‘Citizens should be free to come forward with cases of rights violation’.
Hon. Jerry Alagbaso is a PDP chieftain and member representing Orlu/Orsu/Oru east federal constituency of Imo State. He is the current chairman, House of Representatives committee on public petitions. In this interview, he tells MSUGH ITYOKURA how his committee has resolved many issues through alternative dispute resolutions.
For you to appreciate this committee, you must attend some of our sessions to see how busy we are and understand how some of these things are being taken care of, in terms of examination and investigations. I have a formidable team ranging from my secretariat where I have seasoned clerks who are in charge of documentation and other things.
A visit to the secretariat will reveal to you the number of cases we have discharged in the 9th assembly. We have statistics on how these cases are documented, we have files where they are enclosed, especially those that have been discharged. The rule is that, when we discharge this cases, we present them on the floor of the House for consideration after which the overall clerk of the house will write to those whom it may concern, giving them the resolution of the National Assembly for them to implement, but where it is difficult to implement, we have what we call status compliance. You go to that place and they will also write as a way of reminder for the respondents to carry out the resolutions of the House.
So, if you want to know the number of cases discharged. You go to my secretariat and the clerk will show you. But I assure you, you will be satisfied with the number of cases we have discharged as far as the 9th National Assembly is concerned.
We deal with petitions all over the country and even abroad that borders on even administrative injustice, whether private or public. But we don’t deal with cases that are in court because we are talking about ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution. What we do is to provide a platform for people to sort out their cases, settle matters and then go home, exchange banters and be happy with themselves. And during the COVID-19, a lot of people were laid off without payment and we are still resolving some matters arising from COVID-19 now that it has subsided, even though it is not yet uhuru and the victims are usually happy with how we have been carrying out our duties. We don’t deal with frivolous petitions, the petitions must stand the test of time before we handle them and that is what we have been doing
During COVID-19 it was difficult to receive and preside over cases through zoom meetings, as far as communications is concerned, that was difficult. Another thing is that, some cases were that of the 8th Assembly that were carried over into 9th and we started afresh. You see that when some of the cases are inconclusive like the ones taken over from the 8th Assembly, it lingers and time is being wasted as far as those good cases are concerned. However, they are not serious challenges as we are equal to the task. We have discharged so many cases we inherited from the 8th Assembly and even more of the new ones, so I won’t say that these are challenges. We have experienced members, we have accountants, lawyers, educationists and other experts on the committee and we discovered that we are familiar with some of the cases, so we are talking out of experience.