The crisis rocking the House of Representatives Thursday escalated as the Kingsley Chinda faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took over the four seats reserved for House Minority Leadership.
Chinda was initially appointed by the PDP as House Minority Leader with Chukwuma Onyema as Deputy Minority Leader; Yakubu Barde as Minority Whip and Muraina Ajibola as Deputy Chief Whip.
However, Femi Gbajabimila, Speaker of the House Wednesday read a letter allegedly signed by over 90 out of the 147 Members of Minority parties, announcing Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State, Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State, Deputy Minority Leader, Gideon Gwani, Minority Whip and Adesegun Adekoya Deputy Minority Whip.
The development led to a lot of tension in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly as the Chinda group allegedly held a brief meeting ahead of Thursday plenary session and resolved to take over the four front roll seats reserved for the principal officers of the Minority Parties.
The Chinda group which arrived the Chambers before the Elemelu group occupied their seats and remained there till the end of the plenary, however, Speaker Gbajabiamila ruled Chinda out when he raised point of order, saying he and his group should return to their allotted seats.
Due to the mounting tension, legislative business was conducted under tight security with seven staff of Sergeant at Arms guarding the Mace and the Seat of the Speaker to avoid break down of law and order in the Lower Chamber.
Meanwhile, Gogo Bright (PDP-Rivers) was referred to the Ad-hoc Committee on Ethics and Privileges for attempting to snatch the Mace during the Wednesday rowdy plenary session.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of the Point of Order 6 raised by Benjamin Kalu, member representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State.
Kalu said, “I am not one of the ranking members but one of the first timer but I was traumatized by what transpired in the House on Wednesday. Ranking members I respected so much in person of Hon. Gogo Bright went for the Mace.
Kalu disclosed that several calls were made by Nigerians including Godswill Akpabio and other well meaning Nigerians who frowned at the unparliamentary practice which transpired on the floor of the Lower Chamber.
However, when Chinda who occupied the seat alloted to the Minority Leader sought the recognition of the Speaker by raising a Point of Order, Speaker ruled him out of order, saying: “Without even asking you what your point of order is, you’re overruled.”
When Chinda queried the Speaker’s decision, Gbajabiamila said: “I was not acknowledging you because you are not on your allotted seat.”
After the ruling, some PDP members and other minority parties who are loyal to Ndudi Elumelu’s faction, chanted ‘Gbaja, Gbaja’.
Further attempt by Hon. Jerry Alagbaso to raise a point of order was frustrated as majority of the lawmakers loyal to the Speaker shouted him down.
While reacting to the position of some of the aggrieved PDP lawmakers, Gbajabiamila said: “I’m going to make this point very clear, if you’re not on the alloted seat you will not be recognized.
“I want to say do not test the resolve of this House, if you do, you will have to regret it,” Speaker Gbajabiamila ruled.
Ruling, Gbajabiamila who noted that collective privileges of all the members were breached by the attempt to snatch the Mace, explained that the member mentioned shall be referred to the Ad-hoc Committee on Rules and Business for further legislative action.
James Kwen, Abuja