The much-anticipated sectoral debate at the House of Representatives, scheduled for Thursday, faced an unexpected postponement. The reason: the absence of the Service Chiefs, who were expected to appear in person. This series of debates, part of initiatives by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas-led House, aims to enhance the legislative body’s constitutional oversight of the executive arm, aligning with the Legislative Agenda for the 10th Assembly launched on Monday.
The lineup for Thursday’s session included the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, and the Inspector General of Police. However, in a turn of events, these high-ranking officials sent representatives instead of attending themselves. This decision did not sit well with the lawmakers, who had gathered early in the day, expecting direct interactions with the Service Chiefs.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu, raised a point of order following the introduction of the representatives. He emphasized that the Service Chiefs were invited to appear personally, not through proxies. Kalu then moved a motion, urging the House not to accept presentations from the representatives.
Speaker Abbas, supporting both the order and the motion, dismissed the representatives and issued a directive for the Service Chiefs to appear before the House on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, to commence the debates. This development underscores the House’s commitment to direct accountability and engagement with key figures in the executive arm.
The absence of the Service Chiefs from the scheduled sectoral debate at the House of Representatives is more than just a procedural hiccup; it is a matter of concern for democratic accountability. The decision to send representatives, rather than appearing in person, undermines the essence of these debates, which is to foster direct dialogue and accountability between the legislative and executive branches of government.
This incident raises critical questions about the commitment of the Service Chiefs to the principles of transparency and accountability. The House of Representatives, as a key pillar of democracy, has the right to expect direct engagement from the highest levels of the military and police hierarchy. Such interactions are crucial for informed legislative oversight and decision-making.
This situation highlights the need for a stronger culture of accountability in Nigeria’s governance. When top officials shirk such responsibilities, it sets a concerning precedent and weakens the fabric of democratic governance. The Service Chiefs must recognize the importance of these debates and their role in them.
The Service Chiefs must heed the call to appear before the House of Representatives. Their presence and participation are vital for the health of Nigeria’s democracy. They must engage directly with the legislative body, not only to fulfil their duties but also to strengthen the nation’s democratic institutions.
Did You Know?
- Nigeria’s Legislative Oversight: The Nigerian Constitution grants the National Assembly the power to conduct investigations and oversight of the executive branch, reinforcing the principle of checks and balances in governance.
- Role of Service Chiefs: Nigeria’s Service Chiefs are responsible for the operational control of the Nigerian Armed Forces, playing a crucial role in national security and defence policy.
- House of Representatives: Nigeria’s House of Representatives, alongside the Senate, forms the National Assembly, with the power to make laws and oversee the executive branch.
- Military Engagement in Governance: The Nigerian military has a history of involvement in governance, with several military coups occurring in the country’s post-independence history.
- Public Accountability: Public accountability in governance is a growing concern in Nigeria, with various civil society organizations advocating for greater transparency and responsibility from government officials.