A Civil Society Organisation, Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), at the weekend alerted heads of higher educational institutions in Nigeria on the bid of supervisory committees of House Of Representatives, in the name carrying out their oversight functions, extort money from the institutions.
ASCAB particularly referred to Vice Chancellors of Universities, Rectors of Polytechnics, and Provosts of Colleges of Education to beware of such moves, particularly from the House Committee on Tetfund, stating that the committee has no oversight powers on Tetfund projects.
The statement signed by ASCAB’s Chair, Femi Falana SAN reads:
Our attention has been drawn to the request of the Committee on Tetfund and Other Services of the House of Representatives to the effect that Vice- Chancellors, Provosts of polytechnics and colleges of education owned by the Federal Government and State Governments should submit the 2024 Tetfund Intervention Details. In justifying the request, the House Committee announced its plan to exercise its oversight power to ensure compliance with the Fund Guidelines and Establishment Act pursuant to section 80(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and the Standing Orders of the House.
It has been alleged that the invitation is designed to extort money from the heads of tertiary institutions by the Committee. Even though the serious allegation has not been denied by the leadership of the House of Representatives, it is pertinent to point out the House Committee lacks the power to review the Tetfund Guidelines and Establishment Act under Section 80(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended in any material particular.
It is common knowledge that the budget of the Federal Ministry of Education was part of the 2024 Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Bola Tinubu last December. Furthermore, the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives cited by the Committee are not binding on the heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. To that extent, the House Committee of the House lacks the power to subject any aspect of the 2024 Appropriation Act to further scrutiny.
However, the power of the House to conduct an inquiry into allegations of corruption or the management of the fund appropriated by the National Assembly under Section 88 of the Constitution does not include the power of the House Committee on Tetfund and Other Services to summon heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to submit the 2024 Tetfund Intervention Details. In Tony Momoh v The Senate of the National Assembly & Ors (1983) 4 NCLR 269 and El-Rufai v. House of Representatives & Ors (2003) 46 WRN 70, the Court of Appeal held that the legislature can not turn oversight responsibility as a universal “Ombudsman” by inviting member of the public over a matter not covered by section 88 or to exceed the bounds stated in the constitution.
No doubt, the letters of the Committee on Tetfund and Other Services of the House of Representatives
constitutes a flagrant violation of section 88 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended as the House has not passed any resolution to conduct an inquiry into the management of any aspect of the fund. We are therefore compelled to urge the heads of tertiary institutions to turn down the request of the House Committee on Tertiary and Other Services to submit the 2024 Tetfund Intervention Details as the Constitution has not confered power on members of the National Assembly to conduct general investigation or use oversight function for aggrandisement of the legislature.
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