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The good, bad, ugly sides of Dogara’s House

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By Emman Ovuakporie

IN less than three weeks the 8th  House of Representatives will kiss the dust as the 9th  House mounts the centre stage for another four years.

Speaker Dogara

A peep into the 8th House shows that though there were stormy sessions, the Yakubu Dogara-led Green Chamber equally had some good, bad and ugly sides.

The 8th House started in earnest with a lot of knotty issues such as the leadership problem that almost drowned it.

Leadership battle

Speaker Yakubu Dogara was not the anointed candidate as he narrowly defeated Femi Gbajabiamila, the assumed choice of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC with just eight  votes.

The issue raged for almost four weeks as the Dogara House felt the South-West should not produce two principal officers in Yussuff Lasun and Femi Gbajabiamila.

The party eventually had its way and a whole zone, the South East, was denied a position in the principal officers cadre for not having a ranking member from the APC.

At the end of it all, the South-West produced the deputy speaker and majority leader of the House.

After this tussle, Dogara and his men started serious legislative business which made the House to churn out many bills and resolutions.

Budget padding controversy

By 2016, the 8th House had settled down but the issue of budget padding reared its ugly head as the House leadership was accused of adding what the executive considered stealing from the back door.

For months, the issue of padding raged on until the alleged arrowhead of the budget padding, Hon Abdulmunin Jibrin, who was the primary game changer that led to Dogara’s emergence as speaker, was suspended.

Jibrin, a dogged fighter, made the House a war zone until he honourably stepped aside after the Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai nailed him with his committee on Ethics and Privileges report.

But then, most lawmakers had argued that budget padding was one of their legitimate legislative businesses.

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Hon Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, PDP, Abia had argued then that” it is our constitutional right to pad and unpad the budget.  We can add or deduct from the the budget estimates submitted by the executive by even moving projects from a sector to any other sector we consider to be important.”

The arguments of most lawmakers then fell on deaf ears as the leadership felt Jibrin violated House rules by opening his mouth too wide.

SEDC, NEDC bills

After the budget palaver, the South East Development Commission Bill almost divided the House.

Immediately the North East Development Commission Bill was passed, the South East lawmakers felt marginalised and moved for a similar initiative, but the Bill was killed.

They hinged their argument on the ravages of the civil war that dislocated the hard working easterners, saying that passing the Bill and getting the commission on its feet will go a long in redressing the clamour for Biafra.

The Bill couldn’t fly as the House killed it though the promoters felt something went wrong as it was widely believed that the ayes had it before Dogara hit the gavel that the nays had it.

All lawmakers from the South-East zone staged a walk out and the issue made them to feel betrayed and marginalised as they all supported the North East Development Commission Bill.

But just last week the Bill was re-introduced by the House and it has passed into second reading , exactly the stage it was killed on June 2, 2017.

Executive, NASS frosty relations

By 2017, Dogara had taken full charge and piloted the House from troubled waters but the cold war between the House and the executive continued but it did not stop the House from churning out bills.

237 House bills

In less than four years, Dogara’s men passed over 237 Bills making it the highest since the inception of democracy in 1999.

Some of the Bills that really appealed to the sensibilities of Nigerians include the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB, Review of Minimum Wage Amendment Act, 2012, the Electoral Amendment Act of 2015, the Age Limit Amendment Act and other bills.

Of the 237 Bills passed so far, President Muhammadu Buhari rejected 22 bills.

We saw a speaker leading debates and chairing the committee of the Whole to ensure legislative works suffer no setbacks.

The North East Development Commission Bill debate was led by Dogara himself abandoning the podium and the gavel to fight a cause.

In the area of passing bills and resolutions, the House performed above all other assemblies put together.

However, comradeship among lawmakers was absent this time around unlike the 7th and 6th  Houses.

The Aminu Tambuwal and Dimeji Bankole days were memorable as comradeship made the House thick.

Death of legislators

All the same, the good sides of the 8th House outweighs its ugly sides but unfortunately it recorded the highest number of deaths.

Between 2015 and now the House lost six lawmakers including two that won in the February polls to return.

The 7th  Assembly recorded the loss of one lawmaker in 2014.

As the ninth House prepares to kick-start next month, it is hoped that marginalisation of any geo-political zone in leadership position will not be re-enacted and some of the ugly sides recorded in the House should die with it.

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