The House of Representatives appears to be learning fast in being wary of curious gifts or offers from external quarters.
It has just rejected a 10-day trip being packaged for some of its members by the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah.
The House is still smarting from the blow of the alleged $620,000 bribe said to have been received by its suspended member, Alhaji Farouk Lawan, from oil magnate, Mr. Femi Otedola, and is currently locked in a face-off with the executive arm over what it calls poor implementation of the 2012 budget.
Just before proceeding on recess last month, the House gave the government up till September 30 to effect 100 per cent implementation of the budget, failing which it threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan.
Finance Minister, Ngonzi Okonjo-Iweala, at first blamed the situation on Reps’ injection of constituency projects into the budget, saying the budget implementation had reached 56 per cent.
But when the Reps shot back with figures to discredit her claim, she met with Speaker Aminu Tambuwal on Thursday, pleading with him to prevail on the House to resolve the issue in dispute.
Given the foregoing, many Reps see the Aviation minister’s foreign trip offer as an attempt to compromise their principled stance on the way the budget is being handled by the executive.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal has already slammed an embargo on such trips by members.
Besides, the House may also set new rules for members on foreign trips designed to broaden their legislative and oversight functions.
It was gathered that the House is determined to assume responsibility for financing vital foreign trips independent of the Executive.
The Minister of Aviation, according to sources, had arranged a three-nation tour for members of the Senate and House Aviation Committees to keep them abreast of latest trends in the sector.
The tour would have taken them to the USA, China and Canada where they were expected to do a comparative study of the three nations to appreciate why Nigeria’s airspace and airports should be upgraded.
Although the cost of the trip is kept under wraps, the House is not comfortable with the timing in view of the current row between it and the Executive over budget implementation.
A reliable source said: “When the Speaker returned from the UK on Tuesday, the House leadership overruled participation in the exercise by some members, going by a similar experience with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“The concern of the House leadership is the footing of the bill by the Ministry in a system in which the legislature should serve as check and balance.
“The House leadership is also being careful to prevent another scandal whereby in the next few months the Executive may take advantage of the trip to insinuate allegations of corruption against members.”
It was gathered that the House had contemplated funding the trip from its budget but it has lean resources to accommodate such.
Another source said: “The House may, from the 2013 budget, come out with new guidelines on foreign trips and make provision for funding of such trips. We have agreed that this will insulate the National Assembly from going cap in hand to the Executive or being at the mercy of the Executive.
“We will go on foreign trips with relevant MDAs, but we have reached a level that we want to finance such to make our independence meaningful.
“It only requires careful planning for a pool account for lawmakers for necessary oversight trips abroad.”
A high-ranking lawmaker explained why the House is becoming circumspect of the offer from the Aviation Ministry.
He added: ”The House has its reservations because some of those slated for the trip had been critical of the Executive on budget implementation. Therefore, he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.
“The Minister may mean well, but at a critical bend, she has to be loyal to the system. This gesture may be hijacked from her to get at National Assembly members.
“We have got to a stage of mutual suspicion and it is proper for the House to stick to its role as the conscience of the nation than to allow itself to be rubbished.”
The Special Adviser to the Minister of Aviation on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, who spoke with our correspondent said: “There is no malicious intent about this trip at all. We are going on an investment drive. We had investment road show where we opened a basket of opportunities for investors whom we are going to meet during the tour.
“We intend to visit a few countries and meet some investors we have had contact with. We are going to woo them to tell them that we are ready for their investments.”