From: Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the National Assembly has power to conduct an investigation into a matter involving privately-run companies.
Speaking in his capacity as the chairman of the House Adhoc Committee investigating the Production and Distribution of Drinks Manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) PLC, and other drinks marketed in Nigeria, Hon. Gbajabiamila stressed that it was equally erroneous to assume that the National Assembly would halt a probe because a party involved had taken the matter to court.
The federal lawmaker made the clarification, on Wednesday, at a meeting held in continuation of the 3-day public hearing by the committee. He specifically chided the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) for going to court to challenge the authority of the National Assembly to investigate private firms.
He called on interested stakeholders in the food and beverages industry to make submissions, rather than instituting cases in court against the House, as recommendations from the committee would be used in making laws to regulate the sector.
Said he, “Some of these companies we summoned are even quoted on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, yet, they turn around to say the National Assembly does not have jurisdiction over them.
“Are you a law unto yourselves simply because you are private? They’ve argued that the case is in court, that NECA has filled a case in court against the National Assembly summoning private individuals and companies. To their estimation and that of their lawyer, once a case in in court, it puts paid to any action of the National Assembly.
“But let me make this abundantly clear, the fact that a case is in court, it doesn’t operate as a stay of our statutory function,” he said.
Gbajabiamila also urged organisations to recognise that the welfare and security of Nigerians also form part of the responsibilities of the National Assembly.
He continued, “I went into this long explanation because there has to be mutual respect for constituted authority. And if we are trying to conduct an investigation, that touches the lives of the people we represent, any attempt to scuttle it will be met with the full weight of the law”, he said.
Also speaking at the hearing, Jude Mordi, who represented the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), blamed the failure of an exporter to comply with regulations, as set by United Kingdom (UK) Government, on the quantity of ingredients used in carbonated drinks for the rejection of some locally-produced products.
According to Mordi, “Would somebody buy products and then bring them to Nigeria without taking into cognizance the need to comply with our regulations? Doing such doesn’t make you business wise and you would be going against the law.
“So, why would a Nigerian buy goods from here and send them to the UK without taking note of what the law says there. Well, he doesn’t understands the laws that regulate exportation of food products and he doesn’t care to know…because there is no law that regulates the practice of food science and technology in the country”.
Mordi, therefore, appealed to the committee to impress it on the National Assembly, the need to support the passage of a bill to regulate food science and technology practice in the country.
Recall that in March, a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere in the judgment given by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, ordered NAFDAC to order the NBC Plc to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.
The judgment was the outcome of a suit filed by a Lagos-based businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC Plc and NAFDAC.