…summon Lai Mohammed for explanations
..PDP Reps stage walkout from chamber as Gbajabiamila rejects point of order to reverse 10 days period for C’mte probe
…lawmakers dare Malami, say we’ll continue to tweet, say jail us on behalf of Nigerians
…S/West Caucus condemns Oyo killings, urges Buhari to live up to expectations
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Following the outrage that greeted the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, the House of Representatives on resumption of plenary, Tuesday, mandated its relevant Committees to investigate the circumstances of the ban.
The House also invited the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed to appear before it and explain to the lawmakers the reasons for the ban.
This came as the members of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party PDP Caucus staged a walkout from the chambers over rejection of a point of order by the speaker to immediately allow for rescission of the ban decision.
Similarly, the southwest Caucus in the House decried the killings in the country especially that of the Igangan in Oyo State, asking President Muhammadu Buhari and the security agencies to be alive to their responsibilities.
In his welcome address to welcome the members on the resumption of plenary after the zonal public hearing on the constitution review exercise, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila announced the decisions.
Gbajabiamila said it was the role of the Legislature to unravel the circumstances of the ban, saying that the House has been bombarded with calls by Nigerians to intervene in the matter.
Why Reps must investigate circumstances of Twitter ban-Gbajabimila
The speaker said that Twitter has become a significant tool for Communication and Commerce in Nigeria, and therefore cannot be ignored.
He said that the parliament will listen to Nigerians as well as the government on the matter.
He saddled the Committees on Communication, Information, Justice, and Legal Matters with the task of conducting the investigation, giving them 10 days to expeditiously conclude the assignment and report back to the House for further legislative action.
He said: “On Friday the 4th of June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced the immediate suspension of the operations of the social media network, Twitter in Nigeria.
“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his statement announcing the suspension, cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as the reason for the decision to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The suspension on Twitter in Nigeria has generated fierce debate. The House of Representatives has since the announcement been inundated with comments about the decision, requests for intervention, and criticism. The House of Representatives recognizes that Twitter, like other social media networks, is an important tool for communication and commerce in Nigeria, particularly amongst the younger generation who have used these networks for enterprise and innovation with great success. The House also recognizes that as social media has been a tool for good, it can also be a tool for bad actors. As such, the government has a legitimate interest in ensuring that these platforms are not used to commit vile actions against individuals and the State.
“The proper role of the legislature in circumstances like this is first to peel back the layers of the decision-making process to unravel the issues until we develop an understanding of the why and the how of executive decisions. Following that, the legislature must make sure that regulatory and enforcement actions by the government are in accordance with the laws of the land, that due process of law has been followed to the latter and that the outcomes of regulatory decisions do not result in adverse consequences for the country and all our people. Fidelity to our responsibilities in situations like this requires the legislature and legislators to as in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”. We listen to the agitation of the people, but we also hear from the government so that from the abundance of information, we reach the level of awareness that allows us to discharge our role dispassionately.
“It is in service of our obligations under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our moral duty to the Nigerian people, that the leadership of the House has decided to mandate the House Committees on Communication, Justice, Information and Culture, and National Security and Intelligence to immediately commence an investigation to determine: The circumstances of the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria; and The legal authority for the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The Committees are additionally mandated to Invite the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to brief the House of Representatives on the objectives, intent, and duration of the suspension on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, and to report to the House within ten (10) days. The report of the Committees will guide further action by the House of Representatives on this matter. Therefore, I urge the Committees to act with speed and sound judgment to address this issue that has animated our national conversations over the last few days.”
There is murder in broad daylight
The speaker also bemoaned the incidences of kidnappings banditry and killings in the land, saying there is murder in broad daylight.
“Over the last couple of weeks, across our country, there has been a marked increase in the incidents and severity of violent outbreaks, kidnapping, banditry, and murder in broad daylight. From Owerri in Imo State to Igangan in Oyo State.
“From Niger to Kaduna, and across the states of the Northeast, we are witnessing bloodshed and violence of the sort usually associated with war. These are trying times for all our nation’s people. Families are in mourning; communities are under siege and even those who have thus far escaped the direct impact of the escalating violence cannot help but feel as if they are living on borrowed time. We are reminded of the urgent need for coordinated and targeted action by all government at all levels to address this menace and save our nation.
“Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives hosted a Special Summit on National Security to harness the views of citizens and stakeholders, experts from within and outside, to define a new strategy for combating the different manifestations of insecurity in our country. The contributions we received from across the country and the recommendations made therein have already begun to inform legislative action in the House of Representatives. Tomorrow, the House will begin consideration of a slate of Bills intended to reform our national security statutory framework. We are seeking through legislation to address the issues of overlapping mandates resulting in inter-agency rivalry and lack of cooperation amongst the security agencies. We are seeking to make community policing operational so that communities and the police can work together to protect our people across the country.
