Abuja — The House of Representatives Thursday waded into the controversy over the alleged suspension of admission of female cadets into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) by the military and mandated its Committees on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force to investigate the matter.
The House's intervention came on the heels of a motion on the need to halt the proposed plan to stop the admission of combatant female cadets into the NDA, sponsored by Hon. Omosede Igbinedion (PDP, Edo).
The media was agog on Monday with the news of the decision of the Armed Forces Council to suspend the policy of admitting female cadets into the combatant arm of the military.
The decision was said to have been taken during the council's meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The policy was initiated by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.
Although the Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen John Enenche, in a statement on Tuesday denied that there had been a policy reversal, describing the news as "an act of disinformation to the general public by mischievous individuals", the House insisted Thursday that the alleged proposal should be investigated.
Moving her motion, Omosede argued that the plan was against the affirmative action for women, urging the military to reconsider its position.
According to her, besides the fact that the Nigerian constitution frowns upon discriminatory practices against persons, Nigeria is a signatory to the Beijing Declaration of 1995 and the Follow Up Summit on Strengthening the Institutional Arrangements for Support of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, which also coincided with Agenda 113 of the 7th Session of the United Nations General Assembly of 2012.
She said: "Affirmative Action means positive steps be taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education and all such other areas from which they have historically been excluded."
She noted that if media reports were found to be true, it would amount to a major policy reversal of monumental proportion and a setback because scrapping the course for women would deny them the opportunity of heading any arm of the Nigerian military.
The committee was handed four weeks to conclude its findings and report back to the House for further legislative action.
In another development, the House also mandated its Committee on Works to investigate the nature of contracts and concession arrangements on the Second Niger Bridge as well as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
It, however, urged the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to include funds in the 2018 budget for the completion of the projects.
The resolution followed a motion on the need to investigate the nature of the contract and/or concession agreement on the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which was moved by Hon. Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau).
He said unless the projects were completed, commuters would continue to experience difficulties in transportation.
According to him, "Contracts for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge and reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway have continued to feature in the annual budgets without any seeming signs of their completion or the amount required to do so."
He expressed concern at the recent submission of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, while commenting on the 2017 Appropriation Act, that monies for the projects were reduced and might become elephant projects as they were not under any concession or public private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
He also said the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) had spent about N18 billion on the Second Niger Bridge as the financier during its early stages.
He said the completion of the projects was pivotal to national development as they had the potential to douse tension across the country, especially in the face of widespread agitations for restructuring of the country and separation by some pressure group.
Maren raised concern over the manner of the execution of the projects, which he said was not in accordance with defined methods for executing projects and/or contracting procedures.
Debating the motion, Hon. Mohammed Sani (APC, Bauchi) said it was imperative to ascertain whether the projects were concessioned or subsumed under direct funding by the federal government.
The House then concluded that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was under a concession arrangement, unlike the Second Niger Bridge.
Hon. Aliyu Madaki (APC, Kano) said: "There is a concession agreement which was signed on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in the previous government of President Jonathan, which I believe is still binding on this government."
Presiding, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun, asked the Committee on Works to investigate the nature of the contracts and concession arrangements and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.