By Okey Ndiribe, Asst. Political Editor & James Ezema
Angry reactions from prominent Nigerians has continued to trail the free-for-all fight which broke out among members of the House of Representatives.
Chief Olu Falae,Â presidential candidate of the All Peoples PartyÂ (APP) 1999
It was the shame of the nation. How could those elected or even rigged in to rule us afford to be physicallyÂ fighting and disrobing one anotherÂ in the Hallowed Chambers of the House of Representatives. In 1962, for far less than what happened last Tuesday, happened inÂ the Western House of Assembly which led to a state of emergency being imposed on the region.
These law-makers are behaving most irresponsibly and they are also putting our democracy in jeopardy. The military could intervene over a situation like that. This followedÂ on a series of fraud and scams which have occurred in the House of Representatives. Even the Economic and Financial crimes Commission ( EFCC) said this House is a House of scandals. What kind of Representatives are these people? I am really ashamed to say I am a Nigerian for whom such people are making laws.
How can they talk about increasing their salaries and allowances considering the fact that what they are being paid now is scandalous? I think the time has come when we should revert to having part-time legislators. Thatâ€™sÂ how it was during the first republic.
That was when the trio of the late Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello- the Sardauna of Sokoto were legislators.Â Legislators were only paid sitting allowances when they attended proceedings of the house. It is because such people have made politics their full time business that we are witnessing all this nonsense. We should go back to part time membership of the legislature.
Olisa Agbakoba former President ofÂ Nigeria Bar Association (NBA)
What happened at the House of Representatives last Tuesday was a national disgrace. The underlying problem is that he has lost sight of their responsibilities. They have converted the National Assembly to their personal resource. All they are interested in isÂ money. Those who are in the Speakerâ€™s group are not happy that those who belong to the Progressive camp have exposed fraud that has been perpetrated in the House.
From the top to the bottom of the House all they interested in is how to share money. By their conduct last Tuesday, theyÂ even exposed themselves before school-children. How many bills have they passed into law since inception? The Freedom of Information Bill which has been before the National Assembly since 1999 has still not been passed.
The Competition Bill has also notÂ been passed. I am surprised they have not passed a law which is in operation in many other countries of the world. It is a law which prevents companies from becoming monopolies in their chosen line of business. There is a lso the Maritime Zone Bill which I presented before the National Assembly. This is a bill which was conceived to expand the nationâ€™s territorial waters by 150 nautical miles. It would also expand our revenue base because the nation would have access to new maritime resources. My only hope is that we could credible elections next year. When they are seeking re-election, they would have to tell the electorate what they achieved during their first tenure.
John Odigie-Oyegun, former Governor of Edo State
The brawl that occurred in the House of Representatives was an unfortunate incident. It was terrible. Members of a House of Assembly are supposed to behave with dignity. After all they have oversight responsibilities over the totality of the activities of the Federal Government. In my own thinking, what happened was that members of the House were querying themselves to prevent abuse of office,Â misappropriation and corruption.
It is the same thing that members are supposed to do when they exercise their oversight functions. So, the answer is not to suspend dissenting members. The answer is to investigate the issues that have been raised by the dissenting members and it is found that the members are being malicious and untruthful, then the full weight of the law could be brought to bear on them.
What has happened now is that the House leadership is giving the impression that it has something to hide and the leaders are using their powers to oppress members who ostensibly are working for transparency and probity; and that is something this nation should not and cannot tolerate.
It is my suggestion that what they have done cannot stand and should not be allowed to stand. All necessary investigations should be carried out. For now it is like we have a corrupt leadership in the House which is trying to use its power to suppress a legitimate opposition.Â Members of the Progressive camp who have been suspended must be re3stored to their seats in the House; the suspension imposed on them would should be lifted.
If they dare to increase their salaries andÂ allowances which are already too much, we would march from Benin to Abuja to demand for explanations from them.
