Nassnews: It’s all about the standing committee, a lot of lawmakers are not happy, there is a Statement accorded to you, that lots of them are not going to complete their tenure
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: Not at all, I did not say that and it must have been a misrepresentation as usual by the Media agencies. It is not in my position to determine that since I am not part of the Principal officers of the House. I only speak for the House of Representatives. They have the speech and I give voice to their speech. What was said was that it is the agenda of the Current leadership to drive efficiency and would not support any committee leadership that is not focused on delivering on the legislative agenda of the 9th Assembly. There is no room for anyone planning to sabotage the core values of the joint task for nation building project. It has nothing to do with the tenure of office. Suffice that to say, that the leadership has the right to adjust the leadership of any committee including my committee if and where the need arises. Tenure of committee leadership is not the primary concern of the leadership of the House and will never be because there is a higher call which is to stabilize the House for a common goal of the joint task for nation building. The leadership with a great combined wealth of experience has a lot to bring to the table in order to change the dynamics and the former narratives. It is important to note that the leadership of the committees were selected through a systematic diligent process with the intention of fitting the round pegs into the round holes. They were chosen because they are competent and we have no doubt they will deliver on the expectations of the leadership as well as Nigerians. We are confident that competence will be matched with hard work for the people of Nigeria.
In summary, the security of the tenure of all the committee leadership is not in doubt. Each of us, including my humble self, should go to work and together we shall meet the overall agenda of the 9th Assembly. The Speaker found each of us worthy to fill in the positions and is calling on all of us to justify the confidence that he has reposed on us. Performance remains the best yardstick to measure a sustainable leadership role. It is a joint task and we shall hold each others hands to render the best service to Nigerians.
Nassnews :On security: national assembly have always been doing security summit, talk and go, problem remain, with your new committee what do you think can be done differently this Time around to sensitize the public.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: For the most part, the National Assembly is doing its own bit. We have provided adequate laws to cover all kinds of security issues. The major challenges of terrorism for instance, have been covered by the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011.Remember that the Penal Code. Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Act are all there to combat terrorism financing which is a major pillar of the fight against terrorism. Another pillar is the fight against cross border banditry and crimes. This 9th House will be looking critically into reforms of our immigration laws, possible establishment of border guards as well as coast guards to help police our vast borders. Recall that Nigeria has well over 2000 illegal entry routes. This 9th House, through inter parliamentary activities will engage national parliaments of neighboring countries to see to it that cross border crime is reduced. The House will also look at the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services. To what extent such protocol serves our national interest and security. Lots of consultations and lobbying will be done within ECOWAS Parliament as well as the Pan African Parliament. We as a nation cannot continue to play big brother on the continent at the expense of blood of Nigerians.
The legislature is playing its part. The issue is not with the laws. The real job lies with the Executives, who have already been empowered to enforce security.However, while it is beyond our constitutional powers to execute or enforce security, it is well within our power to exercise oversight on the appropriate security agencies and you can rest assured that the 9th House of Representatives will be doing just that. What is going to be different this time around, however, is the commitment of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs to transparency and accountability to the public. My committee will actively participate in all oversight activities of the House with the mandate to ensure that Nigerians are timorously and dutifully informed of the outcomes of investigations or inquiry into our security agencies. Not only will this ensure that our security agencies are always in the public spotlight, it will also see to it that the relevant House committees do not take their oversight jobs with levity.
Like Jeremy Bentham said, ‘the more closely we are watched, the better we behave’. It will no longer be business as usual for the House of Representatives. This much was made very clear by Mr. Speaker in his inaugural address when he stated that he would be shaking tables.My committee is not exempted as we will be doing things differently around here
Nassnews :On youth: how can SUG student parliament be involve in national parliament decision.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: One of the main focuses of my committee under this Assembly is to educate Nigerians on the workings and contributions of the parliament to national development. We are already putting in place an elaborate experiential learning program to that effect. This is something that student parliaments in Nigerian universities can benefit from. The students are also allowed to send in any proposals that they need the National Assembly to look at either in structuring a motion or presenting a bill proposal. They input just like most Nigerians in other sectors will always be accommodated because this is the people’s parliament and the students are major stakeholders in this parliament.
Nassnews: What strategy will your committee put in place to unveil the parliament activities to the public?
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: We have proposed a road map for a shift towards a more people-oriented approach which will usher in a new era of proactive public engagements in parliamentary activities. Our strategy in this 9th assembly includes, but is not limited to:
- Legislative/Public Feedback: We are putting in place a robust feedback mechanism to ensure the committee receives feedback from the public and reports same to the House. My committee will also actively participate in all oversight activities of the various House committees. This will ensure we can independently monitor and report their activities to the public.
- Periodic publications:In addition to publishing journals, my committee will be engaging the Nigerian public through dedicated weekly columns in select The shortlisted papers will be announced soon.
- Monthly Media Chat:There will be monthly media chats with local and international news organizations to review parliamentary affairs and keep the Nigerian and international public appraised of House activities.
