A lawmaker on Thursday protested the abusive language used against oil businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Mr. Gambo Musa.
The lawmaker, Simon Arabo from Kaduna State, said that the purported abusive language used on Otedola had brought the “image of the House to disrepute.”
Arabo also deplored the refusal of the committee to hear Otedola’s testimony in public, arguing that there was no section of the House rules which required that it must sit in secret.
Arabo’s protest on the floor forced the presiding Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, to ask the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Isiaka Bawa, to investigate the matter and report back to members.
The aggrieved lawmaker expressed concern that the committee suddenly decided to sit in camera after the House had already told Nigerians that the hearing would be in the open.
“The modus operandi of the committee is bringing the House into disrepute”, he stated.
The ethics panel had invited Otedola on Tuesday to testify in the ongoing investigation into the $620,000 bribery allegation he made against the suspended Chairman, House Committee on Monitoring of Subsidy Regime, Mr. Farouk Lawan.
Lawan had earlier testified before the committee in camera but Otedola who appeared before the committee on Tuesday declined to testify, submitting that he would only do so if the session would be given a live television broadcast.
Reacting to the development, Musa had said that Otedola was misguided not to testify before his committee. He said the businessman was disrespectful and that his conduct was “stupid.”
Otedola reacted on Wednesday, denying that he insulted the committee members.
On Thursday, however, Arabo told the House that the approach adopted by the panel infringed on Otedola’s privilege and advised the House to caution the panel.
According to him, the same committee that earlier told Nigerians that it would sit in the open, should have explained to them that it had changed its position before proceeding with the investigation.
Arabo also observed that the comments of Musa after meeting Lawan portrayed him as biased.
He recalled the chairman saying that Lawan gave “satisfactory answers” to the committee and could not understand why in Otedola’s case, the answers were “stupid.”
“What will it cost the committee if Otedola testifies in the open? There is nowhere in the House rules that says that Otedola must be heard in secret,” he added.
Ruling on the matter before mandating Bawa to investigate it, Ihedioha said that the House did not interfere with the work of any committee.
He noted that committees were free to decide on how to conduct assignments referred to them.
“The House has nothing to hide,” he added.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, had on Wednesday defended the decision of the committee to conduct the investigation behind closed doors.
Mohammed had argued that as an institution, the House had its rules of engagement and would not allow any individual to dictate to it.