THE House of Representatives on Thursday said it was still expecting President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it to shed light on the security situation in the country.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila told State House Correspondents that the lawmakers expected the president to fulfil his promise to appear before the House as a man of honour and integrity.
He said Buhari, who has not honoured the promise, was yet to communicate with the House on why he has not appeared before the lawmakers.
However, on Wednesday, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said the parliament lacked the power to invite the President.
Also, the Senate had dissociated itself from the invitation extended to the President by the House.
Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege said it is unconstitutional and an aberration for any arm of the national Assembly to summon the President to speak before it.
The Senate Committee Media and Public Affairs Chairman, Ajibola Bashiru, said the Senate had nothing to do with the invitation.
The House maintained that its resolution on the invitation of the President has not been withdrawn.
The Chairman of its Committee on Media and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu told reporters after plenary that since the House was yet to receive any official communication from the President, it would be wrong assume that he would not honour the invitation.
On Thursday, All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria ( VON), Osita Okechukwu, said the President’s appearance before the House would be counter-productive, adding that it would heat up the polity.
Shedding light on why Buhari was summoned to the House, Kalu clarified that the move was not to ridicule him over security matters.
He explained that the President was invited for an engagement with the House on ways to address the lingering security challenges and get a feedback from him on steps already taken on the situation.
He emphasised that the House did not act in error by inviting the president, stressing that lawmakers were exercising their constitutional rights.
Kalu said the parliament was constitutionally empowered to order the arrest of a sitting President, adding that the power was not being exercised because of the immunity clause as contained in Section 308 of the constitution.
He added that the Attorney-General of the Federation was neither a spokesman of the President nor that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), adding that he cannot be said to have spoken for the party.
Kalu acknowledged the president’s right to listen to the advice of the party in the spirit of party supremacy.
He said: “When that motion was passed last week, the House was rowdy. It was rowdy because some people wanted the President to be here and others felt otherwise. But, majority of our members, through the mandate of their constituents, moved the resolution, even against the position of the Speaker.
“If you were there, you will discover that the Speaker struggled to ensure that the House towed the line of using diplomatic approach to it. But, the position of the parliament overrides the presiding officer because to do otherwise is to be biased. At the end of the day, it is the opinion of the people that matters.
“As a mark of honour, the leadership of the House sent a delegation made up of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Majority Leader to engage the President beyond the resolution of the House, which was not compelling him or summoning him to come as many put it. It was an invitation.
“The House invited Mr. President. There is a difference between compelling and inviting and the ability to resolve this will enable us to know the mood of the House and the intention of the House. The President assured them and we believe in the integrity of the words of the President, having shown commitment to address Nigerians. But, the date was not specified.
“There was official communication from the President committing to the position of the Speaker that the President has accepted to come, which was a confirmation that the Speaker and his delegation were not acting on their own.
“Up to that extent, we felt very honoured by the President, having communicated his desire to engage with Nigerians, especially when his aide made it more obvious that he has shown interest to address the parliament.
“What we operate is a democracy that is hinged on party supremacy. This is not a military rule where one man takes a decision. Beyond the President lies the supremacy of the party. The President answers to the party even though he is the leader.
“He is not more powerful than the party because he is President on the card given to him by the party. So, if he took a position as President of the country and his political party which is supreme weigh on him to alter his position, if he is truly a party man, he must have obliged his party.
“We have not received any formal or official communication from the Presidency. The time now is past One o’clock, Thursday, December 10, we are yet to receive a formal communication from the office of the President stating that the appointment is cancelled or shifted. We have received any communication from the President saying ‘I am no more coming’. All you have heard are from unofficial sources
“The question then is what is the relevance of this visit and whether it is morally or legally right? Nigerians have been asking this question. The Parliament does not have a different voice from the voice of Nigerians. If you want to know what parliament feels about an issue, the easiest way is to feel the pulse of those who sent us here.”
On the position of the Minister of Justice, Kalu said: “I would have said let us leave the judicial and legal interpretation of the constitution to the judiciary.
“But, as a lawyer, I can assure you that the parliament did not act in error. I say this based on the provisions of the constitution that established us, even the smallest committee of the House has a mandate which is expressed in section 88 and 89.
“If you want to address the question on whether the House as a committee of the whole is investigating insecurity, money appropriated for security, inefficiency in security or any petition around insecurity, if the House has the power to look into that, the answer is yes. The position of the law as contained in Section 4 of the Armed Forces Act, the President is Chairman of the Security Council.
“The Armed Forces Act is a legislation made by the parliament. It is the provision of Section 89 that we have the right to investigate issues bothering on any issue that we have power to legislate on. It is called legislative competence.
“We have the competence to legislate on all these. Therefore, if there are things that we need to find out in those areas, the power empowers us to invite any person for the purpose of obtaining any evidence or information.
“There is also a section in the constitution which is the power to arrest or command presence of the President. But, because of Section 308 which guarantees immunity, we cannot exercise that. The power of discretion (section 218) is there. The power of discretion as found in section 67 (1) which says the President may visit the National Assembly to address certain issues is discretional.
“But, if the House is investigating any issue that bother on all the places that we make laws, the position of section 88 and 89 is there that we have power to invite people to give us evidence. But, the question is, is the President under investigation? Or did we invite the President for investigation? The answer is no.
“We invited him to have an engagement that will help us review few things and to know whether the strategies we are using now is in order or not and get feedback. We cannot command the President to attend, but we can invite him.
However, Okechukwu maintained that Buhari should not honour the invitation.
He said: “My take is that it is better for Mr President to stay away in the midst of the storm. I support APC governors, Attorney-General of Federation and all those who advised Mr President to hold on.
“The heat his appearance will generate will be too much. Those who are condemning his non-appearance today should be mindful of the anger in the land.
“The management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested on the President by Section 218 (1) of the Constitution as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, including the power to determine the operational use of the armed forces. An invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the armed forces to a public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law making beyond bounds.”
Asked for his take on the disagreement of some prominent senior advocates to the Minister on the points of law?
“In fact, from the musings and comments from some members of the NASS, your imagination is better than mine on the vile embarrassment and darts which seem targeted at Mr President. Indeed, only God knows the huge embarrassment packaged for him.”
“No one will deny the hovering political land mines and propaganda grenades packaged for Mr President.
“For me these propaganda grenades are neither solution nor security plan. We share the same anguish over the insecurity in the land, but let’s not forget the mileages covered since 2015 by Buhari’s regime.
“Mr President can attend when the storm is over or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt did on 6 January, 1941 when the World War II was raging to address the nation.”