There was palpable tension in House of Representatives, yesterday, as the face-off over the minority leadership, which resulted in a free-for-all at Wednesday’s plenary, continued.
This is coming as speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila named former chief whip, Mr Alhassan Ado-Doguwa as House Leader.
Gbajabiamila said members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in a communication sent to him also nominated Mr Tahir Monguno as chief whip, while Mr Peter Akpatason and Nkeiruka Onyejocha were nominated to serve as deputy House leader and deputy chief whip respectively.
Members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other opposition parties also squared up as Kingsley Chinda and Ndudi Elumelu laid claim to the leadership of the minority caucus.
Before the commencement of yesterday’s plenary, Chinda, had arrived the chamber a little after 10am and occupied the seat designated for the minority leader while Elumelu, who came in with the Speaker’s procession, was ushered to another seat.
Immediately after the opening formality, Chinda raised a point of order.
Gbajabiamila, responded: “Chinda, without even asking you what your point of order is, you are overruled.
“I will not recognize you, you are not in your allocated seat.”
After the Rivers-born lawmaker made yet another attempt to raise a point of order, the speaker warned him not to test the resolve of the House: “I will not recognise you. Do not test the resolve of this House, if you test the resolve of this House, you will have cause to regret it.”
Relying on Order 6 rule 2, and citing section 19(b) of Powers and Privileges act, a PDP member from Benue State, Mark Gbillah raised a point of privilege.
He alleged that the speaker was threatening members against the rules of the House.
Regardless, Gbajabiamila retorted: “Go and consult your dictionary so that you will know the difference between threats and warning, you are ruled out.”
Also, effort by Tajudeen Yusuf from Kogi State, to raise a point of order in respect to the minority leadership was shut down by the speaker, who referred him to Elumelu.
Chinda got up at about 3.09 pm and left the chamber. Immediately he left, Elumelu occupied the seat designated for the minority leader.
Earlier, Gbajabiamila announced the setting up of an Ad-hoc Committee on Ethics and Privilege to investigate Dogogo Bright, a PDP lawmaker, who lowered the mace during crisis over the minority leadership. The Ad-hoc committee is headed by Peter Akpatason.
This followed the adoption of a motion moved by Benjamin Kalu, an APC member from Abia State that the alleged attempt by Bright to remove the mace on Wednesday “threatened his person and caused him trauma.”
However, Daniel Asuquo, a PDP lawmaker from Cross River appealed to the speaker, to let go of Wednesday’s incident.
“Yesterday has come and passed. We know that as politicians, we must protect our rights, I want to enjoin Mr. Speaker to let go of what happened yesterday. What happened was not to undermine your authority. We plead that there should be no victor, no vanquished. We want to move the House forward.”
But Gbajabiamila retorted: “What happened was not about me, but the institution I have spent the last 20 years of my life to build. That is why it is important to do our best to set it at par with other parliaments of the world.”
He said it was necessary for the Ad-hoc Committee to establish if there was a breach of the House rules, noting that Asuquo’s plea was tantamount to arresting the process.
However, the speaker said there was room for Kalu or any other member to sponsor a motion for the House to rescind its decision to investigate Bright’s action.
Meanwhile, chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Mr Walid Jibrin, yesterday, said the opposition party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the BoT will wade into the crisis over the minority leadership.
Jibrin, who had on Wednesday, endorsed the Elumelu group, said he was not aware that there was controversy over the minority leadership in the House.