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Dialogue as antidote to House minority leadership crisis

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By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja

For the first time since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the House of Representatives was engulfed in crisis over the leadership of the minority parties in the lower chamber of the nation’s National Assembly.

Though it is common sight to see lawmakers engage in mace snatching and open fight right in the hallowed chamber over political differences, it was the first time in the history of the third arm of government to witness lawmakers engage in open confrontation over the election of minority principal officers in the green chamber.

Penultimate Wednesday, the House of Representatives was thrown into crisis that led to attempt by some aggrieved members to snatch the mace.

The action followed the alleged rejection of a letter by House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila from by the leadership of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nominating Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers State) as the Minority Leader, Chukwuma Onyema from Anambra as Deputy Minority Leader, Yakubu Barde from Kaduna State as Minority Whip and Muriano Ajibola from Oyo State as Deputy Minority Whip.

Gbajabiamila however read a letter he said was sent to him by minority parties in the House signed by 99 out of the 147 members nominating Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State as Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State as Deputy Minority Leader, Gideon Gwani as Minority Whip and Adesegun Adekoya as Deputy Minority Whip.

Despite intense protests from the opposition lawmakers, citing the various House rules to support their position, Gbajabiamila ruled them out and thereafter declared Elumelu and the others in his group as the House’s minority leaders.

Leading the protest, Chinda said the nomination of Elumelu and his gang as House minority leaders would not stand. He said series of inter-party meetings were held among the oppositio9n parties where all the issues of nomination were ratified.

“The issue is that of Minority leadership. It is the standard practice in parliament that minority leadership comes from among minority parties and the correspondence is always sent by the major minority party, in our case that was followed,” he said.

Reacting, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila sets up a committee to probe attempt at mace snatching.

At the resumption of plenary the following day, Chinda and his colleagues took over the designated seats for the minority officers, and this delayed the commencement of plenary traditionally billed for 11 in the morning.  Gbajabiamila’s procession, including his deputy, Idris Wase, and other minority officers, led by Elumelu, did not enter the chambers until 12:10.

The Peoples Democratic Party also condemned the action, saying, “Gbajabiamila exhibited personal hostility, with threats that Chinda would ‘regret’ taking his rightful seat as the bona fide Leader of the Minority in the House.

“This vicious outburst by Gbajabiamila is a direct threat and affront to our democratic order. The rights of the minority members in the House of Representatives, the people of Obio/Akpo Federal

“The PDP, in the strongest terms, condemns this outburst and demands the Speaker retract his inciting threats against Chinda within the next 24 hours,” its Spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said.

He also called on Nigerians to hold Gbajabiamila directly responsible should any harm suddenly come upon Chinda, any member of his family or any member of the PDP in the House of Representatives.

Ologbondiyan said, “The PDP also invites the police and the Department of State Services to summon Gbajabiamila to explain the intents of his threats.”

He stated that the PDP remained committed to rules and the sanctity of the parliament.

Consequently, the Peoples Democratic Party later suspended Ndudi Elumelu and six other members of the party in the House of Representatives for “indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience”.

The representative of  Oriade/Obokun Federal Constituency, Osun State,  Wole Oke;  representative of  Onitsha North and Onitsha South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Lynda Ikpeazu; representative of  Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency,  Ebonyi State, Anayo Edwin; representative of Kaura Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, Gideon Gwani; representative of  Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, Enugu State, Toby Okechukwu; and representative of   Ijebu-North/Ijebu-East/Ogun Waterside Federal Constituency, Adekoya Abdul-Majid, were  the six other members of the party suspended.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told reporters at a press conference in Abuja that the suspension was the outcome of the meeting of the PDP National Working Committee over the crisis that resulted from the struggle for the House of Representatives Minority Leader.

Ologbondiyan, who read the resolution of the NWC, said the committee reviewed the issues affecting the minority leadership of the House of Representatives.

He said the party noted the roles played by the affected Reps which resulted in the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, announcing the list of the  minority leadership of the House  different from the one submitted by the opposition party.

He said, “After the  preliminary examination by the NWC, it was evident that the roles played by the above mentioned members, bordered on indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience, contrary to Section 58 (1)(b)(c)(f)(h) of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).”

The Peoples Democratic Party also criticized the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, for allegedly threatening the representative of Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency in the House, Mr Kingsley Chinda.

The main opposition party asked the police and Department of State Services to summon the Speaker to explain himself.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Friday   said Gbajabiamila had no justification to allegedly threaten   the factional Minority Leader of the House after overruling him when he wanted to raise a point of order during Thursday’s plenary.

