Lawmakers in Fisticuffs over House Leadership Election



LAWMAKERS in the House of Representatives on Thursday, June 25, engaged in a free-for-all fight over the sharing of principal offices by the majority All Progressives Congress, APC.

During the conflict, the angry APC members on the floor of the House tore each other’s clothes, threw punches, upturned tables, threw missiles such as books, chairs and shouted on top of their voices for about two hours the rowdy session lasted.

Some members, led by Balarabe Salame, a member from Sokoto State, attempted to snatch the mace, but the Sergeant-at-Arms and other lawmakers quickly intervened, took the mace and locked it up in the speaker’s office.

Salame also attempted to attack Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House, but was made to retreat as Dogara loyalists rushed at him and threatened to throw him out of the chamber.

Amid the shoving and punching, there were also shouts of “Dogara”, “Dogara”, “Give us our leaders”, “Party is supreme’’, “PDP, power”, “APC, change” and “APC, shame.”

Trouble started on Thursday, June 25, when contrary to the expectations of some of the APC lawmakers, Dogara did not announce the names of the principal officers. Instead, he decided to call for an executive session soon after he entered the chambers.

The speaker had beckoned to Orkey Jev, a member from Benue State, to move a motion for the executive session. Infuriated by the action, members started shouting, “point of order, “point of order”, but Dogara ignored them and directed Jev to continue.

Irked by the audacity, pandemonium ensued as a member climbed onto a desk right in front of Dogara and tried to incite members, but he was chased down by Dogara’s supporters.

The party, had in a letter dated June 23, and directed to the speaker, asked Dogara to announce Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos State) as the majority leader; Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (Kano State) as his deputy; Mohammed Monguno (Borno State) as the chief whip; and Pally Iriase (Edo State) as his deputy.

While the commotion was going on, Gbajabiamila sat quietly at a corner, watching the unfolding drama.

But sensing that the matter was getting out of hands, he rose from his seat to meet with Dogara. After their discussion, Gbajabiamila’s efforts to speak to rowdy lawmakers eventually succeeded about 30 minutes later when tempers subsided and warring members returned to their seats.

Dogara, thereafter, addressed the House, expressing disappointment over the conduct of the members. He said as representatives of 170 million Nigerians they were sent to the House to promote national interest and not personal or sectional interests.

He said Nigerians were expecting to so much from them to solve the nation’s numerous problems. “They want to hear us talk about unemployment, poverty; in my region, they want us to address insecurity and as long as this House is divided and not united, we cannot achieve that.”

On the issue that led to the crisis, Dogara said all available channels would be explored to resolve it.

“As to the issues that led to the fracas today, we will sit down as leaders and resolve whatever caused the fight. We have to ensure that this matter, as quickly as possible, is resolved and that is what we will do by the grace of God,” he said.

In apparent move to douse the tension, the speaker then adjourned the House until July 21.

Reacting to the fracas, Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a statement on Thursday, June 25, described the incident as a national show of shame. “The barbaric attempt to physically assault a duly elected Speaker, seize the mace, the authority of the House, is a direct attack on the Nigerian parliament, which embodies the supremacy of the people and our freedom as a democratic nation,” he said.

On its part, the APC through Mai Mala Buni, its national secretary, condemned the incident as unwarranted. But added: “The party stands by the list sent by the party to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

— Jul 6, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT


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