The House of Representatives on Tuesday asked the Executive arm of government to secure the release of the remaining 113 Chibok schoolgirls and the last Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, still held in captivity before 2019.
It also raised concerns over claims that the Federal Government had so far bought $460m (N165bn) worth of military hardware from a US firm without appropriation by the National Assembly.
The money is said to be aside from the $1bn recently approved for release by President Muhammadu Buhari for the purpose of equipping the military.
Members were embittered as they debated a motion on the fate of the Chibok girls, saying that it was embarrassing that four years on, the government was unable to rescue them from Boko Haram.
They also noted that though the government succeeded in negotiating the release of the majority of the Dapchi schoolgirls, the achievement would be rated as “nothing,” so long as the last girl, Leah Sharibu, remained in captivity.
The lawmakers debated on a motion on the urgent need to rescue the girls to mark the fourth anniversary of their adoption.
It was moved by the member representing Damboa/Chibok Federal Constituency of Borno State, Mrs. Asabe Bashir.
The session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, urged the government to make the rescue of the girls its top priority ahead of the 2019 polls.
The Speaker, who summed up the debate, said, “Until the last surviving girl is reunited with her family, the truth is that we have done nothing. While we commend the efforts made so far, we do not want to mark another anniversary of the Chibok girls in captivity next year.”
Speaking earlier, two members, Mr. Bode Ayorinde and Mr. Diri Douye, called on security agencies to intensify efforts to secure the release of the girls.
“Our security agencies must work harder. It is true that they are not sleeping on it, but the reality is that we need more work,” Ayorinde stated.
On his part, Douye said he suspected that heads of security agencies had not told Nigerians the whole truth about the fate of the girls.
“I think the House should seek more information from the heads of security agencies. They are not telling Nigerians the whole truth,” he added.
A member from Borno State, Mr. Mohammed Monguno, informed the House that the factional crisis among the Boko Haram insurgents did not help matters.
He said at every incident, the first move was to find out which of the factions carried out the attack.
Monguno added, “There is the Shekau group and the Albanawi group. The Shekau group, which is more radical, abducted the Chibok girls. The girls from Dapchi were abducted by the more liberal Albanawi group. That was why the release of the Dapchi girls came faster.
“We urge the government to intensify negotiations with the Shekau group to secure the release of the Chibok girls.”
Amid the debate, the Chairman, House Committee on Works, Mr. Toby Okechukwu, rose to complain about an alleged procurement of military hardware without appropriation by the National Assembly.
Okechukwu, who argued that the procurement was a breach of the privilege of members of the legislature, claimed that up to $460m or N165bn had been spent so far to buy weapons for the military.
He said, “Mr. Speaker, this money excludes the $1bn that we were told was released recently for expenditure on the military. Our power of appropriation has been taken over by the executive arm and we can’t sit here and continue to watch things going the wrong way.”
Okechukwu recalled how the same government admitted that it spent N1.4tn on fuel subsidy annually without recourse to the National Assembly, a point earlier raised by another lawmaker, Mr. Karimi Sunday.
The House unanimously passed the motion on the Chibok girls and also directed its Committees on Finance, Ethics/Privileges to verify the allegation that $460m had already been spent on military hardware without appropriation by the National Assembly.
“This is not an investigation as yet because we have not passed a resolution on investigation.
“It is for the committees to find out the veracity of this information and report back so that we will decide on what will be our next line of action,” Dogara said in rounding off the issue. Punch