Alhaji Mohammed Goni, former Governor of Borno State
What happened in the House of Representatives last Tuesday was quite embarrassing for legislators who were elected by the people to behave like that. They have to apologise to the public for what they have done.
You know the type of politics we played during the second republic. I have never believed in handling public funds any how. I remember during my tenure as Governor when members of the House demanded for some money from me. What I told them was that instead of demanding for money from me, they should present demands for building ofÂ schools or provision of potable water in their respective constituencies. It is wrong for them to just share public money among themselves by approving any amount they like as salaries and allowances for themselves.
There are people who canâ€™t even get three square meals in a day; many Nigerians are suffering.
Itâ€™s unethical conductâ€”Shettima
National Chairman of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima maintained that the conduct of the lawmakers was embarrassing, saying, â€œThis is a clear demonstration to tell you that the type democracy we have in place is nothing to write home about. This has shown that we donâ€™t have leaders. It is a clear indication that we donâ€™t have true representatives because some of them were not elected by the people. Any man who is elected by the people shouldnâ€™t have behaved the way the likes of Dino Melaye were behaving as if we were witnessing area boys somewhere in Oshodi or in Mushin. It was a disaster.
â€œIt is never ethical for any honourable member to be exchanging blows on the floor of the House. It was really embarrassing and Iâ€™m happy that some Reps that are honourable demonstrated to them that they do not have the monopoly of shouting. If there was allegation of corruption, they would not have gone that far to do what they did. They are not security agency. All they needed to do is to pave way for the anti-corruption agency to come in and find out whether it was true or false. Not that you toÂ turn the House into a motor park where anybody can come for cheap bargaining and bargain for positions when people in your constituency are there suffering and you cannot fight for one square meal for them.
Youâ€™re greedily looking for money for yourself and never making any impact in the House.â€
We didnâ€™t elect them â€” Gen. Akinrinade
Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd) on his part said: â€œWe pay N27.5 million every quota beside their requisite allowances and so on, had nothing to do for us but to sit together and start fighting in the Assembly because they want position. This is the situation we have found ourselves because we did not elect them. Come 2011, it is important for us to elect those who we want to lead us. Anyone who stands in the way, it is our duty to get him outâ€.
Revolution is not farâ€” Ndu
National chairman of African Renaissance Party (ARP) Alhaji Yahaya Ndu in his reaction said: â€œ The main problem with the National Assembly of Nigeria and by extension, the whole so-called democratic dispensation we are running is that it is as divorced from transparency as darkness is different from light. Our government from 1999 has been run as a secret society and all the three arms of government collaborate with each other to keep it so.
â€œIn August 2009, I and three other Nigerians instituted an action in an Abuja High Court aimed at getting the National Assembly to disclose to the public how much each legislator takes home by way of salary, constituency project and what have you. Well up this date, the matter is dragging in court. The truth is that the demanded facts should be public knowledge. Those who say they are public servants are in truth masters of the public or how can a servantâ€™s pay be a secret to the master?
â€œThe Nigerian press is not helping matters either as investigative journalism is absent from the polity.
The doctrine of separation of powers has been completely defaced in the Nigerian system, where the legislative arm is awarding contracts and things like that in an environment where they exercise oversight functions on others while none exercises oversight functions over them. Donâ€™t forget that they are completely separated from their so-called constituencies. And until we have a Nigerian peoples conference leading to a Nigerian peoples constitution, the nation will remain in darkness. These people fighting at the House chambers and alleging the kind of allegations we are hearing, when the masses are starving, are the same people that are reviewing the Nigerian Constitution. This indicates that a revolution may not be far from us all.â€
They should be more diplomatic â€” Yerima
National Chairman of Northern Friends of the South South (NFSS), Alhaji Suleiman Yerima stated: â€œThat is the beauty of democracy. It is not the first time that this is happening, even in British parliament, in Ukraine we have witnessed rowdy session. But when it becomes violence, it is not too good. They are not supposed to go violent. You disagree to agree. And my advise to them is that they should be diplomatic and civil in handling matters like that.â€