From Zipporah Ike, Abuja
The issue was whether or not the military will be deployed to provide security during the elections accross the country.
It was yet another highly charged atmosphere of verbal and near physical attacks amongst lawmakers in the house of representatives as they engaged themselves along party lines in a matter that bothers purely on constitutionality and
testamatory evidence of proof.
Deputy speaker who was presiding plenary, Emeka ihedioha announced a motion on order on the subject matter and subsequently asked the chairman, joint committees on rules and business, justice and judiciary, Albert Sam Tsokwa, who was mandated to advise the house as to whether it can debate the matter or not, based on the point of order by hon. Karimi Sunday that the issue as to legality of military deployment is in court.
On presenting the report of the joint committee, sam tsokwa averred that “neither hon. Karimi nor Femi Gbajabiamila provided any evidence that the case is in court or otherwise as they claimed.
He however went ahead to submit that “the motion cannot be heard by the house based on constitutional grounds on issues bothering on presidential powers in the determination of operational use of the military”.
His submission sent tempers flaring as the rowdiness was further accentuated when the speaker; having listened to the report attempted to rule without giving any right of reply to the mover of the motion.
Hon. Gbajabiamila sensing the dimension of the proceeding rose to counter Sam Tsokwa, saying that the report went beyond its terms of reference albeit failing to address the concern of the point of order raised by Karimi Sunday which bothers on subjudice.
When the tension died down, Hon. Ihedioha went ahead to rule by sustaining the point of order raised by Hon. Karimi thereby necessitating another point of order by Hon. Gbajabiamila.
In his point of order, he noted that the report read by Sam Tsokwa never stated whether the matter is in court as alleged by Hon. Karimi in his point of order, and as such, the order cannot be sustained.
The deputy speaker in trying to ensure the sanctity of the gavel told Hon. Gbajabiamila that he had already ruled on the matter and cannot revisit it; as such a move would be unconventional.
That assertion further infuriated members of the opposition who rose up in protest insisting that “the matter must not be swept under the carpet as usual”.
Prominent amongst these protesting lawmakers was the minority whip, Samson
Osagie who almost engaged in a physical fight with the majority whip, Hon. Ishaka Bawa who was trying to pacify the minority leader to back down.
In the midst of the imbroglio, the deputy majority leader, Leo Ogor rose to the defense of the chair, noting that ”the authority of the speaker must be respected irrespective of who sits on the chair.
Given the insistence of the presiding officer to move the proceeding forward as opposed to the protesting members of the opposition, APC lawmakers led by Hon. Gbajabiamila staged a momentary walk-out of the plenary to brief the media on the development.
At the briefing, He stated that the house had once again witnessed a lopsided and highly partisan conduct of the deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha who would allow Sam Tsokwa to debate his (gbajabiamila) motion in the name of presentation of report.
“today, we see another subversion of parliamentary procedures given the kind of deputy speaker that we have in this country by allowing another person to debate my motion for me.
“yesterday (tuesday), we also saw how he allowed a member to present a motion that was actually sponsored by another member who was not on the floor. He would have allowed it pass if not for our steadfastness on that matter.
“this is the first time in the history of this democracy that we will have a highly parochial and partisan deputy speaker as a presiding officer who sees him more as a deputy speaker of a political party when we have a speaker who sees himself as speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to the minority whip, Samson Osagie, 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.
The PDP caucus on the other hand through its leader Mulikat akande-adeola told newsmen at a briefing that “in the parliament, decisions may not always go your way. But as legislators, we must learn to respect the rules at all times”.
She noted that lawmakers must always observe decorum in their conduct during proceedings on the floor of the house. Hon. Ihedioha 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.