By Gift Chapi Odekina
The Chairman of the house of representatives Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Rep. Ossai Nicholas Ossai has described a statement credited to a Member of his Committee wherein the said Member was quoted to have faulted the investigative hearing on the bilateral agreements between Nigeria and China, alleging “that the Committee was functioning outside of its mandate”.
According to Ossai, the statement which was made by Rep Wole Oke’s is comaidered to be false in its entirety, unparliamentary, unpatriotic and does not in any way reflect the trueness of the Committee’s mandate and productive outcomes the House Committee have recorded through its legislative oversight engagements on the subject matter.
“The Chairman in a statemwnt by his media team further said that Rep.Wole Oke was not a member of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements; and thus may not be well acquainted with the mandate of the Committee with respect to the on-going public hearing on the bilateral agreements between Nigeria and China including the unique oversight technique adopted by the Committee to achieve its goals.
The statement reads “contrary to the Honourable Member’s claims, the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols, And Agreements is a statutory Standing Committee of the House of Reps, established in the spirit of sections 62(1) and 12 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), with powers as prescribed in sections 88 and 89 of the constitution, guided by the mandate/jurisdiction as provided in the Standing Order of the House of Reps especially Order 18(B), Rule 93.
” For the avoidance of doubt, the specific mandates of the Committee with respect to the current public hearing was pursuant to House Resolution no (87/09/2019) vide a Motion on “Transmission of all Treaties and Bilateral/Contractual Agreements by all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the National Assembly”, wherein the House Resolved to:
“Call on the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to transmit all signed, ratified and domesticated Treaties and other International Agreements both bilateral and multilateral to the Registrar of Treaties in the Federal Ministry of Justice and to the national Assembly;
“Also call on the Registrar of Treaties in the Federal Ministry of Justice to transmit the list of all ratified and domesticated Treaties and International Agreements to the National Assembly for further legislative action;
“Urge the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure that all signed Treaties are presented to the National Assembly for domestication;
” Also urge the President to ensure early engagement and involvement of the National Assembly in the Negotiation Team of any Treaty and International Agreements to which Nigeria is interested;
“Further urge the President to ensure that all signed Treaties and other International Agreements are initiated and presented to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill and to stop all counterpart funding of all Agreements and Protocols with Financial implications until such agreements and Protocols are domesticated by the National Assembly; and
” Mandate the Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements to as a matter of urgency, commence the reviews of all Treaties, Agreements and Protocols signed and ratified by Nigeria.
“Premised on the above, the Committee decided to commence the review process from the International Agreements between Nigeria and China by inviting the Ministers who were either custodians or end-users of the proceeds of these agreements. How can someone then claim that the Committee is functioning outside of its mandate?
“The Committees cannot effectively carry out the enormous responsibilities of reviewing the agreements with a view to ascertain their viability, regularization, domestication and possible renegotiation without reviewing the commercial contracts agreements upon which the facilities were secured.
” The Committee’s engagement with Ministries of Finance, Debt Management Office (DMO) and Office of the Attorney General of the Federation revealed that not only are the invited Ministers the custodians of the Commercial Contracts and key parties to the negotiations; they were also the end-users of the facilities for projects domiciled in their various Ministries.
“They were also charged with the responsibilities of instructing the Ministry of Finance when to issue irrevocable notices of drawdown on the loan facilities in line with levels of work executed by the contractors as provided for in the agreements including the counterpart funding components of the Agreements.
“Therefore, the Committee rightly invited the Ministers to provide relevant documents relating to the projects financed by these agreements in order to accurately ascertain their viability, review the provisions of the agreements to ensure compliance to local content laws.
” Also to compare clauses in the bilateral (International) and the commercial contracts agreements, examine the structure and current status of the bilateral agreements in order to ensure value for money in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and make necessary recommendations to the House at plenary.
“It is therefore self serving and unparliamentary for an Honourable Member of a ranking status to go to the media and attempt to discredit the constitutional legislative oversight duties of an agent of the first arm of government or strangely barge into the Committee Public Hearing to seek privilege to provide direction on procedure when the substantive chair is sitting and presiding. These actions are strange to legislative practices, procedure and conventions,” He said.