By Jide Ajani & Emmanuel Aziken
Subtle presures by Presidency officials on the leadership of the House of Representatives to defer today’s emergency sitting on religious sentiments have been rebuffed.
The rebuff by the House leadership came in the wake of the revelation that the Senate buckled under the same pressure after it was agreed by the leadership of the two houses to convene extraordinary sittings in the light of the multiple crises facing the nation.
Today’s extraordinary session of the House is to deliberate on the removal of the controversial subsidy on the price of petrol and the declaration of emergency rule in four states of the country.
In formation made available by a very strategic leader in the House suggests that today’s session would “be with a view to ensuring that a middle ground is reached by both labour and the Federal Government.”
The House leader went on: “As it is today, the position of labour and government are mutually exclusive, very extreme on each side and that is not what Nigeria wants now.
“For every day that this country is shut down, we lose money, huge sums of money and the economy is not in a position to absorb such a shock now.
“That is why we believe that we owe it a duty to all Nigerians to ensure that we sit and find a middle ground. Our pursuit is to ensure that we mediate in the best way possible and we believe that God will help us achieve that.
“If labour can back down a bit, we believe we can prevail of President Jonathan to also meet down the middle. That would be good for now because the economy can not sustain what we see ahead”.
Sunday Vanguard also learnt that members of the House of Representatives, angry with the slide in the affairs of the country, are equally peeved by the invocation of religious sentiments to defer the sitting.
Presidency officials, it was learnt, had tried to persuade the House leadership to call off the sitting on the grounds that it would offend the religious sensibility of Christians.
That invocation was, however,dismissed by both Christian and Muslim members of the House who said the timing of the sitting was called by the exigencies of the issues facing the nation.
A leadership cadre member of the House told Sunday Vanguard: “It is very wrong to begin to invoke religion in this matter. Committees sit on Fridays but religion is given its pride of place as members still go for Jumat which is respected by other committees’ members.
I can tell you that some 90% of members of the House are already in town for tomorrow’s (today’s) meeting. Beyond that, why would the Presidency that is still grappling with the menace of Boko Haram be toying with that type of thing.”
Rep Victor Ogene, deputy chairman of the House of Reps Committee on Media, himself a Christian, told Sunday Vanguard today’s meeting is in order. His words: “It doesn’t matter, if the nation is going ablaze, it is a national issue. Don’t forget that Monday is the day earmarked for the strike. We would have held the session a number of days ago but, a number of our members had traveled.”
“We cannot sit idly while the entire nation grinds to a halt. We are not sitting just for sitting; we want to ensure that positive steps are taken,” he added.
Other sources in the National Assembly disclosed yesterday that the decision to hold the extraordinary session was reached with the Senate.
However, the Senate was said to have buckled on the issue at the last minute.
A top associate of Senate President David Mark, however, dismissed that inference, saying “I don’t think it is correct. I know that the Senate Committee on Labour is supposed to be interfacing with Labour.”
The associate added: “But then what is the need of sitting on Sunday whereas the Senate is resuming on Tuesday, what can be achieved without the President reverting to the old price.
Today’s session of the House is expected to deliberate on the removal of petrol subsidy and in the course adopt a motion requesting the president to revert to the old price. The House, it was learnt, is going to use its power of appropriation to ensure that subsidy is set as a line item in the budget.
“Don’t forget that the power of appropriation is with the legislature and the 2012 budget is still with us and we can use it as a power to check the executive.
It is not the executive that checks the legislature but the other way round,” a source privy to the developments told Sunday Vanguard.