- Legislative Round table Sessions:The Media and Public Affairs will be hosting frequent round table sessions with players in various sectors of the economy. This will bring together stakeholders, potential investors, relevant house committee chairpersons, advocacy groups, relevant ministries and agencies to discuss progress, gaps and solutions in such sectors
Nassnews: Legislative/executive relationship: how can NASS bridge the gap of communication between this two.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: The leadership of both chambers of the national assembly have shown commitment towards are harmonious working relationship with the executive arm of government. There will be constant engagements and consultations between the two arms of government. My committee will reduce the negative publicity from a few media houses whose aim is to drag the arms of government into a war that does not exist. You will agree with me that some headlines we read every day deviate from the intention of the message. I recently read one which claimed that the National Assembly demands the Executive to seek approval from the Legislature before assenting to treaties, when what was intended was that the National Assembly seeks earlier engagement in treaty negotiation to ease the domestication function of the government after the treaty has been signed. Some journalists create these issues often times but I am encouraging you as a reporter to report correctly to avoid creating tension in the polity.
Nassnews: President Buhari just sign a bill into law, conversion of the prison service to correctional service, what can you say on this.
‘’Nigerian Prison Service, we currently have 73,995 prisoners; 23,568(32%)of which have been convicted while 50,427(68%) are awaiting trial’.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: We are very happy that Mr. President has assented to this very brilliant piece of legislation. Well-meaning Nigerians have long clamored for the solutions that the new law has now proffered. First of all, changing the name of the Nigerian Prisons Service to the Nigerian Correctional Service goes a long way in reinforcing the mandate of our system to serve as a correctional system rather than a ruin one. Also, the new law has codified helpful solutions to the problem of overcrowding in Nigerian prisons. Under the new law, the State Comptroller of Prisons has been empowered to reject the intake of additional prisoners to a prison which is already filled to capacity.In such a situation, the Comptroller is mandated to notify the Chief Judge of the State or the State Criminal Justice Committee who are in turn, mandated to take necessary steps to rectify the overcrowding within one month of receiving such notice. According to erstwhile, Nigerian Prison Service, we currently have 73,995 prisoners; 23,568(32%)of which have been convicted while 50,427(68%) are awaiting trial. The Nigerian Correctional Service Act is set to change this. We expect that going forward; the scourge of inmates perpetually “awaiting trial” will be eradicated from our correctional system. In civilized societies, when convicts are sent into the system, the rationale is for them to take time out to be reformed before they are returned into society. However, rehabilitation is only possible with the right environment and opportunities that support change. Our current prison system, overcrowded as it is, does not support rehabilitation. Netherlands has shown a great example. Their prisons are so empty because the government is proactive. Over the past 10 years, the incarceration rate in the Netherlands has dropped from one of the highest in Europe to one of the lowest. Currently, the Netherlands is converting its prisons to 5-star hotels and is a leading example of what prison reform should be. The new law is a step in the right direction for us.
Nassnews:Corrupt officials: how can we measure the correctional impact of Nass on this officers when found guilty on Nass investigation.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: According to Section 88 of the Constitution, the purpose of investigative hearings is to expose corruption and inefficiency. When investigative hearings uncover corrupt practices, it becomes the duty of the Executive to prosecute the perpetrators and the duty of the judiciary to adjudicate and sentence such persons if found guilty. The duty of corrections lies with the Executive arm of government and I can assure you that the House of Representatives will continue to play its role in ensuring corruption does not persist in Nigeria.
Nassnews: What is reason for standing committee and importance
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: The Nigerian legislature recognizes different types of committees: special committees, standing committees, adhoc committees, and committees of the whole. Standing committees are permanent committees that deal with subject-matters or specific areas of the work of the legislature. They exercise oversight functions over the specific executive agencies within their purview. An adhoc committee is a committee formed to handle a specific task, including conducting an investigation or a study of a particular issue, and dissolves at the conclusion of the task.
Nassnews: What is the difference between standing committee, Adhoc committee and investigative committee and their importance
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: There’s no such thing as an investigative committee. However, while the standing committees are permanent committees that deal with subject-matters or specific areas of the work of the legislature, adhoc committees are formed to handle a specific task, including conducting an investigation or a study of a particular issue, and usually dissolve at the conclusion of the task.
Nassnews:What is the reason for public hearing and the aftermath of it Laws are made for the people by the representatives of the people.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: It is usually the practice to ensure the inclusion of wide range of input from the general public in the process of making laws. Public hearings provide opportunity for the real owners of the law to be part of the process of making the law through contributing their part in the process. Public hearings may also be held on issues before the parliament. Issues which are not necessarily or directly intended to become laws. In this regard, public hearings are used to collate the views of the people to help parliament form opinion where and when necessary
Nassnews: What is the relationship between your committee and the house of Representatives in general or something as usual with no difference from other committees.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: The Media and Public Affairs Committee is a special committee provided by the Standing Orders of the House. Simply put, the committee is mandated to serve as the official mouthpiece, PR and image maker of the House. Under my leadership, the committee will focus more on the Public Affairs arm of its mandate in order to foster and encourage effective 2-way communication and feedback between the House and the Nigerian public.
Nassnews: Finally, can we partner with you and your committee to bridge the gap of information between the parliament activities and the masses.
Hon. Kalu, Chairman Media and Public Affairs Committee: Like I said, the core mandate of the Media and Public Affairs Committee under my Leadership is transparency and accountability. We are open to any partnerships that further this agenda for us