REPS IN ROWDY SESSION OVER SIM CARD
Intrigues that preceded the secretive passage of a N6.1billion budget for the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to register SIM cards, yesterday, tore members of the House of Representatives apart.
Rep. Nasir Rabe, PDP, Katsina, member of an ad hoc Committee that was set up to re-consider the NCC budget, two weeks ago, led by Rep. Ehiogie West-Idahosa, PDP, Edo, raised a motion on privilege that threw the chamber into a long commotion.
The motion was punctuated by Nasir’s warning that “if you (the House) want to be respected, you must respect yourselves.”
Nasir who took the Green Chamber down the memory lane, said: “You took a decision to stop the NCC budget of N6.1billion, because it breached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, and yet without following due process, you passed the same budget that was suspended by this very House presided over by you (the Speaker) without following due process.”
RECONSIDERATION OF BUDGET
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Narcotics and Economic and Financial Crimes, told the House: “I (Rabe Nasir), took part in the decision that the N6.1billion meant for registration of SIM cards be defeated, and when the House raised an ad hoc committee to re-consider the budget and the matter (report) came up I was not carried along.
“Before we went for Sallah break, chairman of the Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes, and that of the Committee on Anti-corruption and Communications were to meet to take a decision, only for me to see on the votes and proceeding of today (yesterday) that the NCC budget was passed at the tail-end of Thursday. By that action, my privilege has been breached because I was a part of that Committee.”
A source close to the lawmaker told Vanguard that the angry lawmaker is “seriously considering taking the matter to the EFCC.”
But Chairman of the ad hoc Committee, Mr. West-Idahosa, PDP, Edo, in his defence, told the House: “For several times, I had called Nasir Rabe, but he did not pick his calls and for several times he did not return his calls.
I also went to his office, but he was not present. We did our best as a Committee to carry him along, but we could not, so we felt we needed to continue with our job, and we submitted our report to the House. We did not find anything illegal about the budget, and the House accepted our report and adopted it.”
The House, however, erupted in disagreement following West-Idahosa’s defence.
Speaker of the House, Dimeji Bankole, threw caution to the wind, banged the gavel and ruled Mr. Rabe “out of order”, for insisting that his privilege under the Standing Orders of the Green Chamber was breached when an ad hoc Committee to which he belonged, sidelined him in the re-consideration of the budget of the NCC.
Majority of the members had rejected the proposal, more than four times, forcing the parliament to shelve it each time it was slated for consideration.
Some of the critical lawmakers had warned that the telecommunication service providers were already registering SIM cards as it was statutory for them to do so. They argued that the National Assembly did not need to approve a budget for the NCC to do what was already being done by the service providers.
But, in defiance of an almost unanimous decision earlier taken, the Deputy Speaker, Usman Nafada who presided over just 18 members in plenary had about 1:25pm, when members, usually start leaving the chamber, hurriedly passed the budget.
Spokesman of the House, Rep. Eseme Eyiboh, said last Thursday, that the House had passed the N69.3 billion 2010 budget of the Nigeria Communications Commission with the contentious N6.1 billion SIM card registration component intact, and this revelation was buttressed by a member of the House Committee on Communications, Rep. Sada Soli.
The opposing members were said to have been caught unawares as the motion was not listed on the Order Paper for the day, but came via a Supplementary Order Paper which is usually distributed long after members took their seats in the Chamber.
In the absence of those opposed to the N6.1 billion SIM card component, the report of the conference committee on the NCC budget was adopted by the House.
Earlier attempts by the Rep. Dave Salako-headed House Committee on Communications to smuggle in the NCC budget had failed as even members of the Communications Committee stoutly opposed it.
During the last presentation of the budget on the floor, a member of the House, Rep. Betty Apiafi, under an order of privilege, brought the attention of the House to provisions of Sections 12 and 13 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, saying that any attempt to pass the N6.1bn SIM card component was a contravention of the EFCC Act.
She said it was the duty of the service providers to obtain the subscribers names and addresses and warned that the House should be careful not to contradict its own legislation by passing the NCC budget with the contentious N6.1bn SIM card component.
SPEAKER ON ISSUE OF NCC BUDGET
Quoting Section 12 (1) of the Act, she said: “Any person or entity providing an electronic communication service or remote computing service either by e_mail or any other form shall be required to obtain from the customer or subscriber
(a) Full Names;
(b) Residential address, in the case of an individual; (c) corporate address, in case of corporate bodies.”
The Speaker, Rep. Dimeji Bankole had noted that it was necessary to conclude the issue of the NCC budget and that if the N6.1 billion SIM card component was disagreeable to members, it should be removed.