Drama as PDP Reps stage walkout from plenary over Twitter ban
...vow to continue tweeting amid jail threats
There was a mild drama at the resumed plenary of the House of Representatives on Tuesday when some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus staged a walk-out from the Chamber after the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, ruled their Leader, Kingsley Chinda, out of order on the debate about Twitter ban by the Federal Government.
Gbajabiamila had earlier in an address of welcome to members who had been away for zonal hearing on constitutional review, mandated the Committees on Communication, Information, Justice and National Security to investigate the suspension of Twitter and report back to the House within 10 days.
But the PDP leader in the House, Chinda (PDP, Rivers) objected that waiting for 10 days for the Committee to report back to the House would be tantamount to Twitter remaining banned for the period with the attendant consequences.
“Mr. Speaker, I stand on section 39 of the Nigerian constitution, section 19 of the Universal declaration on Human and Peoples right and article 9 of the African charter of Human and Peoples right,” Chinda said.
“As a representative of the people, I have a source of communication with my constituents; I have a source of interaction with my leaders. But in moving this, I must, with all sense of responsibility commend the steps you took this morning concerning this issue of ban of twitter. It was very proactive, very timely.
“But my concern is that as a Nigerian and several other Nigerians out there, the implication is that for the ten days you have given that committee to work, this breach will continue. We don’t even know for how long our interaction with the Executive arm will last.
“While I agree with the submission of the leadership of this House completely, I will only want to add that for the breach of our fundamental human right, particularly the right to fair hearing, right to freedom of speech and expression, we should urge the Executive arm in the interim to reverse the ban pending our interaction with the Executive,” he argued.
However, the Speaker ruled the opposition leader out of order, insisting that since the matter had been referred to a Committee already, it was wrong for it to be revived again.
Gbajabiamila said: “Let me quickly refer you to order 9, rule 1 sub rule 6 of our rules which state that it shall be out of order to reconsider any specific question upon which the House has come to a conclusion during the current session except upon a substantive motion for rescission.
“This matter has already been sent to the committees to look at the issues you are talking about and will report to us within ten days. Even if you had brought a motion here, it would have been referred to a committee. We are not even sure if your motion would not have been killed. This day, we have saved the day. So you are ruled out of order.”
At this juncture, all efforts by Chinda to be heard proved abortive as the House Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, and Chief Whip, Mohammed Mongunu, asked him to be guided while he and other members of the Caucus walked out of the plenary.
Addressing journalists after the walkout, the PDP Caucus said they would continue to tweet and if the Federal Government wants to jail them as it had threatened, it should go ahead.
Speaking on behalf of Caucus, Chinda said: “We the members of the PDP Caucus of the House will continue tweeting, if they want to jail us, they should. We surrender ourselves on behalf of Nigerians.
“The speaker presented a speech to us this morning. There was no debate on that issue. Resolute the House is always arrived at by majority vote, so in essence what happened this morning was the decision of the leadership and that’s why I said we agree with the decision of the leadership but we still have the right if we have further things to add to it.
“We are not angels, our leaders are not angels. It’s not against our rules, there was no debate and no vote was taken on those issues, so it’s not sacrosanct.”