The Nigerian Society of Engineers said the House lacked the power to investigate the issue.
There was a mild drama on Thursday during the House of Representatives investigative hearing into the use of concrete technology for road construction as the lawmakers and the Nigerian Society of Engineers disagreed over the issue at the venue.
At the hearing, the Chairman of the Committee on Works, Akin Alabi (APC, Oyo) and the Chairman Board of Trustees of the NSE, Emeka Eze, had a spat on the power of the House to take legislative action on the adoption of concrete technology.
The House had resolved to investigate the planned adoption of the concrete technology for federal roads following a motion moved by Khadijah Abba-Ibrahim (APC, Yobe) in October.
The House mandated its Committees on Works, Environment, Finance and Judiciary to investigate the new structural shift from flexible technology to concrete technology.
You lack powers to undertake investigation
At the commencement of the hearing, Mr Eze, speaking on behalf of the NSE, declared that the House does not have the legal right to investigate such technical issues as the adoption of concrete technology.
He described the investigation as "inappropriate" and asked the lawmakers to allow the executive to determine the proper material for the construction of roads.
"Ordinarily sir, technical matters like this--like specifications for roads or any engineering infrastructure for that matter do not lend themselves to legislative investigation as doing so would amount to the legislature taking over responsibility for any unwholesome act.
"Out of great respect engineers have for this hallowed green chamber, we have come here to provide clarification on the inappropriateness of subjecting highly technical issues to legislative investigation as no crime or law has been violated as contemplated by section 88 of the constitution. Road construction is not legislated upon," Mr Eze said.
You can't teach us our job
Mr Alabi interrupted the engineer when he was making the speech, stating "You cannot teach us our job."
He later stated that he could have stopped Mr Eze from making the presentation but did not want "drama."
The lawmaker noted that as long as the National Assembly provides funding for the ministry and the projects, committees have the power to ask questions.
"The reason why I allowed you to go on was that I suspected that you were still going to drop some gems for us. And I did not want to turn this public hearing into a drama
"You are very wrong about our powers--the reach of the legislature. Anything that requires the House appropriating money, we have the right to know what is going on there," he said.
The Minister of Works, David Umahi, has been at the forefront of pushing for the use of concrete for the construction of roads, a move that could lead to a shift from the use of asphalt technology that is common in the country.
The minister explained that given the increased cost of bitumen from N576,000 to N1 million per tonne with attendant consequences on asphalt, contractors may likely increase the cost of road contracts beyond five per cent.Bitumen is a black mixture of hydrocarbons used for road surfacing and roofing.
Mr Umahi, a former governor of Ebonyi State, has seen strong pushback from contractors due to the cost implication of the changes the minister is recommending.
However, Mr Umahi has insisted that contractors must comply with the changes.