ABUJA — The agitation by the nation’s federal lawmakers for supremacy and juicy committee positions boiled over, yesterday, when two members of the House of Representatives exchanged blows minutes before the day’s plenary session.
The exchange of blows caused the legislators to defer sitting and resort to caucuses during which a resolution was taken by the mainstream of the House to bring sanctions on House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila and his 23 loyalists who boycotted Monday’s inauguration of the House Committees.
That decision was, however, tempered following pleas at a closed door session between Gbajabiamila and some principal officers of the House in the speaker’s office.
Also yesterday in the Senate, muttering over the sharing of committee positions again reopened the fault lines as supporters of the Senate Presidency bid of Senator Ahmad Lawan accused Senate President Bukola Saraki of surrendering the chambers to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The melee in the House was upon the bad blood that followed the boycott of the inauguration of the 96 standing committees by House Leader, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, and his close loyalists.
Exchange of blows
It was gathered that trouble started when the newly inaugurated Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Rep Herman Hembe, representing APC, Konshisha/Vandekiya, Benue State, a close loyalist of the speaker, engaged Rep. Magaji Aliyu, APC, Birnin-Kudu/Buji, Jigawa State, a supporter of Gbajabiamila, over the sharing of the committees.
A slap was said to have followed when one of the two men could no longer control his emotion and the situation was said to have been quickly brought under control by the intervention of the Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun.
Tempers also overflowed on account of alleged moves by allies of Speaker Yakubu Dogara and those of Gbajabiamila to effect sanctions upon the other.
At the closed door session of the APC caucus, it was gathered that members resolved to remove Gbajabiamila as House Leader and refer his 23 loyalists who boycotted the Monday inauguration of the committees to the Privileges Committee of the House.
That move was, however, rescinded after a peace meeting between Gbajabiamila and the speaker attended by some principal officers of the House.
Sources privy to the development said Gbajabiamila had entered the speaker’s office and requested for a one-on-one meeting with the speaker but the other principal officers present were said to have refused and insisted on partaking in the meeting.
Among the principal officers present at the meeting were Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lashun; Minority Leader, Leo Ogor and Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa.
At the end of the interaction, the speaker was said to have promised to prevail on his supporters not to apply the sanctions as canvassed by the mainstream of the House against Gbajabiamila and his loyalists.
Gbajabiamila in an SMS response to Vanguard on the development said last night:“The Speaker and I, both know we will both look bad and no one will be the winner if there is ever another fight on the floor. The numbers are simply not there to remove any principal officer.”
It was a meeting
for APC family
Doguwa who briefed newsmen on the outcome of the APC caucus meeting said yesterday: “This was a meeting for the APC family, a meeting we intended to address ourselves that enough is enough of the misunderstanding among the APC family.
“I want to tell you precisely that by what we did yesterday, the flight of the 8th House of Representatives has taken off, it has not only taken off, it has taken off very successfully and it is a flight that is a four-year bound air flight, with Dogara as the pilot.
“I want to tell that we have maintained the status quo for now and Femi (Gbajabiamila) is our leader in the House of Representatives and even the speculations made earlier on that there is a move to remove Femi as our leader is unfounded and it is not from the leadership of the House or the APC.
“I also want to tell you that this morning I had a very close consultations with the leaders of the party, specifically Senator Lawali Shuaibu, who is the deputy leader of the APC in Nigeria and we have told them that there is no cause for alarm in the House of Representatives and we are moving as one.
“There is no two way about unity, this party was founded on the basis of unity and the House of Representatives as it is today is very much poised and ready to work with Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, to deliver the change mantra we have promised Nigerians.”
Gbajabiamila camp denies plot to remove Dogara
Associates of Gbajabiamila were also quick to denounce alleged plots against Speaker Dogara, particularly an alleged meeting in Atlanta, United States of America.
“No such meeting was held in the US. Rather, the leader (Gbajabiamila) visited Brazil where he met his family. I repeat there is no plan to remove Dogara by Gbajabiamila men,” an associate of Dogara said yesterday.
“It was a concoction of Dogara’s men to get juicy committees. They have built a garrison around Dogara that only those close to him can advise him. In short, they have caged him.
However, a member of the House, Rep Mustapha Bala Dawaki, has denounced agitations for committee positions, saying that committee chairmanship is a privilege and not the right of any lawmaker.
He said “the primary responsibility of any lawmaker here in the 8th Assembly is to adequately represent his constituency not committee chairmanship.”
Dawaki, who represents Dawakin Kudu/Warawa, APC, Kano, described the move as in bad taste “as no lawmaker was elected by his people to come here to fight for committee chairmanship or the so-called elusive juicy committees.”
Saraki asked to apologise to Nigerians
Meanwhile, anger among loyalists of Senator Lawan in the Senate over the composition of the committees also boiled over at a press conference in the Senate building, yesterday.
Speaking under the aegis of Senate Unity Forum, spokesman of the group, Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC, Zamfara Central, however, shied away from saying any member of his group would resign from the committee positions assigned to him.
Affirming that tyranny had taken over the Senate, he urged Senate President Saraki to apologise to Nigerians for “abuse of the Constitution” and for increasing number of committees beyond the statutory provisions.
Trouble started shortly after Votes and Proceedings of the last Wednesday’s sitting was approved by the Senate. Senator Marafa, who cited a number of Constitutional Orders and the Senate Standing Order submitted that the constitution of the committees should be reversed as they failed to meet the benchmark.
According to Senator Marafa, the Senate Selection Committee chaired by the Senate President, was not duly constituted, in accordance with provisions of the Standing Order, saying as such, the committees they put together were null and void.
He also asserted that failure of the Senate President to comply with Section 100 of the Senate Standing Rules, which provides for Senate approval of the committees before they can go into operation, saying such development had also nullified the efforts of the Senate Selection Committee.
He insisted that the committees were not subject to the approval of all senators in plenary. He said that the Selection Committee was not properly constituted in that it was made up mainly of new senators, flouting the standing order, which specified that it should be constituted based on ranking.
Hear him: “What we are witnessing today in the National Assembly and the Senate in particular is legislative tyranny, where impunity wants to be the order of the day.
“Laws are meant to be respected and if we can treat our Order with impunity, then we have no business being here.
“There is no committee. They are not legally constituted and they cannot function. Any further action is unacceptable to Nigerians and I have discharged that responsibility.”
Speaking in the same vein, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, APC, Kaduna North, said there were procedures for constituting standing committees.
Hunkuyi, who was appointed Vice Chairman, Federal Character Commission and Inter-Governmental Affairs, said there was no resolution on the committees at plenary.
But reacting to the allegations, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Abdullahi Sabi, said the committees were approved during the adoption of votes and proceedings.
According to him, no lawmaker had the power to declare any proceeding in the House null and void because they were not judges.