A directive from the presidency instructing the executives of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government to discountenance summons originating from the committees of the National Assembly, except they get the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan to honour the summons, has set the executive and the National Assembly on a collision course.
This became evident yesterday when the Ministry of Interior, in response to a summons from the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account (PAC), said it would not heed the call by the committee except it got the clearance of the presidency to do so.
In a response signed by its Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Fatima Bamidele, the interior ministry said it was waiting for the directive of the presidency on whether it should obey the summons or otherwise.
“I acknowledge the receipt of your letter No: HR/SC05/II/XXXI/98 of 30th April, 2014 on the above subject matter and write to inform you that the ministry has written to the president through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to seek for clearance/approval to attend the meeting.
“As soon as the clearance is granted, the ministry will appear before the committee,” the letter titled: “Re: Releases to MDAs and Expenditure Made Through the Service Wide Votes During the Period 2004-2012 – Final Warning”, read.
Worried by the response of the ministry, PAC has written to the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF) asking for clarification on the alleged memo to the MDAs from the presidency.
It also warned of the dire consequences of the directive if it truly exists.
The PAC, led by Hon. Solomon Adeola-Olamilekan (APC, Lagos), had invited the interior ministry to appear before it to answer queries posed by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGF) on the monies released to the ministry by the Budget Office from the Service Wide Vote between 2004 and 2012.
Copies of the reply from the interior ministry to the committee and the vote of proceeding on December 19, 2013, when the matter was officially referred to the committee by the House in plenary, were attached to the letter seeking clarification sent to the Head of Service.
In the letter signed by the chairman of the committee, the HoSF was reminded of the consequences of the presidency meddling in the constitutional duties of the parliament.
“I wish to put on record that continued refusal to attend to the legitimate call of the parliament and bringing the presidency to justify the action could be taken as a deliberate ploy to subvert the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it could be seen as an attempt to ensure that the National Assembly is deterred from performing a constitutional role,” Adeola-Olamilekan said.
Sections 85, 86 and 87 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the Auditor General of the Federation to look into the accounts of all MDAs and submit its findings to the parliament for consideration by the Public Account Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly.
The power of the PACs to consider the reports submitted by the auditor general without any interference was drawn from Section 85(5) of the constitution.