ABUJAâ€”AS allegation over the intention of the House of RepresentativesÂ to share both the recurrent and capital vote of the House to each member, in this yearâ€™s budget put most Representatives on edge, yesterday, the House wentÂ into a two-hour close door session and refused to make an official statement over the allegation.
But, findings by Vanguard revealed that most of the members were angry with the leadership of the House, accusing it of selling the story to the Press to cover up alleged dirty deals under the capital vote of the House.
Vanguard gathered that the House had set up a committee to investigate the source of the story, during the executive session.
Signs of trouble came when some members came into the chambers with copies of Mondayâ€™s news stories published in some national dailies, revealing how the Reps had agreed to lump-up both the recurrent and N15.1billion capital vote of the House and share to each member, so that each could earn N42 million each quarter, this year over the N27.2million they earned last year
The members stood in groups appraising the stories until the presiding officer and other principal officers were led into the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms.
Twenty minutes into the session, Rep. Independence Ogunewe, PDP, Imo, raised a point of order, citing Order 5, Rule 1 of the House Rule, which had to do with privileges of members.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Bayero Nafada, who presided over the session, asked Ogunewe: â€œWhat is that privilege of yours that has been abridged?â€
Ogunewe replied: â€œMr. Speaker, as a member of this honourable chamber, my privilege has been abused. But I can only talk about it in an executive session.â€
This prompted flurry of side comments, and murmurings from the chamber.
â€œBut, you donâ€™t have the power to call for an executive sessionâ€, Nafada told infuriated Ogunewe, adding: â€œOnly the presiding officer has that privilege, so go on and tell us what is that privilege that has been abridged.â€
Again, the House came alive with members shouting at Nafada and some at Ogunewe. Others walked from seat to seat, while some just kept banging on their seats.
The House was, however, brought under control after about ten minutes.
Ogunewe said: â€œMr. Speaker, I did not want to speak on the issues with the Press and the cameras recording what I would say. But since you insist, I want it to be on record that I have warned this House, and when the headlines come out tomorrow, I should not be blamed.â€
This warning threw the House in near turmoil as those in support of Ogunewe and those against him picked on one another in open quarrels. When some measure of sanity was restored, Ogunewe was convinced to â€œapproach the chairâ€, where he had about a minute talk with Nafada.
After that, Nafada agreed that the House had an executive session, around 11.00 a.m. After 1:02 p.m, the door of the gallery was open once again for visitors and the Press. But, it took another 20 minutes to calm down members to seat for the business of the day.
No resolution read in the House
To the surprise of everyone, no resolution was read over the behind-the-door meeting. The session continued as if it had not been interrupted.
Some members who volunteered information to Vanguard after the plenary, said that at the meeting, most members expressed their anger over the story, blaming it on what they said, was the antics of the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole and his principal officers.
One of the members from a South-South state said: â€œLook at those diaries,â€ pointing at a heap of green velvety-smooth diaries resting on his shelf.
â€œThey just brought these diaries this afternoon. What am I going to do with 2010 diaries at this time of the year?
â€œLook at that fan. They supplied it, even when I am connected to a central air-conditioning system, and power here is constant. They supply us with blackberries and even torch lights, all without our consent.
â€œThese are the kinds of contracts that we wanted to stop the leadership from executing with Nigerian money. We never said we wanted the capital vote shared to us.â€
Another member from Kano State said:â€ The House of Reps has never been under this disrepute before. We know that they want to keep on doing contracts with our money, and they donâ€™t want us to stop them.
â€œThey are using the press to blackmail us, but we are going to find the root of the story and you will see what we will do after that.â€
All the members that volunteered comments agreed that a committee has been set up to dig to the root of the story. None, however, agreed to mention members of the committee.