“We intend to change the way the Armed Forces conduct operations so that the three arms of our military can work more effectively together to overcome shared challenges. And we want to change the nature of interactions between the civilian population and the military so that the conflicts that breed resentment and undermine national security can be eliminated once and forevermore. These Bills are only the first of the legislative interventions relating to national security that we will be considering. Also, the final report of the Summit, including the recommendations for legislative action will shortly be presented to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. I have his assurance that the painstaking recommendations made by the House will receive his full attention and accelerated action.”
The Drama/PDP Reps’ walkout
In the course of the proceedings, the leader of the PDP Caucus, Hon. Kingsley Chinda raised a point of order, asking Gbajabiamila, as an additional prayer to the twitter probe, urge the federal government to rescind its decision pending when the interface was concluded.
He reasoned that the period was long and that a decision needed to be taken on the matter immediately.
But the speaker rejected the point of order, saying that a decision had already to taken on the matter and a Committee mandated to probe the circumstances of the ban.
Chinda: “Mr. Speaker, I stand on section 39 of the Nigerian constitution, section 19 of the Universal declaration on Human and Peoples right and article 9 of the African charter of Human and Peoples right.
“As a representative of the people, I have a source of communication with my constituents, I have a source of interaction with my leaders. But in moving this, I must, with all sense of responsibility commend the steps you took this morning concerning this issue of ban of twitter. It was very proactive, very timely.
“But my concern is that as a Nigerian and several other Nigerians out there, the implication is that for the ten days you have given that committee to work, this breach will continue. We don’t even know for how long thereafter our interaction with the Executive arm will last.
“While I agree with the submission of the leadership of this House completely, I will only want to add that for the breach of our fundamental human right, particularly the right to fair hearing, right to freedom of speech and expression, we should urge the Executive arm in the interim to reverse the ban pending our interaction with the Executive.”
But in response, the Speaker ruled him out of order.
Gbajabiamila: “Let me quickly refer you to order 9, rule 1 sub rule 6 of our rules which states that it shall be out of order to reconsider any specific question upon which the House has come to a conclusion during the current session except upon a substantive motion for rescission.
“This matter has already been sent to the committees to look at the issues you are talking about and will report to us within ten days. Even if you had brought a motion here, it would have been referred to a committee. We are not even sure if your motion would not have been killed. This day, we have saved the day. So you are ruled out of order.”
He therefore asked Chinda to resume his seat.
But Chinda who was still upstanding continued with his motion.
Swiftly, the Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa lent his voice, asking Chinda to “be guided” and comply with the speaker’s directive.
Similarly, the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Mohammed Mongunu asked Chinda to also sit down and allow the matter as the Speaker had ruled.
Seeing that the House was getting seated up, the Speaker quickly moved on with the proceedings, calling for the attention of the House, ignoring Chinda.
At his juncture, Chinda and his colleagues gathered their belongings and exited the chamber to address the press, insisting that members of the PDP caucus in the House will continue to tweet.
Just then, shouts of “you can leave, you can go” emerged from some members who asked them the leave.
Point of Order to Investigate PDP Reps
When normalcy returned after their exit, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi from Plateau State raised a point of Order, saying that his privilege has been breached.
He told the House that some members of the opposition had vowed a few days ago to disrupt today’s proceedings should the Speaker fail to allow them discuss the twitter ban.
Gagdi said that the report breached his privileges as a member of the parliament, calling for investigation of his colleagues who made the utterances.
He said: “I want to draw the attention of the House what I read on the pages of newspapers and online platforms especially the Primetimes Nigeria. I saw it on Primetimes that Nigerian lawmakers threaten to ground plenary of Femi Gbajabiamila and other members prevent debate. It is a fundamental breach of my right as a member of this house. What just happened is an insult to Nigerians and it shows that it was preplanned.
“If the Primetimes had reported that members of the National Assembly elected by the people of Nigeria who ought to support your leadership having come up with programs aimed at finding solutions to the killings in the north, south and around this country will come up and say they will frustrate our efforts towards ensuring that Nigerians live well and the fact that we have come up with programmes that will ensure the protection of lives of people of this country fail.
“Some members of parliament cannot suffocate the parliament and cannot consider the parliament as a department of government.
“Your speech this morning speaks volume. The matters of urgent importance raised this morning by members speaks volume where people are killed around the country especially the action of IPOB in killing people and the consequences was meted on innocent citizens of Benue state that knows nothing about it. It is high time we become disciplinarians.
“This parliament should be a parliament of law and order. It is high time this parliament show good example. We are elected people, but some members are instigating Nigerians when we are doing so much to better the lot of this country. This action of some lawmakers should be investigated. I Know my constituents. How many of them operate twitter. I am not appreciative or approving the action of the government. But we should stop this conspiracy of going to stop sitting because something did not go your way.
“I am a Nigerian citizen and I pledge to Nigeria my country. I mean it in my heart. I have hope that one day, Nigeria will live in peace again. So, I move that this action must be investigated”.
Let’s allow the matter to rest-Gbajabiamila
But the speaker in his response pleaded that the matter be allowed to rest, having set up a Committee.