Gbajabiamila had blocked moves by some Peoples Democratic Party members, including Chinda, to raise issues relating to the parallel principal officers produced by the minority parties on Wednesday.

Ndudi Elumelu and Chinda had emerged as factional Minority Leaders, with the House recognizing the former.

Still not backing down on its stand to have Chinda and other nominees from the PDP to assume offices as House minority leaders, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) set up a five-member committee to intervene in the dispute over the emergence of Rep. Ndudi Elumelu as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.

The Chairman of the BoT, Mr Walid Jibrin, announced the decision in Abuja after the board’s meeting at the party’s national headquarters.

Jibrin said that the committee, to be chaired by a former President of the Senate, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, had seven days to submit its report,

“We have decided to wade into the fracas in the House of Representatives as regards the minority leadership.

“To that effect, a committee has been formed under the chairmanship of Ayu. Other members of the committee include Sen. David Mark, Sen. Ibrahim Mantu, Sen. Adolphus Wabara and Hon. Austin Opara as Secretary of the Committee.

“They have been given a week to submit their report to the BoT and National Working Committee (NWC) thereafter, a decision would be taken”.

Jibrin said that the BoT as the conscience of the party would always work with the NWC to avoid any form of conflict within the party.

He said the board passed a vote of confidence on the judiciary and expressed the hope that court decisions would deepen democracy in the country.

“We agreed again that our party will play the role of opposition. We are in support of the process going on at the Supreme Court and thirdly we congratulate the judiciary for a job well done.

“We are very encouraged with the judges and if they continue, our democracy in Nigeria will be better.”

As the logjam persists despite prolong protests, media war and threats, we advise the nominees and the opposition political parties in the House to explore the option of engaging the Femi Gbajabiamila led leadership in the House to a dialogue to find the way forward and a lasting solution to the wrangling.

We are aware that being the first time since 1999 that the PDP is taking the position of the opposition party in the House leadership, it will be a bitter pill for the party to swallow the garbage being thrown at them by the APC-led leadership.

POLITICS

Senate Charges Army, Police to Increase Presence in Uzo-Uwani to Forstall Peace

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By Eze Okechukwu, Abuja
The Senate yesterday charged the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to urgently increase police and military presence in Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu State, with a view to forestalling the recurring clashes between suspected marauding fulani herdsmen and indigenous people, which has oftentimes resulted in loss of lives and property.


The Senate resolution followed the adoption of a motion on the need for the IGP and COAS to urgently curb the “senseless killings and maiming” of innocent indigenous peoples of Nimbo, Adani in Uzo-Uwani local government area of Enugu state by bandits, which was sponsored by Senator Okechukwu Ezea (LP, Enugu) and co- sponsored by Senator Chukwu Kelvin (LP, Enugu) and Senator Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West).

In the motion, Senator Ezea said that on April 7, 2024, five innocent farmers in Adani;  a popular rice production community in Uzo-Uwani, were callously murdered by some bandits who invaded the community in the wee hours of the morning to commit the dastardly act.
He said on April 28, 2024, at about 2 pm, another attack was carried out in the same area where four innocent people in the farming village of Nimbo were gruesomely mowed down by bandits in an unprovoked attack that was reminiscent of the April 2016 Nimbo killings.
He recalled that in February 2016, Abbi community was the first to be hit by the same assailants where two people were gruesomely killed while 19 others were declared missing.
The senator noted that there was a major massacre in Nimbo community in the early hours of April 25, 2016, which left over 46 people dead and 14 persons injured, with their houses and other property completely razed.
He expressed worry that the killings did not seem to be isolated as their persistence indicated a pattern, saying that even with the 2016 killings, the authorities both at the state and Federal levels had not taken robust steps to mitigate the menace.
Senator Ezea expressed worry that if nothing very urgent and sustainable was done to put an end to the recurrent menace, people would begin to resort to self-help to ward off the criminal elements, stressing that “this might eventually lead to a complete breakdown of law and order, especially given the already challenging security situation in the region”.
He said that with the strategic location of Uzo-Uwani as a net producer of food in the country, the killings would have a significant impact on the nation’s food security as more and more farmers were now becoming afraid to go to farms for fear of being killed.
He said residents were abandoning their communities and relocating to urban areas, thereby, exacerbating the rural-urban migration crises in the country.
Senator Kelvin Chukwu (LP, Enugu)who seconded the motion added that the killing of members of the community was unacceptable, pointing out that there was need to put an end to the killings.
He said considering the strategic nature of the affected communities in rice production, there was the need to protect the residents from attack.
However, in his contribution, Sen. Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West) said although he was a co -sponsor of the motion, he was disassociating himself from the fifth paragraph of the motion, which stated that the state and Federal governments had not taken robust steps to stop the killings.
Senator Ngwu said it was a misrepresentation of facts that the state and federal governments through the security agencies were not working hard to put an end to the attacks and killings and protect members of the communities.
According to Ngwu, the Enugu state Governor, Dr. Peter Mbah and the security agencies had visited the affected communities with relief materials, adding that the state and federal governments, together with the security agencies were doing everything possible to protect the people and end the attacks.
Meanwhile, the Senate in its resolution, urged the IGP, COAS and Director General of the Department of State Services to investigate, arrest and prosecute the criminal gangs to serve as a deterrent.
It also mandated its Committees on Legislative Compliance, Police Affairs and National Security and Intelligence to ensure compliance and proffer lasting solutions.
It further urged the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to the victims to cushion effects of the unwarranted attacks.

