ABUJA—IT was a day of sadness for lawmakers from the South East as the Bill that seeks to establish a development commission for the zone was killed.

The House went into a rowdy session when lawmakers from the South-East staged a walk out as the final judgment of the presiding officer, Yakubu Dogara was called to question, leading to the killing of teh Bill.

Members of the House of Representatives protesting in the Charmers during Plenary Session during consideration of South – East Development Bill at the National Assembly in Abuja yesterday. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

The Speaker took the voice vote twice after announcing to members to vote according to their conscience.

Drama started initially when the Bill was stepped down after its lead sponsor ,Chukwuka Onyema Wilfred, a lawmaker, was not present on the floor of the House.

Before then, many of the South-East lawmakers had begun approaching the Speaker supposedly, lobbying for the Bill to pass.

But when the Bill was called to be read the second time, Wilfred was no where to be found and Bode Ayorinde, Deputy Chairman of House Rules and Business Committee, applied that it be stepped down to another legislative day.

After it was stepped down, the House went into a rowdy session as the South-East lawmakers particularly of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) started protesting.

Particularly  vehement was Jones Onyeyriri, lawmaker from Imo, who was shouting on top of his voice.

Attempts of the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, to calm down the lawmakers was not successful as the rowdiness lasted for about 15 minutes.

When calm was eventually restored, Dogara said the House would not shut anyone out.

He clarified that it was the decision of the House to step down the bill and not his.

“If he was around, he will take it (Bill). We can’t shut out  any  member. If he wants to still take it, he can, but we have to suspend our rules,” Dogara said.

At this point, Ogor moved for the House to rescind its decision but when it was put to a vote, the “nays” were more but the Speaker gave it to the “ayes”.

Some of the lawmakers who contributed to the debate, said the timing of the bill was not right and adequate consultations were not done before it was brought before the House.

Rep Kehinde Agboola (PDP, Ekiti) said: “I see this commission as a way of solving some of the problems we have nationwide. I appeal with the entire House that history will not forgive us if we don’t pass this bill. Let’s support this bill in national interest.”

Recall that a similar bill was read on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday 22 June,2016,sponsored by Senator Stella Oduah, PDP, Anambra north and co-sponsored by Senator Samuel Anyanwu and other South East Senators.

Presentation of the bill by Wilfred Onyema:

“The Bill is designed to establish the South East Commission charged with the responsibility among other things to receive and manage funds from allocation of the federation account for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, houses and infrastructural damages suffered by the region as a result of the effects of the civil war as well as tackle the ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the South East states.

“The South East states presently consist of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. These states were then under Eastern Region that fought the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. This led to massive destruction of critical infrastructure in the region including roads, houses and environmental degradation.

“The zone has still not overcome the severe effects of the civil war suffered over 50 years ago in which millions of lives were lost, properties and infrastructures destroyed.

“Added to this deplorable situation is the fact that the zone is currently ravaged by gully and coastal erosion, bad roads, non-functional railways, abandoned sea port and the second Niger Bridge.

“We are worried and much more concerned that of the three Rs of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the zone proclaimed by Ge. Gowon (rtd); the zone is yet to be Reconstructed and Rehabilitation.”

On how the Commission would be funded, Onyema said: “Three percent of the total budget of any oil producing company operating onshore and offshore in the South East states including Gas processing companies.

“Three percent of the total annual budget of any solid mineral extracting Mining Company operating in the South East. 50 percent of monies due to member states of the commission from the Ecological fund.

“Such monies as may from time to time be granted or lent to or be deposited with the commission by the Federal Government  or state government, any other body or institution whether local or foreign.

“All monies raised for the purpose of the commission by way of gifts, loans, grants-in-aid, testamentary disposition or otherwise and proceeds from other assets that may from time to time accrue to the commission.

Ezeife reacts

Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, yesterday stated that the “killing” of the Bill for the South East Development Commission, was a clear manifestation that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress, APC, and the National Assembly were hastening the exit of the South East from Nigeria.

He said:  “Well, what I will say is that, they are hastening the exit of South East from Nigeria. It is clear that the government of the APC and General Muhammadu Buhari have consistently worked against the South East. Now the National Assembly has joined.

“I am shocked to hear that the South East Development Commission Bill was rejected in the House of Representatives, but I am happy to hear that the South South and South West were in solidarity with the South East.

“There are two points here. First is, let our members (South East lawmakers) demand a count, we want to know who are with us. Two, I understand from reports that the “ayes” had it but the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara ruled against it.”



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