He described as unfortunate a situation where some “seasoned lawmakers” knowing the rules would still deliberately device a means to disrupt the House.
“I think we should rest this matter. It is unfortunate that seasoned parliamentarians who should know better are behaving this way. But I believe that our duty as parliamentarians is to do what is right. This matter has been forwarded to the committees and report back to us. That is what we are supposed to do as parliamentarians.
At first, I thought it was a partisan thing. But I am happy to see several members of the opposition are still around in the chambers”, the Speaker said.
We will continue to tweet, dare Malami to arrest them-PDP Reps
Addressing the Press Corps later, the PDP Caucus led by Chinda said that the point of order was an added prayer to the Speaker’s speech.
While he commended Gbajabiamila for the proactive measure, he said that 10 days was a long period of time for Nigerians to wait before resuming their Twitter operations.
He said it was wrong for the speaker to have ruled him out of order.
The Caucus however vowed to continue to tweet despite the directive by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami.
The Caucus challenged the government to arrest them on behalf of Nigerians.
Chinda said: “We the Members of the PDP caucus of the House will continue tweeting, if they want to jail us they should. We surrender ourselves on behalf of Nigerians.
“The speaker presented a speech to us this morning. There was no debate on that issue. Resolution the House is always arrived at by majority vote, so in essence what happened this morning was the decision of the leadership and that’s why I said we agree with the decision of the leadership but we still have the right if we have further things to add to it. We are not angels, our leaders are not angels. It’s not against our rules, there was no debate and no vote was taken on those issues, so it’s not sacrosanct.
Sincerely, I will be surprised if the leadership of the House did not take that step, so we expected it and we agree. We are just saying that there’s nothing wrong in adding another prayer, which was what we sought to do. That’s why we said, also urge the executive arm to rescind their decision in the interim, pending the outcome of interaction between the legislature and the executive. We expected it, that’s what ordinarily, any Speaker would do but there’s nothing wrong in adding additional prayers.
“Like I said what we did is covered by our rules, we didn’t offend any section of our rules. However to show sincerity on our part we will still bring a motion but I can tell you it won’t be taken, even when it’s taken I will also say that they will all arrange to kill the motion. What we are saying is that let us have our say and let the majority have their way. Let Nigerians know our position all the time.
“We are all representing different constituencies and so you do not expect all of us to stand on the same position. Like I said it’s a decision of PDP caucus that we are ready to present ourselves for prosecution. Some members might not be willing to do that and you can’t force them to do so. Our constituents are in support of our position and will continue to stand with people of Nigeria.
“Like I said there’s no crack in the PDP caucus of the National Assembly, you don’t expect everyone to be here at the same time. There’s no crack”.
Reps via a motion ask IGP to arrest Igangan killers
Earlier at the plenary, the House adopted a motion presented by Hon. Muraina Ajibola on behalf of all lawmakers from the South West region, directing the Inspector General of Police, lGP and the entire police force to intensify their efforts with a view to arresting the assailants of indigenes of Igangan community in Oyo State, prosecuting them and preventing reoccurrence.
The House also directed the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and other relevant agencies to provide relief materials to assist all those whose properties or businesses were destroyed as a result of the invasion.
Ajibola in the motion said it was disheartening that “as a result of this attack on lgangan town, it is alleged that
over 50 harmless indigenes of the town were killed in cold blood, about 90
others sustained life threatening injuries, 50 houses including the palace of the
Oba of the town (Asigangan of lgangan), petrol filling stations, houses, shops
with goods inside, trucks with goods inside and other properties worth millions of Naira were razed to ashes by the marauders”.
He added that “due to this last attack, residents of igangan Town and lbarapa axis of 0yo State, are relocating from the town or area in droves, which is likely to paralyse the economic and social activities of the town or area and has
indeed paralysed them”, adding that ” this last attack is capable of escalating the already tensed security situation in lgangan town, Oyo State and all the states in the South-west of Nigeria, if the assailants are not apprehended and brought to justice”.
South West Caucus bemoans killings in Oyo State, urges Buhari, security agencies to live up to expectations
Briefing the Press Corps after the plenary, the south west Caucus led by its leader, Hon. Olufemi Fakaye killers of Yoruba Indigenes were looking for trouble.
“We are here because of the rampage in the country, day in day out, night in night out, particularly as it affects the South West. We want to let the whole world know that we condemn the killings that were done by barbaric, callous, invaders and suspected herdsmen, particularly Ibarapa and south west.
“We want them to know that when you come to somebody’s home and you attack him then you are asking for trouble. Also we are here to urge the federal government to immediately put in motion all the necessary things they have to do to arrest and prosecute all the perpetrators of this incident. Otherwise if this continues, it will be an invitation for others who are thinking to do so to continue. We don’t want the perpetrators to get away with it.
“We urge the security agencies to work together in synergy. They need intelligence to curb this menace. All these agencies should work together in a way they share information and be one step ahead. We do not want war in this country , but for there to be no war people that are in charge of governance will have to be seen to do what’s needful”, Fakaye said.