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POLITICS

Ebonyi LG Polls: EBSIEC Gives 3rd June Ultimatum for Political Parties to Conclude Primaries

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By Godwin Okeh, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission, EBSIEC, on Wednesday gave 3rd June 2024 ultimatum for all political parties in the state to conclude their chairmanship and councillorship primary elections.
The Commissioner in-charge of Public Affairs in the commission, Chief Nnanna Nweze-Offor stated this while answering questions on the commission’s timetable for the Local Government Election.


According to him: “Political parties participating in the forthcoming Saturday 20th July Local Government election in the state must conclude their Chairmanship and Councillorship primaries not later than third June, 2024.

He noted further that the list of nominated candidates for the Chairmanship and councillorship position must be submitted to EBSIEC before the end of Monday 3rd June 2024.

Chief Nweze-Offor pointed out that political parties conducting primaries must invite EBSIEC to observe the primaries as required by the law, noting that the commission was poised to conduct a free, fair and credible election without bias for anyone or political party.
He pointed out that soon the commission will advertise for recruitment of adhoc workers for the election, adding that various trainings will be conducted towards a successful Local Government polls in the state.
Chief Nweze-Offor noted that the commission was working round the clock to ensure a smooth election and called on all to join hands with EBSIEC in the bid to give the people the best Local Government election in the state.
Daily Asset reports that the Local Government election in Ebonyi State is slated to hold on Saturday, 20th July 2024 across the thirteen Local Government Areas of the state.

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POLITICS

Reps Member Calls for Urgent Intervention in Federal Teaching Hospitals

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By David Torough, Abuja
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions, Amos Magaji has called for an urgent financial investment in the Federal Teaching Hospitals across the country in line with the renewed hope agenda of the current administration for the betterment of the citizenry.


Magaji who led members of his Committee on a visit to the Federal University of Health Sciences Teaching Hospital, Otukpo said the need to allocate more funds in the health sector cannot be overemphasized considering the primary place of health institutions in the country.

He appreciated the Chief Medical Director and his management staff for showing interest in the growth judging by the tremendous achievements recorded within a period of one year.

He said that as head of the House Representatives Committee on Health Institutions, he will work with his members to ensure that more funds are made available to develop the needed infrastructure including the medical equipment to meet up with the expectations of the people.
“We are glad to be in Otukpo today to see things for ourselves. We don’t want to depend on second hand information on the true condition of the Federal University Teaching Hospital Otukpo.”
The Committee Chairman assured the management of full support of the Federal House of Representatives as appropriate incentives will be given through interface with other critical stakeholders in Abuja.
Magaji, who also observed that most of the Federal Teaching Hospitals were having almost the same challenges, advised the leadership team to accommodate all Nigerians irrespective of tribe including the host Community.
He however enjoined the Staff who he described as foundation staff to work as a team despite the working condition, “we have seen how the environment is looking and we will continue to monitor the progress. So as foundation staff, you all have the opportunity to write your name in gold”.
In his brief welcome address, the Chief Medical Director, Prof Silas Ochejele Commended the Federal Government for the establishment of the Teaching Hospital in Otukpo which has drastically changed the medical services narratives in the State.
Prof Ochejele also commended the Committee for undertaking pains to come down to Otukpo, ” the Hospital is very happy to have you here as we strongly believe that you’re coming to see things yourselves we go a long way in repositioning the Hospital for the betterment of the people’s health needs’
After the briefing, the House Committee inspected some of the ongoing projects and appreciated the efforts being made by the CMD particularly the level-playing ground provided to both staff and patients which earned them recommendation.

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