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YAR’ADUA: Rowdy session as Reps back Akunyili’s utterances

.…sue for peace and unity

By  Luka Binniyat
The House of Representatives Tuesday voted out a motion seeking to condemn recent utterances in the mass media attributed to the Minister of Information and Communication, Prof, Dora Akunyili, to  mean that the Green Chamber saw nothing wrong with her condemnation of a cabal, which she had kept saying, was lying about the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

However, after a two and half hours close door session, the House came out with mild resolution, saying, “the House of Representatives having reviewed the state of the nation resolved to concentrate  only on  those things that will encourage the peace, unity, stability and progress of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”

Before then, a motion by Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon (PDP/Edo) seeking to condemn the deployment of troops that  received President Yar’Adua last Wednesday was stood down, amidst protest by members.

Also, a motion by Hon. Samuel Sejoro (AC/Lagos) asking that all persons denying Nigerian officials from seeing the President should be brought to book, was disallowed by the Speaker but, also, amidst protest by majority of members.

When proceedings were stalled for about 11 minutes as a result of angry murmuring on the floor, Bankole, said, “I have no choice than to call for an executive session”, around 11.41 am.

Thus, the gallery was cleared of the Press and Assembly Staff.

Signs that the Today’s (Tuesday) session would not be ordinary showed when some members told the Press last Monday, that about 170 of them would move to insist that those holding the President “captive”  must be forced to free him for the Nigerian people to see.

But, at the beginning of Plenary, Hon. Mayor Eze (PDP/Imo) raised a Point-of-order bordering on Matter of Urgent National Importance from Oder 8 of the House Rule.

“Mr. Speaker, in the past few days, the Press has been awash with unguarded, uncouth utterances by the Minister of Communication, saying that a cabal has hijacked the President”, he said, “Mr Speaker, this ….”. The Speaker cut him short, and asked him to” approach the chair”, or the platform where the Speaker seats.

The Speaker whispered  something into  Eze’s ear for about a minute. Eze, nodded approvingly several times, turned and walked back to his seat.

That cause some grudging noises in the Green Chamber as members started conferring on each other.

After about 5 minutes, the Speaker called the House to order.

“Now, Hon. Eze”, said the Speaker, “you may need to proceed”

This time, Eze was less forceful in delivery.

“My colleagues”, he said, “I want us to know that any utterance that would heat up the polity should not be encouraged”, he said.

“We have passed a resolution empowering the Acting President to assume executive powers as commander-in-Chief”, he said. “No one has stopped him from working, and as such, for any Minister to keep adding tension by her utterances, she  should be condemned by the House”, he argued.

When the Peaker but the matter into vote, those against Eze, where clearly in the majority. Thus the Speaker ruled in favour of the opposition, to signal the beginning of what looked like a rebellion at Tuesday’s plenary session.

But, hardly had he brought down the gavel, than another member called out, “Point-of-order, Mr. Speaker”

When recongnised, it turned out to be Hon. Patrck Obahiagbon

The Reps hinged his point-of-order on Rule 5 of the House Rule.

He said that his privilege as a Nigerian and as Federal Legislature has been breached by what happened at the Nnamdi Azikwe Internationa Airport last Wednesday night.

“This House passed a resolution which made the Vice President of this country Acting President and commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed forces”, he said.

“But, when our ailing President was brought in into the country from Saudi Arabia, there was massive deployment of troops, all with no consultation, or with the authority of the c-in-c”, he went on, “Mr Speaker, this is a breach of section 288(1) and section 8 of the Armed Forces Act”, he said. “I therefore want …” at this point the Speaker cut him short.

“Hon. Obahiagbon, please can you approach the Chair?”.

There was some protest from some members, but all the same, Obabiagbon, went up and met the Speaker.

After about two minutes of what looked like an argument between the two men, Hon. Obabiagbon, made  his way back to his seat and sat down quietly.

This caused some disquiet in the chamber as some members left their seats to tête-à-tête  on the issue.

After about five minutes, the Speaker again called the House to order.

An interesting development then ensued.

“Now, Hon. Patrick”, the Speaker said, “do you want to continue with your point-of-order?” he asked.

“No, Mr. Speaker”, he said, “I want to defer to the Chair”, he said.

This invoked loud exclamations from the floor.

“No, you don’t have to refer to me please…”, but he was cut short by a loud shout of “point-of-order, Mr. Speaker”

Without even getting the nod, Hon. Samuel Sejoro (AC/Lagos) started.

“Mr Speaker, last Wednesday night, the President of this country was smuggled into this country like a ghost in the night”, he said.

“My President, I heard, he is being detained against his wish and that of the Nigerian people”, he went on.

But, the Speaker kept calling him to approach the chair, calls  he ignored.

“I want this House to invite Hajia Turai Yar’Adua and all those detaining the President to appear before this House and explain why they are breaching section 308 of the constitution of Nigeria”, he said.

“Hon. Sejoro, please approach the Chair”, the Speaker hammered.

In a rather hilarious reply, Hon. Sejoro, said, “Mr Speaker, I am not approaching any Chair”, which led many members into laughter, as Sejoro took his seat, in what looked like a planned rebellion against the Speaker’s stand on Yar’Adua.

There were many more calling on points-of-order all at the same time. This stalled proceedings for about ten minutes.

“I am left with no choice than to call for an executive session”,  said, Bankole, “please clear the gallery”, he ordered.

The Reps emerged after two and half hours to announce the resolution of the House through the Leader of the Reps, Hon. Tunde Akogun (PDP/Edo).

“The House of Representatives having reviewed the state of the nation”, he said, “resolve to concentrate on only those things that will encourage peace, unity, stability and progress of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

But, not all members were satisfied.


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