House in Rowdy Session over Announcement of Principal Officers

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Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The House of Representatives was wednesday thrown into confusion with some aggrieved members making frantic efforts to grab the mace after the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, announced Minority Principal Officers of the house.

Gbajabiamila, who said 90 opposition lawmakers from nine different political parties signed for the nomination of the principal officers, announced Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, Delta State) as the Minority Leader.

Others announced are the Deputy Minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu State); Minority Whip, Hon. Gideon Goni (PDP, Kaduna State); and the Deputy Minority Whip, Adesegun Adekoya.

Trouble however started at about 2.30 p.m. when aggrieved members of the main opposition PDP opposed the announcement.

It took a timely intervention of some sergeant-at-arms to prevent the lawmakers from seizing the mace while some lawmakers were set for brawl.

Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP), whose name had been forwarded to the House of Representatives, moved a point of order, attempting to prevent the Speaker from reading a letter said to have been signed by 99 members of the minority parties but he was ruled out of order on the grounds that only the PDP cannot not determine who leads the minority.

Relying on Order 6 Rule 1 of the House Rules, Chinda contended that members of minority parties should have chosen from among themselves, someone with experience to lead them, arguing that where the House rule was not clear on the procedure, the House ought to have followed precedence or follow a resolution of the House.

Addressing journalists at the House of Representatives, Chinda said: “We speak to you as members of the minority caucus in the House of Representatives. Let us very sincerely apologise to you and to Nigerians for the fracas that took place today in the House. It is not in our character as very responsible people. It is not our wish that we should go that way. It is also not proper. But as parliamentarians, we will not sit down and see our rights being trampled upon. So, we sincerely apologise to Nigerians.

“The issues are that of the minority leadership. It is standard parliamentary practice that in parliament, minority leadership comes from amongst minority parties and the correspondence is always sent by the major minority party. In our case, that was followed. The PDP held discussions with other minority parties, agreed on a leadership in the parliament and forwarded a letter to Mr. Speaker, dated June 21, 2019. A copy of the letter was received on June 26, 2019.

“Yesterday, the Senate, in compliance with democratic practice, read out the letters from the APC and the PDP. Of course, there were dissenting voices. The president in his wisdom advised senators who were aggrieved to go back to their parties and resolve the issues.

“However and very unfortunately, in the House of Representatives, the reverse is the case. We came today only to hear our dear Speaker attempting to read what he termed as correspondence from a conglomerate of political parties; that some members had endorsed some other persons as minority leaders aside the one that was forwarded to him by the party.”

Also addressing journalists, Elumelu who was named as the Minority Leader said: “My colleagues from the nine minority parties nominated me as their Minority Leader. Let me clearly state that we are all from nine political parties and some of us who are from the PDP are very loyal to the PDP. We believe in PDP’s progress, we believe in the ideologies of the PDP and of course we have no other party than PDP.

“Following what has happened, we have accepted the nomination based on Order 7 Rule 8, which clearly stipulates that members from minority parties shall have course to nominate those who should be either Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Whip and Deputy Whip and that is why we are here to state that we have complied with the rules of the House

He argued that the Speaker’s declaration was in conformity with the rules of the House.

A member of the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, also backed Elumelu.

According to Gagdi “Mr. Speaker received a communication from members of the minority parties of the House of Representatives regarding the positions of the principal offices.

“Mr. Speaker relied on Order 7 Rule 8 where it states categorically clear and I beg to quote; Rule 8(1) says: ‘Members of the minority parties in the House of Representatives shall nominate from among them the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip. This is what the House rule says.

“In relying on this order, Mr. Speaker received a signature of about 90 members of the opposition minority parties; not only one minority party who constitute more than two-third majority of the minority.”