The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial and Economic Crimes, Hon. Kayode Oladele, has described the allegations by his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Godfrey Chukwuka Utazi, that the passage of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill was being delayed by his (Oladele’s) refusal to meet with him (Utazi) to harmonize the bills passed by both chambers as untrue, mischaracterization and absolute falsehood aimed only at misleading the Senate and the general public to cover up his lack of proper understanding of parliamentary practice and procedure.
According to Oladele in a chat with The Eagle Online, if anyone is guilty of frustrating this process, it was Utazi himself.
Oladele said: “The first time Senator Utazi called for a Conference Committee meeting, all the seven members from the House of Representatives, led by me, went to his office, being the venue chosen by him for the meeting, but on getting there, members were told to wait for two hours as Senator Utazi was busy attending another meeting elsewhere in the Senate Building.
“The members waited only to be informed after about an hour later that Senator Utazi could not meet with them and that he would communicate another date for the meeting.
“The House of Representatives Committee members left Senator Utazi’s office in annoyance because of the manner in which they were treated.”
Subsequently, Oladele stated that he went to Utazi’s office several times, but on each occasion, it was either he was not in the office or he would have cause to postpone the meeting, even on a very flimsy excuse.
Oladele further recollected another instance which occurred on February 19, 2018.
According to him, at about 11.57pm, Utazi sent a text message to him requesting for a meeting in the evening of the next day, if Oladele was not in France attending the Financial Action Task Force meeting.
Oladele informed Utazi that he would actually be traveling to France that Tuesday evening for the FATF meeting and would therefore not be available, but he requested for another date.
Although, Utazi did not disclose to Oladele that he would also be traveling to France the same evening and time he had proposed for a meeting with Oladele in Abuja, surprisingly when Oladele got to the airport, he ran into Utazi about to board the same flight to France, a clear indication that Utazi had no intention of meeting with Oladele at the time he had proposed.
As if that was not enough, Oladele also told The Eagle Online that on February 27, 2018 when he met Utazi at a State House function organized by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, he took the opportunity to remind Utazi about the need for them to meet and conclude the Conference report process, but the senator rebuffed him as if it didn’t matter to him.
Oladele said: “Both of us were at the event sitting next to each other for over an hour, during which time I suggested to him that we meet to complete the Conference report, but he shrugged it off.
“In my view, since the two of us were there physically, sitting next to one another, I felt that was a perfect opportunity for us to jointly agree on a convenient date for the conference, but I didn’t get his cooperation.
“However, two days ago, late in the evening, a text message came from Sen. Utazi directing that I come to his office the next day at 2pm, which was Thursday, March 1, 2018, but because I had other previously scheduled engagements for that day and time, I sent an apology to him and requested for another time.
“Upon receipt of my apology, Senator Utazi sent another message to me claiming that nothing on my schedule could be more important than coming to his office for the 2pm appointment as he had commanded and concluded his message by admonishing me to ‘think twice!’
“It was at this point that I politely reminded him that it was not within his competence to teach me how to prioritize my schedule.
“Thereafter on that same Thursday, Sen. Utazi went public during the plenary with an urgent motion of public importance where he distorted the facts and castigated me for the reasons best known to him.
“Fortunately, the Senate President ruled after Senator Utazi’s motion that he would discuss with the Speaker of the House of Representatives to resolve the matter.”
Oladele, however, told The Eagle Online that the National Assembly leadership has resolved the matter and the path is now clear for the eventual passage of the much awaited Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill.