Top eight controversies that rocked Nigeria’s House of Representatives in 2017

The House of Representative in Chamber ... members are notorious for budget mutilation
The House of Representative in Chamber ... members are notorious for budget mutilation

Nigeria’s House of Representatives had a number of controversies that surrounded its activities in 2017.

These range from protests, internal squabbles and defections.

PREMIUM TIMES recalls some of the most controversial incidents.

1) NGO Bill

A member of the House from Kogi State, Umar Jibril, proposed a bill to regulate the activities of non-governmental organizations in the country. The bill drew a lot of criticism and protests from Nigerians.

The controversial bill scaled through second reading and the public hearing was conducted where major stakeholders unanimously kicked against it.

No action has been taken since the public hearing was conducted.

The bill seeks to set up a federal agency to be known as the NGO Regulatory Commission to regulate activities of NGO’s and civil society organisations, CSOs, across the country.

2) UPROAR OVER 2018 BUDGET 

The lower legislative chamber went into a rowdy session after the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, announced the intention of President Muhammadu Buhari to address a joint session of the National Assembly and present the 2018 budget estimates.

Before the Speaker could finish reading the letter from the President, the lawmakers unanimously greeted it with the shouts of, ‘’no, no’.

On the designated day of the budget presentation, some lawmakers, who are members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in a failed plot, tried to protest against the president. Their grouse was that the government failed to implement up to 15 per cent of 2017 budget.

It was however gathered that the Speaker prevailed on them to shelve that plan.

3) DEFECTIONS 

Seven members dumped their political party for another with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC receiving most.

The main ‘casualty’ of these defections was the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP which was enmeshed in a leadership crisis which rocked the party for almost a year.

Five members of the party left during the crises while two left after the Supreme Court had decided who the authentic chairman of the party was.

The members who left the PDP in the heat of the crisis were Edward Pwajok (Plateau), Adamu Kamale (Adamawa), Hassan Sale (Benue), Zephaniah Jisalo (FCT), Yusuf Tijjani (Kogi). Nnanna Igbokwe (Imo) and Johnson Agbonayinma (Edo) left after the crisis was resolved. 

Members of the opposition PDP, as expected, protested when these members left but the protests yielded no positive result as the speaker did not grant their request of declaring the seats vacant.

4) SOUTH EAST DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION 

The House went into a rowdy session when lawmakers from the South-east staged a walkout as the Bill that seeks to establish a development commission for the zone was rejected by the House.

The controversy started when the bill was stepped down after its lead sponsor, Chukwuka Onyema, the deputy minority leader refused to stand up and present the bill on the floor of the House.

Mr. Onyema was called to present the bill for the second time, a call he ignored.

An infuriated Bode Ayorinde, Deputy Chairman of House Rules and Business Committee, moved that the bill be stepped down by the leave of the house.

Immediately it was stepped down, the South-east lawmakers particularly of PDP began to protest.

Attempts of the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, to calm the lawmakers was not successful as the rowdiness lasted for about 15 minutes.

Mr. Ogor moved for the House to rescind its decision but when it was put to a vote, the “nays” had it. But the Speaker diplomatically gave it to the “ayes”.

After it was finally presented, the speaker then put it to voice vote that the bill be passed for second reading. It was rejected by the majority of the house.

The bill was designed to establish the South-east development commission charged with the responsibility, among others, to receive and manage funds from allocation of the federation account for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, houses and infrastructural damages suffered by the region as a result of the effects of the civil war. It was also to tackle the ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the region.

5) HERMAN HEMBE

On the June 23, the Supreme Court sacked Herman Hembe, who represented Vandeikiya/Konshisha federal constituency of Benue State and ordered him to return all salaries and allowances he received from the house since he was sworn in in 2015.

Mr. Hembe, not satisfied with this judgement tried to upturn it even though it was delivered by the apex court.

He approached the Supreme Court and asked the court to refer his case back to the lower court for retrial. He described the earlier judgement that sacked him an ‘accidental slip’, a request which was not granted.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and insisted he remained sacked. The court also insisted he returns all monies he received.

The Supreme Court added that no aspect of the judgement was ‘reviewable’ and as such, the monies collected by the lawmaker must be returned. He described it as a new policy adopted by the Supreme Court, “to make sure politicians do the right thing.”

6) DORATHY MATO

After the court of appeal sacked Mr. Hembe and ordered the speaker to swear in Dorathy Mato, it took the speaker over three months to obey that court order, an action which drew a lot of controversies.

Mrs. Mato had been to the National Assembly over seven times, with the hope of being sworn in but her hopes were dashed.

She was finally sworn in and is now a member of most of the committees in which her predecessor served.

Her predecessor, however, failed to return the money he received as directed by the Supreme Court.

7) NANS FACTION DISRUPTS PLENARY 

On a special plenary to mark the two years anniversary of the 8th House of Representative, two factions of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, clashed at the House chambers.

Trouble started when the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, acknowledged one of the factional leaders, Haruna Kadiri during the event.

This acknowledgment did not go down well with a faction led by Chinoso Obasi. Immediately, his group staged a walkout from the chambers but not without drama that caused apprehension amongst lawmakers.

It took a while for the Sergeant-at-Arms in the National Assembly to calm the situation as the students were chanting solidarity songs and were bent on disrupting proceedings on the floor of the House.

The aggrieved faction led by Mr. Obasi accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives of bias for recognising Mr. Haruna whereas an invitation was sent to his (Obasi) office requesting his presence at the event.

8) NON-REINSTATEMENT OF ABDULMUMIN JIBRIN

Suspended member of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has since the expiration of his suspension in September not been allowed to resume his duties as legislator.

Mr. Jibrin was suspended in 2016 for 180 legislative days for exposing the budget padding scandal where he indicted the speaker and three other principal officers.

Mr. Jibrin was also required to tender a written apology to the House, prior to his resumption of duties.

It was expected that the matter of his resumption would be brought before the House after it came back from recess in September 2017, but nothing was said about it. His non-reinstatement has become a controversy with his constituents expressing divergent opinions.

At a press briefing when the issue was brought before the spokesman of the house, Abdulrazak Namdas, he insisted that Mr. Jibrin must tender a written apology before the house before being allowed back to the House.

Mr. Jibrin has vowed not to apologise.

The matter is currently in court.


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