Lawmakers Exchange Blows in Nigeria's House of Reps over Election of Principal Officers

• Speaker apologises over lawmakers’ conduct

Peace and decorum yesterday took a flight at the House of Representatives
as members engaged one another in a free-for-all.
But for the intervention of members of the Sergeant-at-Arms, the mace which
is the symbol of the Lower Chamber, would have been either broken or carted
away. But the law books of the House  placed on the same table with  the
mace were  not spared, as they were flung off.
The Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara narrowly escaped assault by a member, who
had moved fiercely towards him and held his clothes (Babariga).
This is even as Hon Dogara, said the lawmakers who instigated the crisis
during the plenary acted in contravention of the Standing Orders of the
House. He apologised for the lawmakers’ conduct.
If there was anything, the split within the caucus of the All Progressives
Congress (APC) lawmakers in the chamber was in doubt, it showed clearly
The show of shame started soon after the entry into the chamber by the
Speaker at 11:10 am
He had taken the traditional daily prayer at 11:13 am and quickly announced
that the House was going into executive session, obviously to sort out the
contentious issue of appointment of principal officers.
At 11.15am, the Speaker called on a member, Hon. Oker Jeff from Benue State
to move for an executive session.
Jeff had barely finished moving the motion when APC lawmakers loyal to Hon.
Femi Gbajabamila led by Hon. Abdullahi Salame (APC, Sokoto) started
shouting Point of Order! Point of Order!! Point of Order!!!.
Salame stood and made straight to the table where the mace was placed and
attempted to grab it.
The Sergeant-at-Arms men rushed quickly and held the mace. At a point, it
was like a tug of war game.
When he had been overpowered, Salame who was supported by Hon. Ali Madaki
(APC, Kano), abandoned the struggle for the mace and moved ferociously
towards the Speaker. He grabbed his flowing agbada. But he was shoved aside
immediately by some lawmakers. Dogara had to leave his seat and came down
to the lower chair where businesses other than the formal plenary session
are presided from.

Sensing that the Speaker could be attacked, some APC lawmakers, accompanied
by their PDP counterparts, formed a shield around Dogara.
However, the struggle for the mace lasted for about 20 minutes with the
Sergeant-at-Arms men aided by Dogara loyalists made up of APC and other
opposition lawmakers, moved the mace to a safe place.
Interestingly, key actors in the crisis, Hon. Dogara and Hon. Gbajabiamila
sat calmly on their seats without making any move.
Lawmakers loyal to Gbajabiamila chanted slogans such as: ‘’All we are
saying, give us Gbaja.” Anytime they shouted APC, their PDP counterparts
would reply “shame”.

However, instead of the situation calming down it was deteriorating. Some
APC members loyal to Dogara and Gbajabiamila pushed and wrestled one
another to the ground.  Law books also known as encyclopaedia of parliament
were flung towards the direction of the Speaker.
Hon. Hassan Garba Ado-Doguwa from Kano stood on top of the table that
hitherto held the law books to chant: APC. He was violently pushed down by
opposing lawmakers.
At 12:32, the standoff, however, gave way to a new atmosphere. The
lawmakers clapped and laughed. That paved the way for Dogara to make his
speech which lasted for three minutes. The Speaker described the incident
as a show of shame and a total disrespect to Nigerians that voted the

He said: “We are very fortunate. Let me remind us of the fact that, we are
very, very fortunate. In a nation of 170 million people, only 360 of us are
selected or elected to represent the people and we should be grateful to
our constituents for sending us here.
“To be candid, we have promised so much in the course of our elections and
even the very party I belong to, the APC we have promised change and
Nigerians expect us to really talk about those matters, those issues that
bother them most, they want to hear us talk about unemployment and 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.”
Alluding to the issue on the table, he said: “As to the issue that led to
the fracas today, we will sit down as leaders and resolve whatever the
fight we have to ensure that this matter is resolved as quickly as possible
and that is what we will do by the Grace of God.”
However, though he was applauded, APC lawmakers showed that peace was still
elusive as the caucus loyal to the party met and accused the Speaker of
being responsible for the crisis that enveloped the session,
Dogara said: “It was obvious from the action of these members that they
were acting on a premeditated script, as some of them even carried placards
with inscriptions on them.

“These members attempted to seize the mace, which is the symbol of
authority of the House and other sundry acts of fighting, fracas,
misconduct, disruption and committed unparliamentary actions unbecoming of
the status of honourable members.
“The conduct of these honourable members amounted to contempt of the House
and is in clear violation of the Standing Orders of the House and
Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act and the customs and
traditions of Parliament
“The House therefore, sincerely apologizes to Nigerians for the ugly events
of today,” he said.

Source: Sun

Publish Date: 

Friday, 26 June 2015