The lawmaker will then present it on the floor and it will be referred to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
For instance, in the red chamber the Senator presenting the petition will rely on Order 41 of the Senate standing rule to submit the petition on behalf of the affected citizen while the Senate President will refer it to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions as required by order 41 (43).
It is also important to note that the National Assembly will not intervene in any matter that is already in court.
The Process, Duration, and Outcome
Once referred, the Committee will invite all relevant parties and receive their oral testimonies and written submissions. Based on the testimonies and submissions of the affected parties, the committee will deliberate and make its observations and arrive at its findings. Finally, the Committee will documents its recommendations on how the case should be resolved. The recommendations of the Committee will then be presented at plenary and then passed as a resolution of the Senate/House of Representatives.
If the petitioner is not satisfied with the resolutions of the Senate/House of Representatives on the matter, he/she may approach other institutions such as the court to seek redress. Although the process sounds simplistic, it could drag on for several months. The 8th senate made a chronicle of petitions it received and treated to various stages of redress.
Petition Tracker: Case of a Police officer who was “denied” promotion
On Wednesday, 2nd November, 2016, Senator Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River) drew the attention of the Senate to a petition from his constituent, one Onang Inamang against the Nigeria Police Force for “inappropriate placement in the Force”.
How it started…
Onang Inamang was enlisted into the Police Force on 1st March, 2004 at Nonwa Tai Local Government Area, Port-Harcourt, and was posted to Agwu Police Station, Enugu State Police Command ‘B’ OPS.
However, trouble started when he was detailed with one P.C. Ime Frank and some Sanitary Ofﬁcers to execute a bench warrant on those that violated environmental laws by failing to carry out sanitary work.
In the process of executing the bench warrant, Inamang and his team arrested one Sunday Nwankwo. Inamang however allegedly went behind and collected a bribe of N3,000 from the suspect, promising to set him free.
Nevertheless, Inamang’s colleagues and the Sanitary Officers insisted on taking the suspect to court. During court proceedings, the suspect told the court that Inamang collected a bribe of N3,000 from him with a promise to set him free.
Consequently, Inamang was compelled to write an undertaking to refund the suspect’s money. In addition, the Police Force defaulted, tried and dismissed him from service.
He however wrote severally to plead against his dismissal and was eventually reinstated on “compassionate ground” by the Police Force and was later promoted to the rank of Corporal.
Inamang however became aggrieved at this point, insisting that he should have been promoted to the rank of a Sergeant instead of Corporal.
This formed the reason for his petition to the Senate. In his petition, he urged the Senate to look into the matter and direct the Police to promote him to the rank of sergeant.
Senate to Inamang: Go and thank God you were even reinstated
On the 3rd of May 2018, a year and half after the Inamang’s petition was laid by Senator Bassey, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions presented its report on the floor of the chamber. Although the Committee finished its work in January, it could not get a slot for presentation in plenary until May.
The report of the Committee was presented by the Chairman, Senator Sam Anayanwu.
Based on the Committee’s recommendation as contained in the report, the Senate ruled that “P.C. Onang Inamang should thank God that he was reinstated, and if he had any dissatisfaction with his rank, he should seek internal mechanism within the Force to resolve it”
That drew the curtain on Inamang’s case and shows that the Senate/House of Representatives might not always rule in favour of a petitioner.
How other petitions fared
Although Inamang’s wish for promotion to the rank of Sergeant was not granted by the Senate, many others who had valid cases of injustice have enjoyed the Senate’s intervention in favourably resolving their issues.
Some examples are:
Petition from Mrs. Maryam Danna Mohammed against the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) for wrongful termination of her appointment: The Senate mandated the NDPHC to re-instate the petitioner and pay her all entitlements.
Petition from Kalu Samuel and 348 others against Michael Okpara Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State for unlawful suspension from office: The Senate mandated the University to reabsorb Kalu and 348 others.
Petition from Mr. Nnochiri Anosike Igbokaike against the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) over wrongful dismissal from service for alleged misconduct: The Senate urged the NDLEA to issue a clearance letter to the petitioner and pay him three months in lieu notice salary.
Petition from Mr. Tochukwu Dunu against the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) over his unlawful arrest, detention and fraudulent sale of his tanker truck loaded with petroleum product: The Senate condemned the act of the NPF for not obeying the Federal High Court order in Port Harcourt. The upper chamber also directed the NPF to pay the sum of N24 million to the Petitioner for the tanker loaded petroleum product sold.
However, like Inamang, many others did not have the prayers of their petitions granted.
Some examples are:
Petition from Agboola Oluwale Mathew against the Police Service Commission (PSC) for alleged denial of Police Training and eventual Employment: Senate upheld the decision of the PSC and urged the Petitioner to look elsewhere.
Petition from Lynda Orie Ukpo against the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for unlawful termination of appointment by the Corps: Senate upheld the termination of her appointment.
In conclusion, a petition might be granted or might be unsuccessful. In any case, it is worth giving a try especially for citizens who lack the financial clout to execute a full blown case in court.