The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said he would query chairmen of standing committees on why they have been meeting with ministers, departments and agencies who appear for budget defence behind closed doors.
Several committees of the House had either barred journalists from covering sessions held with heads of MDAs or ejected them from the venues at different points during the meetings.
The committees who have done so include those on Power, Foreign Affairs, Niger Delta Affairs, Navy and Niger Delta Development Commission.
Gbajabiamila, while inspecting the committees on Wednesday, was asked by journalists if the meetings were meant to be held in secrecy.
In response, Gbajabiamila said, “I have absolute confidence in the chairmen of the committees. They were carefully selected based on their background, experience, knowledge, passion. If you see certain things like you have expressed, there will be reasons. The budget process is an open thing. It is transparent. But if there were one or two areas where you have closed-door or private meetings, there might be implications.
“I don’t know, it could be for the security implications, I’ve not got that brief. It could be the things that are necessary for the cohesion of the process itself and for the country. So, as far as I am concerned, if out of one hundred committees, so to speak, you find that in one or two committees, I can bet that there is a reason; genuine, verifiable reason for it. I will not be able to preempt the action by the chairmen but it is an information that I will take. I will talk to the chairmen and find out exactly why the meeting was behind closed door and we take it from there.”
The Speaker added, “But all in all, we have had a great outing. We are trying to meet the deadline without sacrificing the thoroughness of the budget defence. We can do both at the same time. We can go back to the January-December cycle and at the same time, have a thorough, comprehensive budget defence. That is exactly what is going on.
“I am going around, not because of anything; not because I think the members are doing well but because I have to be a part of the process. I am a legislator first and foremost before I am the Speaker. It is something that I have done for several years and will continue to do. It’s a reformed House. The Speaker going around and being part of the process is part of the reforms.”
Gbajabiamila also stated that the committees were determined to conclude budget defence sessions and turn in their reports by October 29, 2019, as scheduled by the House.
“We are to see if we can even beat it. Yes, we are sticking to that deadline (October 29),” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Mr Yusuf Gagdi, while hosting the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral, Ibok-Ete Ibas, asked journalists to leave the venue after his opening speech.