House of Reps resumes to rowdy session over leadership change

A rowdy session broke out in plenary on Tuesday, during a debate on the disruption of a peaceful rally in Rivers State where a Senator was allegedly shot.

Trouble started when the House of Representatives Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, while making his contribution referred to the Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, as the ‘Deputy Minority Leader’.

The comment caused uproar as members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in House reacted angrily to the comment, while their colleagues in the All Progressives Congress, APC, defended their leader.

For over 20 minutes, proceedings were suspended as the PDP lawmakers and their APC counterparts shouted at one another.

But the intervention of the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, prevented what would have been another free for all on the floor.

Referring to Gbajabiamila’s statement as “a very expensive New Year joke,” Tambuwal stated that he should not have said it in the way he did.

The speaker noted that while Gbajabiamila’s action was an attempt to pass the message that the APC wanted to effect a change in the leadership of the House, he should have first observed the rules of the House.

He also drew the attention of members to a subsisting court order, which had barred the House from changing its leadership.
Tambuwal said, “We are a parliament and we have our rules of procedure, derived from the 1999 Constitution.

“The issue of leadership change in this House is also the subject of a recent court order.

“I have the order here with me; I was taken aback when he (Gbajabiamila) made that statement.”
The speaker then asked Gbajabiamila to stand before members and clear his position.

The APC leader responded that while his comments might sound offensive, he was not at war with Ogor, but merely making “a statement of fact.”

According to him, it will be “breaching the collective privilege” of APC members, who are now in the majority, to be referred to as the minority in the House.

But, to calm his angry colleagues, he said, “In deference to your office (Speaker), I will now refer to Ogor as simply Hon. Leo Ogor.”

Gbajabiamila avoided either withdrawing the statement or apologising to the House, which was what the PDP members wanted him to do.

In his ruling, Tambuwal called for caution, saying that as a legislature, the House would be the last institution to disobey a court order.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had restrained the House of Representatives and its principal officers from effecting any changes in the composition of its leadership.

The court’s order was handed down during the hearing on a case filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against the House of Representatives and some of its members, seeking to restrain the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, other principal officers of the House and its defecting members from taking any step “to alter or change the leadership of the 1st defendant (PDP).