Onyeama straining executive, legislative ties, says Gbajabiamila
•Reps reconvene to prioritise passage of PIB, others
•Power projects’ probe not targeted at Obasanjo, panel clarifies
•Late landing permit delays evacuation of Nigerians in S’Africa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday deplored the refusal by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, to appear before the chamber in respect of the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
Describing the minister’s action as an affront to the powers conferred on the National Assembly by virtue of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Gbajabiamila stated that the conduct was in breach of the unwritten accord to sustain a cordial relationship between the legislative and executive arms of government.
Consequently, he said that the leadership of the House would approach the presidency on the issue, regretting that Onyeama’s conduct might affect efforts to proffer solutions to the plight of Nigerians in the former apartheid nation.
The speaker spoke as the lower chamber of the federal legislature reconvened with a pledge to fast-track the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and other critical pieces of legislation for the betterment of Nigerians.
Admitting that the PIB, sponsored since the return to civil rule in 1999 to sainitise operations in the nation’s oil and gas sector, had witnessed degrees of impediments at the two legislative chambers, he, however, promised that the piece of legislation would see the light of day in the ninth Assembly.
According to him, other key bills which would get attention include the one prohibiting estimated billing in the power industry. Also in this category are the Education Bank Bill meant for every child in this 21st century to get quality education in the country and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Bill to institutionalise the Local Content Act.
Gbajabiamila promised to unveil soon the legislative agenda for the ninth House, which he said a significant amount of work had already begun on 13 proposed laws, including the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2019;Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill 2019 and Student Loan (Access to Higher Education) Bill 2019.
The speaker hinted that the House would begin preparing the ground for the 2020 Appropriation Bill to be presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the recent recovered assets contributed significantly to the funding of the national budget.
Besides, the chamber has dismissed as untrue the speculations that its investigation of a $16 billion expenditure on the power sector was to witch hunt former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Chairman of the ad hoc committee probing abandoned power projects from 1999 to date, Abbas Tajudeen, told newsmen yesterday in Abuja that the inquiry, which begins next Thursday, was to address the problems plaguing the sector.
He claimed that no fewer than 400 projects were abandoned in parts of the country within the period under review.
Also yesterday, the scheduled evacuation of another batch of Nigerians from South African was delayed by another 24-hour over late approval by the host country.
By the new arrangement, the new set of citizens, fleeing xenophobic attacks in the erstwhile apartheid enclave, would arrive today by 5:00p.m.
The earlier setting, The Guardian learnt, was aborted early in the day, as Air Peace airline could not obtain the requisite landing permit from the South African authorities until 4:00p.m.
The first batch arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) last week with 178 persons after alleged restriction by the host authorities. The “frustration” forced airline to delay the second batch of evacuation, which was originally scheduled for few hours after the arrival of the first.
Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said the airline’s Boeing777 aircraft deployed for the operation was still on standby at the Lagos airport and would now depart by 1:00a.m. today.
Nigeria’s Consul-General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, also confirmed that the South African authorities had granted landing permit to the airline to enable it to evacuate the 320 Nigerians, stating that he was unaware of the reason for the denial in the first place.