It was a tensed moment yesterday as Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, attempted to unseat the Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) and three others.
The others were the Deputy Minority Leader, Kawu Sumaila, Minority Whip, Hon. Samson Osagie and Deputy Minority Whip, Hon. Garba Datti Mohammed.
Few minutes into plenary yesterday, the House became embroiled in a raucous session as the integrity of its current minority leadership came under challenge for existing contrary to House rules.
This came as the House Public Accounts Committee (PAC) condemned Civil Society Organisations CSOs over their criticism of the legislative arm of Government on the performance of its oversight on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government.
The heated debate over the structural transgression came to the fore when Ogor (PDP, Delta) raised the issue, saying the current minority leaders under Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) can no longer be occupying their position as such privilege was anti-thetical to the spirit of the House rules and that of the constitution.
Ogor premised his argument on the fact that the platform upon which they were elevated to their present positions had been dissolved since their respective parties decided to go into a merger that is now known as the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Citing Point of Order, under Privileges Order 19 (1) (2), Item 31, the deputy leader insisted that Gbajabiamila and others should vacate their seats and allow for proper nomination and selection of substantive minority leaders.
“It behoves the minority parties, in line with item 31 of the House rules, to nominate from among them, new minority leader, minority whip, deputy minority leader and deputy minority whip.”
However, Gbajabiamila tackled Ogor by observing that none of his (Ogor’s) personal privileges had been assailed or violated by the present composition of the minority leadership.
“First of all, you have to show that your privilege, as Leo Ogor, has been breached. That is what the law says. If this privilege would have been raised by a member of minority parties, it would have been a different thing.
“The rules say the minority shall nominate and select their leaders, and that is exactly what we did. It did not say the minority shall nominate from each minority party,” he said.
Kawu, also lent his voice to the debate, saying Ogor does not have rights to interfere in the matter of who is on the team minority leadership, stressing that the rules do not recognise him as House leader but a PDP leader in the House.
But Uche Lilian Ekwunife (APGA, Anambra) who towed the line of argument of Ogor, stated: “My party, APGA, is a strong party in the House. But all the opposition parties in this House have not met to decide their leadership.
There is no way one political party will nominate all the leadership positions.”
Labour Party’s member, Hon. Debo Jerome Ologunagba (Ondo), also lined up behind Ogor, pointing out that his intervention was in order irrespective of the party affiliation of the member who brought the matter up.
Hon. Abiola Ajaja (Accord, Oyo) complained that the minority leadership had not been “recognising us as members of minority. The rules says all parties must share in the leadership positions of the minority.”
Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session, directed the Rules and Business committee alongside Justice committee to look into the matter and come up with recommendations to the House within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the PAC at a one-day capacity building workshop organised for members by a Civil Society Organisation,Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, lamented the position taken by the CSOs who are now, allegedly, aligning with some economic saboteurs in the government to blackmail the legislators.
According to the Chairman of the Committee,”it is now a culture in the country that any time a public officer or any the MDAs is invited by any of the standing Committees of the two Chambers of the National Assembly on any issue,rather than for such a public officer or the MDAs to honour the invitation,they will run to CSOs empower them with cheap money to demonstrate on the streets calling the law makers unprintable names”.
“We are elected representatives of the People,we have to protect the interest of the generality of the people who elected us,we can negotiate good governance on a platter of gold,they deserved good government,mind you,we can not prosecute or jail anybody,ours is to look into all issues brought before us on their merits and make recommendations on our findings,present the recommendations before the whole House where a decision will be taken after thorough debate,after this,the house resolution will be passed to the Executive arm of government for implementation,” he explained.
He said: “If you are invited to appear before any committee and your hands are clean, you will have nothing to fear because at the end of the day the Committee will give you a clean bill of health but on the other way round,you will not want to come,rather you will go and employ the services of CSOs to go the streets with placards on your behalf to blackmail the lawmakers who are performing the constitutional duty”.