By Levinus Nwabughiogu
The cold war between Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Kingsley Chinda representing Obio/Akpor federal constituency of Rivers State to another subtle dimension at Wednesday plenary of the House just before members commenced debate on the general principle of the 2020 budget.
Hardly had the Speaker called for the moving of the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation bill than Chinda raised a point of order.
Granted to speak, Chinda said that the bill was not yet ‘ripe’ for debate.
He cited the relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the House Rules to back up his claims.
Specifically, Chinda said that the law and the rules favoured making available the details of the budget to lawmakers before it can be debated.
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari while presenting the estimates on Tuesday told the lawmakers that the Minister of Finance will make the details available.
He argued that it was unconstitutional to jump on the debate without following due process.
But in response, Speaker Gbajabiamila stated that the debate was on the general principle of the bill and not on the details.
He, therefore, ruled Chinda out of order, calling on the Leader of the House, Hon. Ado Doguwa to go ahead with the motion.
He said: “The second reading of a bill, what do we call it? General principle. Do we debate details, we don’t. You are ruled out of order. Leader.”
The Speaker was to later clarify the controversy midway plenary by quoting section 81 of the constitution.
According to him, the constitution which he said was to grand norm supported the debate.
He said: “We set back a little to clarify the issue for the sake of the public. It is absolutely in line with our constitution. Even the Constitution which is the grand norm allows it.”
It will be recalled that Gbajabiamila and Chinda got ruffled with each other during the nomination of the principal officers for the opposition party in July.
Chinda had appeared for the announcement as the minority leader when the Speaker announced Hon. Ndudi Elumelu’s name.
While Chinda claimed he was duly endorsed by his party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP and other minority parties, Gbajabiamila said Elumelu was the candidate mentioned in the list given to him by all the minority parties.
At another legislative day, Chinda went to sit on the seat exclusively preserved for the minority leader, angling to argue his case.
All his efforts raised on a point of order to address the matter eventually failed as Gbajabiamila insisted that he addressed the House from his allocated seat.
Meanwhile, the House despite the unhealthy development went ahead with the debate.
The bill is A Bill for an Act to authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N10,330,416,607,347 only.
Of the figure, N556,700,827,235 only was earmarked for Statutory Transfers. Similarly, N2,748,598,930,000 only was proposed for Debt Service just as N4,880,309,549,778 only was for Recurrent (Non–Debt) Expenditure.
The sum of N2,144,807,300,334 only was projected for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending 31 December 2020.
Speaking on the general principle, most members commended President Buhari for the early submission of the budget.
The debate continues on Thursday.