By Akanimo Sampson
A leading pro-democracy group in Nigeria, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), has taken on the leadership of the National Assembly, accusing it of shielding the Buhari administration from ‘’embarrassing’’ allegations of corruption.
PLAC says several observers perceive the halt to committee activities as an intervention by legislative leadership to protect the current government from ‘’what is turning out to be embarrassing allegations of corruption, which have severely dented the integrity and credibility of the government’s claim to fighting corruption.’’
The House of Representatives on Thursday, August 19, directed all committees of the House to put their activities on hold, until the resumption of the National Assembly from its annual recess on September 15.
Some committees of the House, such as the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Public Accounts Committee, and the Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols have been conducting investigative hearings in which they summoned government officials to appear before them and answer questions relating to the activities of their respective ministries, departments and agencies.
However, PLAC, founded in 2009, is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit capacity building organisation that works to strengthen democratic governance and citizens’ participation in the country.
Through broad-based technical assistance and training, it works to promote citizens’ engagement with government institutions and to advocate for legal and policy reforms and promote transparency and accountability in policy and decision-making processes.
At the core of its programming is a deep commitment to increase legislative advocacy, promote transparency and good governance, support and promote electoral reforms, enhance citizen’s access to public policies and advance anti-corruption campaigns.
PLAC has worked and evolved into a foremost and leading institution with capacity to deliver cutting-edge research, policy analysis and advocacy.
According to the pro-democracy, activities of the Legislative arm of government include investigative hearings, public hearings, as well as committee meetings. ‘’This is a major intervention in the legislative workings of the House and is unprecedented’’, PLAC says.
Adding, the group says on its website, ‘’vacation sessions of the National Assembly often provide a window for speedy legislative activities at committee levels, as the absence of plenary sessions and sittings means that legislators could conduct other legislative businesses.’’
Continuing, PLAC said ‘’in recent weeks, controversy has emerged during public hearings and committee meetings, laden with drama and allegations of corruption in government agencies and departments and counter allegations by some public officials that legislators have demanded favours from them.
Most recently, Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, was involved in a heated argument with the Chairman of the House of Reps Committee on Treaties, Agreements and Protocols, Ossai Ossai, over bilateral loan agreements between Nigeria and China.
‘’In light of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected legislative activities among others, the activities of the legislature during its recess may have made up for lost time.
‘’However, Nigerians have expressed opinions to the effect that the legislature’s oversight activities are futile, as no one is held accountable or brought to book after all is said and done’’, PLAC says.