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Reps in row over minority principal officers

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IT was all commotion in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers disrupted legislative activities as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila began to announce the list of Minority principal officers of the House.

They alleged that the appointment of Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta) as the Minority Leader as announced by the Speaker was unilaterally done.

The session immediately degenerated into a rowdy one as a splinter group from the minority party surged forward and attempted to snatch the mace, telling the Speaker to halt further announcement.

According to them, the party’s list should be announced instead of the nomination list which had the name of Ndudi Elumelu as Minority Leader and Toby Okechukwu as his deputy.

Plenary was thereafter abruptly adjourned.

At exactly 2.27pm, some members of the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) and their colleagues from the opposition parties formed a shield around the Speaker for him to leave the Chamber.

They chanted “Gbaja, Gbaja”.

Addressing reporters, both parties said they had complied with Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rules of the House.

The PDP caucus, led by Kingsley Chinda  (PDP-Rivers), who was tipped as Minority Leader, noted that the PDP leadership officially communicated its position via a letter dated June 26.

The group claimed that their list has Chinda as Minority Leader, Chukwuma Onyeama as Deputy Minority Leader, Yakubu Barde as Minority Whip and Muraino Ajibola as Deputy Minority Whip.

Chinda accused Gbajabiamila of flagrant abuse of legislative practice and attempting to read a different communication that had the names of some lawmakers unknown to the caucus.

Chinda said: “We all met as members of Minority Party that the party should choose among them and revert back to us.”

He noted that all the members of the minority parties unanimously agreed to align with minority parties, adding that going outside the list is an attempt to decimate the minority party.

“We are ready to cooperate with the Gbajabiamila-led administration, yet we are also ready to critically and very responsibly look at the various policies of the Federal Government,” he said.

He alleged that the letter which purportedly emanated from some PDP lawmakers and supported by the APC leadership, was an intrusion into affairs of the minority parties.

Elumelu group added that the nine minority parties endorsed the nominations.

Elumelu disclosed that of the 147 members of the opposition parties, 111 voted in support his faction.

He said: “We are convinced of their character, integrity and experience to discharge the duty of the office in line with the House Rules, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in the interest of the Minority caucus.

“The caucus will continue to do everything to promote and respect the interest of our various parties and use the instrumentality of legislation to ensure a fair deal for all Nigerians.”

The lawmakers maintained that the decision was unanimously taken by the nine minority parties.

They argued that the choice of the principal officers was in line with Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rules of the House of Representatives.

Also yesterday, Kazaure Kudaji (APC-Jigawa) condemned the imposition of APC members as principal officers by the APC National Working Committee.

Kazaure who expressed interest to vie for the position of Majority Leader noted that the choice of the principal officers should be left for members, adding that nobody is more loyal than him.

A member of the ad hoc committee on Media and Publicity, Bamidele Salami, in the company of another member, Yusuf  addressed reporters on the issue, saying that the Speaker acted in line with established  rules and procedure.

According to him 99 of the 146 members signed the letter to the Speaker.

They said: “The correspondence the Speaker relied on comprised of all minority parties and there was nothing untoward.

“The House is governed by rules and that is what happened today as done in previous Assemblies.”

Speaking on the attempt by some members to snatch the Mace, Salami said. “Necessary measures would be taken with regards to those that attempted to snatch the mace and disrupt proceedings, in accordance with the rule book.”

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