The resolution by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, Youth and Legislative Compliance penultimate week to invite Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, over the status of compensation and royalties to the late musician, Ilerioluwa Aloba (Mohbad), came to many as a surprise. This is because many Nigerians felt the lower chamber was deviating from its core duties and that there were many pressing issues that required the attention of the lawmakers.
The invite followed a motion by the member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Babajimi Benson. Following the motion in which the House was notified of the singer’s death, the House of Representatives observed a one-minute silence for the deceased on September 26, 2023, after which it pledged to monitor the ongoing investigation into the matter.
It must be stated that the one-minute silence also came as a surprise to many, not because of a lack of respect for the deceased but because that ritual had, until now, been reserved for Nigerians who had served the nation in various capacities.
Shortly after that, the House, through its Committee on Justice, Youth and Legislative Compliance, extended an invitation to Naira Marley to appear before it. It said the summons was part of its moves to secure proper compensation and royalties for the late singer, Ilerioluwa Aloba (Mohbad), who died on September 27 at the age of 27 under controversial circumstances. The House also invited the manager of the late singer, Jiggy Adeoye, to appear before it.
It is true that the death of the musician garnered a lot of attention, with protests in some parts of the southwest region calling for an investigation into the matter. This caused the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, to direct the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa, to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the matter. And in conjunction with the Lagos State government, the corpse of the deceased was exhumed to enable an autopsy to be carried out. Arrests have been made, and currently, a coroner’s inquest on the matter is ongoing. So, we had expected the lawmakers, like most Nigerians, to wait for the outcome of that investigation instead of going further to invite the musician.
For the House of Representatives to be dabbling into issues of contract breaches is taking it too far. The House must be careful not to set a precedent it cannot keep up with. We believe that there are many Nigerians who have in one way or the other experienced such breaches; are they to all take the matter to the National Assembly?
The lawmakers in the lower chamber need to understand why they are there, which is to make laws and amend same in such a way that they impact the lives of the people they represent from across the country and, by so doing, deepen democracy. They are also expected to propose motions on issues of national importance as the need arises, just as they are to serve as a check to the Executive arm of government. They are to carry out oversight of ministries, departments, and agencies of government to ensure that they serve the people as they should. Inviting Naira Marley does not fit into this.
In the past week, between October 30 and November 4, there were several reports in the media that we believe should have caught the attention of the lawmakers. For example, when the governor of Abia State talked about the discovery of over 70 headless corpses in a forest in the state, we had the case of the killing of 17 youths for failing to pay taxes in Yobe State and the subsequent killing of another 20, who were returning from the burial of the initial 17 in the same area. There was a communal clash between communities in Cross River State and Benue State, in which about 20 people died. There was also the boat tragedy in Taraba State, in which several lives were lost. This is just to mention a few issues that occurred in the space of one week. Yet, we did not see the House of Representatives take on any of them, even as a mention, not to mention summoning those involved or delegating some members to investigate the issues. This is aside from the current hardship Nigerians are going through due to the subsidy removal and the devaluation of the naira, which also require their intervention.
Surely, with all of these and many more not mentioned here, the lawmakers in the lower chamber cannot lay claim to a dearth of issues to discuss or treat, so much so that it will be delving into a private matter between two citizens.
We, therefore, call on the lawmakers to stop engaging in frivolities and focus on the main job that brought them to the National Assembly. They must not get involved in an issue just because it is trending. Also, they should not engage in acts that will give the impression that some Nigerians deserve a certain kind of attention against some others.
The House should allow those handling the issues surrounding the death of the musician to do their job while it focuses on its primary assignment; to give good representation to citizens.