By Emman Ovuakporie
Barely two weeks after the House of Representatives almost turned the green chamber into a war zone over alleged $1million bribe given to five All Progressives Congress, APC, legislators that defected to Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the House had a rowdy session over the suspension of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was another scene reminiscent of what transpired when both PDP and APC lawmakers slugged it out over who gave what to who, after reading the APC spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s statement, on the floor of the House, accusing the ruling party of bribing legislators to dump APC.
This time, the APC carried the day through their superior argument which made the House to reject the President’s directive to suspend the controversial SLS from office.
Leading the opposition was Hon. Samson Osagie, Minority Whip, APC, representing Orhionwhon/ Ohuede Federal Constituency, in Edo State.
Osagie, in his motion brought under matters of national importance, had questioned the timing of the apex bank governor’s suspension, especially as Sanusi had raised the weighty allegation of non-remittance of several billions of dollars to the Federation Account by the NNPC, which was yet to be resolved.
According to Osagie, Section 11(7) of the CBN Act, 2007, which gave the President the power to remove the Governor, subject to two-third majority approval of the Senate, did not contemplate suspension, saying that it was also doubtful if Sanusi was given fair hearing in accordance with the provisions of the law.
His motion was, however, dismissed by Hon. Henry Ofongo PDP, Bayelsa, who, through a point of order, faulted Osagie on the grounds he was bringing issues from the CBN Act which were not relevant to the matter he was debating. Ofongo was however asked to wait and present his point during the debate of the motion by the presiding officer, Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.Drama subsequently set in, throwing the session into a momentary uproar when another lawmaker, Hon. Ralph Nnana Igbokwe, PDP, Imo State, who raised a point of order drawing the attention of the House to the same section of the CBN Act cited by Osagie which gave the President powers to appoint and remove the CBN Governor.
According to him, if CBN was a public institution operating under the public service rules with Sanusi as a public officer heading the institution, he could be removed if found wanting in the discharge of his duties, urging the House “to resist every temptation not to act on the side of the law.”
Tambuwal, though ruled that Igbokwe was in order, explained that his assertion did not resolve the issue of suspension not being contemplated in the Act, as contended by Osagie, and, subsequently, gave the floor to the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Leo Ogor, PDP, Isoko Federal Constituency, Delta, who had indicated interest to speak against the motion, to go ahead.
But before Ogor, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, PDP through another point of order on matters of privilege warned that Sanusi, was an important personality, and a great Nigerian whose case should not be reduced to politicking on the floor of the House, a position the Speaker told members to note as they debate the sensitive issue. Ogor, in his submission, defended the suspension as the beginning of a process, and not an end in itself. “For you to remove somebody, there has to be a process, and the suspension is the beginning of that,” the lawmaker stated amidst shouts of “No! No!! No!!! from supporters of the motion. Tambuwal put the debate to a voice vote and the motion was unanimously adopted.
Also, apparently angered by what it perceived as selective implementation or non-compliance with its resolution against some public officers over corrupt practices, the House mandated its Committees on Justice and Legislative Compliance to compile all resolutions that have indicted any public officer for which President Goodluck Jonathan refused to act, and request the President to act on them immediately. Also on Thursday, the House adjourned for two weeks to enable it debate the 2014 Appropriation Act.
Spokesman of the House, Hon Zakari Lafia Mohammed, disclosed this at the weekly press corps briefing. Mohammed said the move was to enable different committees in the House to invite MDAs to defend their budgets.
He explained: “The House has adjourned till March 11 to enable committees properly look into the budget. ”MDAs will be coming to the House to defend their budgets. This will afford us the opportunity to know what to appropriate. We are only going on a working break where we will no longer sit at plenary, so as to give the Nigerian people a credible budget”.