APC reps revolt, abort House sitting
Written by Morenike Adebayo on February 26, 2015
The sitting of the House of Representatives was, yesterday, disrupted after members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, rejected moves by the presiding officer of the House to stall a motion seeking to bar the military from playing a role in the conduct of the forthcoming elections.
The APC members, who now form the majority, were galled by the ruling of the deputy speaker of the House, Chief Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to derail the motion spearheaded by the APC minority leader.
After first walking out from the chambers, the APC members returned to put deliberations on a standstill, taunting the deputy speaker who they accused of foisting his will on majority of the members.
Faced with the unprecedented rebellion and unable to bring the House under control after repeated pleas, Chief Ihedioha was forced to adjourn the proceedings.
Ihedioha was elected deputy speaker and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal speaker of the House in June 2011. Tambuwal has since defected to the APC and is running as the party’s governorship candidate in Sokoto State while Ihedioha is running as the PDP candidate in Imo State.
Trouble started when Ihedioha called on Rep Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba), to present a report of the joint committee earlier assigned to study the aptness of deliberating on the motion. The motion was brought to the floor of the House last week by Femi Gbajabiamila, leader of the APC caucus.
Just as Sam-Tsokwa commenced the presentation of his five-page report termed as an advisory, Gbajabiamila raised his hand for a point of order. Ihedioha, however, ignored him as he charged Tsokwa to proceed.
In his presentation, Sam-Tsokwa dismissed objections to the use of the military for the election, citing several constitutional provisions.
He said that while the constitution does not define ‘operational use of the Armed Forces’, as outlined in Section 218 (1) of the Constitution regarding the Armed Forces Act, the Act does.
“By its Section 8 (3), the Act defines ‘Operational Use of the Armed Forces’, as ‘including the operational use of the Armed Forces in Nigeria for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order’.”
The report also indicated that parties to the motion concurred that “the matter is before the courts” and that until it (the court) decides on it, the House cannot delve into it “by virtue of our Order 9, Rule 57 (5).”
It also noted that by virtue of the House resolution “that the INEC chairman may request Mr President to deploy the military for election duties, the House may only reverse itself on this through a recision motion.”
Sam-Tsokwa, therefore, concluded that based on his submissions, “this motion by Gbajabiamila is effectively caught in the cobweb of both the Constitution and the House Standing Orders,” and thus called for the termination of “its legislative adventure.”
At this point, Ihedioha, as the presiding officer, opined: “I don’t want this matter to be politicised. But I believe Sam-Tsokwa’s decision captures the decision of the Joint Committee.”
This ruling was greeted with shouts of No! No!! No!!! from APC members. Thereafter, proceedings were disrupted as some members left their seats to meet at the front seat of Gbajabiamila. A number of PDP legislators in the front rows also hailed Sam-Tsokwa, shaking his hands and exchanging banters.
After about 15 minutes of hushed discussions around the chamber, Ihedioha sustained a point of order raised by Rep. Sunday Karimi to the claim that the matter was pending in court and should as such not be raised for deliberation.
Once Ihedioha sustained that, Gbajabiamila stood up and cited Sections 88 and 89, which empowers the House to ask for a record of a court case.
“There is no evidence that the case is in court. He who alleges must prove. This matter will not die,” he pronounced.
But the deputy leader of the PDP caucus, Rep Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) countered, invoking Order 57 (6), saying that the authority of the Speaker is unassailable and must be totally respected, thus “no questions can be asked after his ruling.”
Ihedioha tried to affirm himself with the observation that members may not always get what they want from the chambers.
This, however, did not calm the angry APC legislators as attempts to continue with the proceedings by the Deputy Speaker was greeted with dissenting voices.
Chief Ihedioha sought Rep. Samson Osagie, the APC whip to confer with him privately but for some minutes, fellow APC members did not allow him proceed to the podium where Ihedioha sat.
The discussion between Ihedioha and Osagie apparently did not thaw the ice as Ihedioha’s bid to assert his authority was pooh-poohed by the boisterous APC majority.
APC reps protest
His verdict that the session should proceed was greeted by a deafening “nay” followed by a point of order by Gbajabiamila to the fact that Sam-Tsokwa’s report cannot have an effect on his motion. The point of order was ruled out, a decision that immediately triggered a walk-out on Ihedioha.
Briefing reporters outside the chambers, Gbajabiamila said the actions of Ihedioha were reflective of the way the PDP intends to continue ruling the country.
Recalling events that happened earlier, he regretted that “a partisan” Ihedioha tried to belittle “the majority”. “When a principal officer will not respect members, he will not be respected too as respect begets respect.
“And this thing (his motion),” he repeated, “will not die!”
Osagie too told journalists that “Sam-Tsokwa’s submission cannot stand. According to the APC whip, his anger was due to the Deputy Speaker’s refusal to acknowledge his desire to raise a point of order not only as a matter of right as a member of the House, but also as a matter of privilege as a principal officer.
“He abandoned his terms of reference,” he added.
After some time consulting with one another outside the chambers, the APC members trooped back into the chamber and persisted in shouting “nay” to further proceedings until Ihedioha asked for an adjournment.
Speaking to reporters, the PDP caucus leader Rep. Mulikat Akande-Adeola said that “in the parliament, decisions may not always go your way. But as legislators, we must learn to respect the rules at all times.
“The action was unparliamentary because it was uncalled for”.
She noted that lawmakers must always observe decorum in their conduct during proceedings on the floor of the House.
Her deputy, Ogor, at the briefing also stressed the need for members of the opposition to respect the office of the Deputy Speaker as a presiding officer.
“He is not sitting on the seat for the sake of it. He sits there as a symbol of authority of the House, and that authority must be respected. It is the lack of that respect shown by the Minority Leader by refusing to approach the chair as demanded by the presiding officer that got me upset”, he said.