The 10th National Assembly after thorough obervations, appointed Rt. Hon. Mike Etaba as Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions. This as a matter of fact, is based on his vibrance, accessibility, intelligence, smartness, and believe in rule of law. Representing the good of Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency of Cross River State, Rt. Hon. Mike Etaba has been an outstanding figure at the National Assembly. His contributions towards achieving growth of democracy in Nigeria, cannot be over emphasized. As a matter of fact, Rt. Hon. Etaba is smart, intelligent, vibrant, articulate, accessible and people-oriented. His efforts towards promoting rule of law in Nigeria cannot be overlooked. He is result-oriented. He stronlgy believes in equity, fairness and justice. That is exactly why the 10th National Assembly deemed him worthy to lead the House Committee on Public Petitions. Only a man who is people-oriented can be given such public and sensitive assignment. 

Rt. Hon. Etaba is a true Nigerian who believes in justice, fairness and equity for every citizen, no matter the tribe, religion and political background. 

In every democratic government, the legislature remains the central institution that symbolises democracy. It affords the people, the opportunity to participate in politics and governance by constitutionally entrenching their rights to representation.

Representation, therefore, allows for selection, nomination and election of representatives to the legislature, to represent the interests of all the communities.

The legislature serves as an important arm of government, whose roles include checking the excesses of the executive and the judiciary and ensuring a safeguard of rights of the citizenry.

It is in the effort to effectively fulfill these roles, that the legislature by law and convention, sets up committees. One of such committees is the Public Petitions Committee (PPC). In other climes, the PPC considers e-petitions submitted on Parliament’s petitions website and public (paper) petitions presented to the House, as well as direct public engagement for purposes of community involvement.

Nigeria’s Constitution empowers the legislature to determine the way of its proceedings. So, the PPC, which is set up to enable citizens vent their dissatisfaction, draw government’s attention to societal ills, and among others, provide information to elected leaders about unpopular policies, exposes misconduct, waste, corruption, and incompetence in governance.

The House of Representatives PPC is provided by Order 18 Rule 121 (a) (b) and (c) of the Standing Orders.

The role of the PPC is to receive and process petitions, and to inquire into and report to the House on any matter relating to petitions and the petitions system. If a petition is deemed to have met relevant Standing Order requirements by the Committee, it will be presented to the House and referred to the relevant government Minister for a response.

Those whose rights and privileges are violated expect legislative intervention, justice, fairness and redress while approaching the committee. 

As a matter of fact, petitions are fundamental rights of citizens and avenues by which they can have their voices heard on the floor of the parliament. This practice, dates back to the ancient Roman Empire when Roman citizens were entitled to send written pleas, requests and complaints to their Emperor.

Any member of the public who is aggrieved may forward any petition through a serving member of the National Assembly or Clerk of the House on Public Petitions. 

The Committee could extend invitations to all relevant individuals and stakeholders; receive their oral and written submissions in pursuance of the resolution. The Committee would then deliberate and make their findings and recommendations, as to the best possible way of resolving the issues raised. 

Dissatisfied with the process and resolution, the petitioner has the right to seek further redress in a competent court, because a petition could either be successful or otherwise. 

The Public Petitions Committee by its mandate, is empowered to primarily receive petitions from the public, relating to any grievances they may have against government authorities and public servants. The role of the PPC is one of fact-finding and not decision making, which involves looking into petitions and complaints presented to the National Assembly by members of the public. The PPC also performs oversight of the Public Complaints Commission.

PPC has remained a veritable platform, where the legislators investigate petitions from Nigerians on any issue or matter, especially the conduct of affairs of government agencies. 

As a matter of fact, the Rt. Hon. Mike Etaba led Committee has done well so far.  It is one of such Standing Committees and its specific mandate is to receive complaints from the general public in respect of matters within the legislative powers of the National Assembly, conduct investigation and take appropriate steps to resolve such lingering matters. In some cases, the report of the Committee is tendered before the House for adoption via a resolution.

The Committee makes efforts to avoid interfering with the jurisdiction of the Court. Therefore, it does not entertain any matter in respect of a dispute that is subjudice.

There are some high-profile matters being handled by the Rt. Hon. Etaba led Committee, and one of such is a petition by M. C. Chambers against Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) over total black, extortion and total neglect of Mbaise District in Imo State. There is a petition is by Air Vice Marshal Ja Kayode-Becklay against the Economic and Fiancial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for refusal to refund the sum of Ten million naira only, in the judgement of court in charge no. FCT/HC/CR/181/2016 between Federal Rupblic of Nigeria vs AVM John Adeniyi Kayode-Beckley. Also, there is petition by Itire/Ijeshaedo/Ehinga Odo-Eran Communities against Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) on incessant harassment, wrongful disconnection from the houses in the communities in Mushin Local Government Area of Lagos State by the officials of EKEDC. There is another petition by Obianuju Iloanya on behalf of Mr. Emmanuel Iloanya and Co. against Nigeria Police Force on the unlawful arrest and extra judicial killing of Chijioke John Iloanya by CSP James Oshim Nwafor (now retired), Inspector Hyceinth Nwankwo (now retired), and DSP Abat Aenume (now retired). There is also petition by M. P. Anaukyaa and Co. against Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme, an appeal for intervention in the plight of the Ex-Niger Delta agitators. 

The Rt. Hon. Etaba led Committee is therefore, thoroughly investigating these and other petitions in order to fully reslove the matters between the petitioners and respondents. The voice of every Nigeria citizen must be heard, for the promotion of democracy in our nation.

As well-meaning citizens and political representatives, the Rt. Hon. Mike Etaba led Committee is doing its best to give justice to every Nigerian. And this is exactly what quality leadership is all about. 

Published by Pst Bill Francis Bill Spokesperson to Governor Prince Otu and President of all the Bloggers in Nigeria.

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