Coronavirus Updates

April 17, 2020

COVID -19: ‘Gbajabiamila got our consent through State caucuses before announcing salary donations’

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Speaker of House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila

Cautions Rep. Gbillah against making divisive utterances

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Spokeman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ben Kalu has said that the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila got the consent of the 360 members through their state caucuses before announcing the donation of their March and April 2020 salaries for the fight against coronavirus pandemic.

Kalu who is also the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs made the clarification in the wake of the controversy trailing the donations wherein some members said that they were not consulted before the decision was taken.

It will be recalled that Gbajabiamila recently made the announcement of the donations via a video that went viral on social media.

But almost one week afterwards, some lawmakers accused the speaker of taking a unilateral decision.

One of those lawmakers was Hon. Mark Gbillah from Benue State who in an interview with a national daily (not Vanguard) also said that Gbajabiamila was leading a divided House.

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Against this backdrop, the House’ image-maker Kalu who represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State in a statement sent to Vanguard said that the House was working in unison under the Speaker’s campaign slogan of “joint task”.

Kalu further explained that every member was reached through the leadership of their state caucus.

He said: “On the issue of the salaries of members and whether or not there was due consultations made, You will recall that the House has been on recess due to COVID-19 and so when the need arose for the house to assist Nigerians with our salaries, we were not attending plenaries. This is why in the administration of the house, state causes play a vital role in Information dissemination. We all belong to state caucuses.

“The leadership thought it wise in the face of the emergency to make use of our state caucus leadership in reaching out to us on the need to make a sacrifice that will cost us something for Nigerians. This was after members called for it by asking leadership to take a step in this direction. I remember one Hon. Mansur from Bauchi State even granted an interview asking the house to donate a certain amount. The pressure actually came from the members to the leadership and not the other way round.

“Once we were formally approached by our state caucus leaders we accepted to make the sacrifice. It was never imposed, we were never coerced. How can it be imposition or coercion when we had already started spending millions in our various constituencies on relief materials. Ask around in Bende I have sent goods and PPE to 5,000 homes and still doing more even after agreeing to give our salaries. It was an act of patriotism; love for fatherland not the imposition of the speaker. We are doing beyond what he asked us to sacrifice because we can not afford to “sit aside and look “ while our people die of hunger.

“The leadership under Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamilla obtained our consent through our state caucus leaders before authorising the NASS Management to effect the deductions of our salaries for two months. I will be shocked if Hon Gbillah was not contacted by the leader of his state caucus on this issue. The decision to give our salaries was not out of coercion but inspired by the need to bridge the gap created by the pandemic.”

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Kalu who however regretted the remarks by Gbillah, urged him to key into the “joint task” philosophy of the 9th House under Gbajabiamila’s leadership for the good of the House and country.

“I have been a victim severally and I think that’s what is happening to Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamilla, whose effort in impressing the House with novel ideas and a new style of result-oriented leadership will never worth a penny in the eyes of the detractors. This is how I describe the attack on the leadership of the House especially, the speaker and invariably the entire House which I speak for, by Hon Gbillah, who was in the opposing camp during the speakership contest.

“I wish he will join the joint task team fully like many of his colleagues including Hon Bago who was the first runner up in the speakership election. If Hon. Bago is jointly working with the leadership, why is someone crying more than the bereaved? Election has come and gone we should move on for the sake of Nigeria and jettison petty house politics. As an intelligent Honourable member his contributions will add value and I will urge him to hop on the joint task platform because there is a space for the value he will bring.

“The joint task for nation-building philosophy of the 9th Assembly equally flows between the leaderships of the two Houses of the National Assembly. I can assure Nigerians that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the house are always in consultation on issues of national importance. As you are aware concurrence is a fundamental part of our lawmaking and must be present at all times to grant validity to bills of the National Assembly before presidential assent. Therefore, both need each other to achieve any of their objectives. The members are impressed with the level of mutual respect in their working relationship.

“No attempt to sow a seed of discord between the leaderships of the houses will work because both are focused on supporting the executive in the good governance of this nation,” Kalu said.