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Etteh agrees to step aside

Posted by By Chiawo Nwankwo, John Alechenu, Olusola Fabiyi and Victor Sam on 2007/10/26 | Views: 1075 |

Etteh agrees to step aside


Strong indications emerged in Abuja on Wednesday that the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, might step aside on October 30.

Strong indications emerged in Abuja on Wednesday that the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, might step aside on October 30.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Ita Enang, gave the indication just as the Nigeria Labour Congress said it had chosen October 30 (Tuesday) as the date for its anti-Etteh protest.

October 30 is the day the Speaker fixed for the resumption of proceedings in the House after unilaterilly adjourning sitting on Tuesday.

Enang told one of our correspondents during a telephone interview that the decision for the Speaker to step aside was reached at a harmonisation meeting between the Integrity Group and Pro-Etteh lawmakers.

Enang said that the meeting agreed that Etteh would on Tuesday preside over the session up to the point that the David Idoko-led panel report would be considered.

According to him, the Speaker will be allowed to preside over the election or selection of who holds the fort if the House members object to the Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, presiding.

He, however, gave an indication that the members might argue that Nguroje was morally unfit to chair the Committee of the Whole House, since he was also indicted by the panel.

He said, “What we agreed is that the Speaker will preside in the House when we resume on Tuesday. When it reaches the stage where the report will be considered, the Speaker, who chairs the Committee of the Whole House, according to the House rule, will step aside.

“Members are saying that the Deputy Speaker is also affected by the report and therefore should not preside over the Committee of the Whole.

“In the event of that happening, the Speaker will preside over the choice of who will be elected to chair the Committee of the Whole House.”

Asked if Etteh would leave the chamber to allow for unfettered consideration of the report, Enang answered in the negative.

Traditionally, the Speaker leaves the chamber when reports are considered on the committee.

Enang later told journalists in Abuja that the House was adjourned till October 30 for a number of reasons.

He said, “Firstly, we didnt want to have a repeat of the rowdy session that had characterised the House in the last few weeks. We also need time to consult widely and get everybody committed on how to go about this matter.

“We are determined to resolve it but we must get commitment from everybody involved. We all met through Monday night with our party’s executives as well as with our members from all fronts and we reached an agreement where the party asked the Speaker to step aside for the debate.”

He gave an indication that the debate on the report could last for two days.

A source in the office of the Speaker, however, said the harmonisation meeting agreed that a chairman pro-tempore would be elected to preside over the committee of the whole to deliberate on the report.

The source said, “A chairman pro-tempore will preside over the Committee of the Whole House to discuss the report.

“The Speaker will preside as usual over plenary and adjourn properly, leaving with the mace. But if the debate extends beyond a session, the chairman pro-tempore will preside on another day at the level of the Committee of Whole House. Etteh, will however, remain as the Speaker.”

Our correspondents gathered that the lawmakers from Etteh’s camp that were in attendance at the harmonisation meeting were Enang, Mr. Tam Brisbe, Mr. Sada Soli, Mr. Jerry Manwe, Mr. Dino Melaye and Mrs. Doris Uboh.

Those from the Integrity Group were, Mr. Farouk Lawan, Mr. Chuma Nzeribe, Mr. Emmanuel Jimeh, Mr. Kanayo Oguakwa, Alhaji Aliyu Wadada and Mr. Tergu Tsegba.

The harmonisation meeting, which was held at the new administrative complex of the House, followed some advice by the PDP.

It was learnt that the PDP gave the advice after a meeting with its lawmakers in the House on Tuesday ended in a stalemate.

The PDP was said to have begged the lawmakers not to humiliate the party when the House reconvenes on Tuesday.

Prominent among those said to have attended the meeting were Etteh, Enang, Lawan and Mr. Andrew Uchendu.

The PDP Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Bode George, chaired the meeting.

A source said, “It was a frank meeting. The party asked that we should not disgrace it by our open confrontation. It asked that we should not put the party to shame, and that if we don’t retrace our steps, we could end up ridiculing the party.”

Meanwhile, the NLC has said that its mass protest against the refusal of the Speaker to step aside will hold on Tuesday.

The Acting President of the NLC, Mrs. Ladi Iliya, said in a statement on Wednesday that the protest was to demonstrate the congress’s ‘aversion to corruption.’

The statement was issued just as the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, thwarted a bid by Senator Julius Ucha to make the Senate intervene in the impasse in the House.

The statement reads, “The Congress had exercised restraint hoping that the mechanism of the House would take its course and empower the members to take the far-reaching decision necessary to purge the House of her leadership in the light of properly established corrupt practices.

“With Etteh’s adjournment of the sitting of the House to October 30, 2007, it is obvious that she has no intention to relinquish office, as would have been expected of any decent person in her circumstance.

“The Speaker has left Nigerians with no other option but to regard her as an impediment to the progress of the House and a liability to the democratic process.

“Accordingly, we have resolved to proceed with the protest. The protest is also necessary to demonstrate our aversion to corruption and our determination to see to the removal of any public officer in any branch of government that has an established indictment or an established case to answer.

“The protest will be peaceful and will involve all segments of the Nigerian people. It will be led by the national leadership of the NLC and leaders of its civil society partners and other concerned organisations.”

The NLC had on Tuesday condemned the adjournment of the sitting of the House and said it had begun consultations with student movements, professional bodies, pro-democracy groups and other relevant organisations to give effect to the desire of Nigerians for sanity in the House.

But at the Senate, Mark said that senators could not intervene in the crisis in the House because they did not have enough facts.

His comment followed Ucha’s claim that the crisis in the House had breached senators’ privileges.

Ucha had relied on Order 15 of the Senate Standing Orders 2007(as Amended) in wanting to seek the Senate’s intervention.

Order 15 reads, “Any senator may rise at any time to speak upon a matter of Privilege suddenly arising, and he shall be prepared to move, without notice, a motion declaring that a contempt or breach of privilege has been committed, or referring the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, but if the matter is raised in Committee of the Whole Senate, The Chairman shall leave the Chair to report progress.”

After reading the Order, he said, “Since 1999, I have been a parliamentarian and I have been respected as such by my people. But recent events at the House of Representatives have threatened the respect I used to earn.”

He claimed that in Apo Legislative Quarters, non-parliamentarians looked at ‘every lawmaker as a member of the House and active participant in the crisis.

Ucha added, “Security threat against members of the House as a result of this crisis is no longer limited to them. It is beginning to have effect on senators who live in Apo.

“I will suggest that the Senate should set up a committee or ask any of its committees to look into the matter and offer suggestions on how the Senate can resolve the matter.”

Immediately he completed his speech, Mark said, “I am afraid, I have to rule you out of order.

“The House of Representatives is a sister House and I think it should be allowed to solve its problems in a manner that follows due process and in accordance with its rules.

“We cannot go and interfere in events happening in the House because we don’t have the facts. Even if we have to do that, it must be through a proper motion which will contain the facts.”

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.