UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB writes on the recent rare demonstration of courage by the Kwara state legislature as members lampooned a commissioner over his refusal to honour the House invitation
In a rare demonstration of authority, members of the Kwara state House of Assembly, last Tuesday proved their legislative worth, when the state commissioner for works and transport, Dr. Amuda Kannike, appeared before the lawmakers to honour an invitation by the House to answer questions bordering on some state matters.
Kannike, who is the chairman, 2012 state’s Hajj and Ummrah screening committee, had turned down an invitation of the joint House committee on local government and chieftaincy affairs, and public petition, following a petition written to the House by the state chapter of Association of Nigeria Indigenous Travel Agency(ANITA), over allegations that they were sidelined in the airlifting of 2012 pilgrims.
The commissioner, a highly influential member of the Maigida (Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed) cabinet, was billed to appear before the committee on Thursday, (July 12, 2012) but failed to turn up on the ground that he was busy. This development was reported to the plenary by the committee chairman, Hameed Giwa Afolabi, following which the erring commissioner was summoned to appear before the committee of the whole last week. But Kannike’s appearance at the plenary could not save him from being rebuked by the already angry lawmakers who took their turns to tongue lash him for his act of disrespec.
Reporting the commissioner’s conduct to the House, Giwa said the committee invited Kannike and members of the screening committee for their views on the petition, but said “he was busy” and he neither honoured the invitation nor sent in a representative.
According to Afolabi, Kannike “deliberately frustrated” efforts of the committee on the originally scheduled date of the invitation, hence it could not submit the report on the stipulated day as directed by the House.
To the chairman of the joint committee, the commissioners’ action was embarrassing, considering the nature of the petition, adding that he “deliberately did what he did.”
At the plenary, the parliament, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Prof Gana Yisa, were unanimous in their condemnation of the commissioner’s conduct, saying it was sheer disrespect and disdain for the lawmakers as the peoples representatives.
Defending his action however, Kannike said, “With all sense of apology I had direct contact to the letter of the invitation on the day I was expected to appear before the committee. I saw the invitation in my office file and honestly an hour or 30 minutes after I got a text from the secretary of the committee that I was supposed to appear before the committee on that day.
“Not too long I got a call from Hon Owolabi(Ebun), a member of the committee that they were waiting for me to appear before them. I told the honourable I was just seeing the invitation before she called. And because I didn’t have the invitation before, that was why there was no way I could pass the information to any member of the committee. So, I was the one responsible for other members of the committee’s non appearance.
“I told the honourable that I was in the process of packing up to catch a flight with the state governor. I said she should please extend my apology to other members and that I will be disposed to the rescheduling of the invitation when I came back.”
“So, Mr Speaker sir, I want to put it on record that my non appearance was not intentional to ignore the invitation… and there is no way that I will intentionally by my action or inaction thwart the effort of honourable members or House to do their job,” Kannike futher clarified.
Tried as much as he did, his explanation did not still save him from the ire and angst of the furious lawmakers, who variously condemned the commissioner’s action. For instance, an Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) member representing Balogun/Ojomu constituency of Offa local government, Tope Olayonu, said the excuses given by the commissioner, were untenable, saying “It shows you have no respect for this hallowed chamber.”
The legislator pointed out to the commissioner that the committee, which invited him was legally constituted by the House in line with the country’s constitution, saying “disrespect to the committee is disrespect to the House.’
“Mr Commissioner and the chairman, from the statement given to us, you said the invitation was brought to your office on Friday and you have access to it an hour or 30 minutes on Tuesday before you travelled. You should know that here in this hallowed chamber, we don’t go beyond our boundary. This case is within our jurisdiction. Even if its ten minutes, you should know the importance of a legislative House giving an invitation to appear before a committee formed constitutionally. The House deserves respect.
“…you have no respect for this chamber. Mr Commissioner, I will advise you better brace up. The excuse you are giving us is unwelcome and it shows you didn’t take us serious. No Bigmanism in this job, we are all sacrificing and representing our people you are serving as commissioner too…”
Another PDP member, Hon Owolabi, whom the commissioner claimed to have informed on reasons for his absence, also toed the line of her colleagues, describing the commissioner’s action as slap on the lawmakers’ face. Playing the peace maker, the deputy speaker, pleaded with his colleagues that the commissioner’s apology be accepted and consequently directed the committee to issue a fresh invitation asking him to appear.
But could this be a paradigm shift from what used to obtain in the state? From history, the relationship between these two arms of government, has always being ‘smooth’. And for once, the House is showing that it’s not a rubber stamp of the executive. It’s just hoped that this purposefulness as demonstrated by the lawmakers, is carried into not only this assignment in dispute, but also others, such that the electorate will not be short changed. On no account, observers posit, should the legislature and the executive compromise to the detriment of the people. The trend, as a matter of fact, must stop if people of the state are to truly benefit tremendously from democracy.