Stormy session: Speaker saunters in as Amaechi refuses to bow to pressure

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday stormed the venue of a House Committee hearing to stop matters from spiraling out of control.

The Speaker who was apparently monitoring proceedings made his appearance, following what was gradually turning into an open confrontation between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Hon. Osai Nicholas Osai of the PDP who is chairing the House Committee that is investigating the $500 million China loan.

It would be the second time that the Speaker would intervene during committee hearings in order to stem rising tension and restore decorum between lawmakers and the subjects of their investigation.

Recall that Gbajabiamila had walked into the committee room where Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and members of the Committee which probed the activities of the NDDC under the current Interim Management Committee, IMC, were slugging it out.

“What’s happening here”, the Speaker asked, as he approached Osai who had earlier turned the heat on a fellow member of the committee as his  handling of proceedings drew the ire of Rt. Hon. Amaechi and raised eyebrows within and outside the committee room.

Before the Speaker stepped in, Amaechi declared it was time to tell Nigerians the truth, saying that from the way the Committee chairman was posturing, it was evident that the entire investigation had taken a political turn.

Amaechi told the committee that provisions of the Local Content Law were complied with, revealing that more than 20,000 jobs had been created as a result of the rail project executed with the $500 million loan obtained from  China.

Out of that number of  jobs, the Minister said Chinese workers accounted for approximately 500 while the rest are Nigerians. He assured the committee that the Ministry of Transportation would provide additional information showing a breakdown of the figures.

The two-time Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly said he was fighting hard to control his choice of words in order not to be seen as ridiculing the legislature, but he said it was apparent that the Chairman of the Committee was determined to deny the people of the South South and the South East of the opportunity to be connected by rail.

The Minister refused to allow the imputation that standards in the execution of the rail projects may have been compromised, saying his Ministry was satisfied with the quality of services provided. He urged the lawmakers to recruit a supervising engineer as part of its oversight function to confirm if the terms of the contract were not strictly followed.

Accusing the chairman of being political in his approach, Amaechi threatened that details of the contracts initially entered into by the PDP Government which procured the loan would be laid bare before the Nigerian people.

There was mild drama when the Minister got up from his seat to hand over a copy of a document containing an addendum that was already before the chairman and other committee members, an action which showed that the lawmakers may not have studied the materials in front of them.

Many were amazed when the Chairman told his own colleague, “You are co-opted member. You cannot guide me.”

It was perhaps, proof that the Chairman and most members of his committee may not have been on the same page; evidence that not many of them agreed with the line of questioning which had turned the hearing into a shouting match.

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