TOP STORY: 7 Controversies in 1st year of the 10th House

Leah TwakiJune 25, 20248 min

The 10th House of Representatives has maintained some steadiness in its first year although pockets of controversies were inevitable

 

10th House

The 10th House of Representatives, inaugurated on June 13, 2023, kicked off with election of presiding officers. Rep. Tajudeen Abbas (APC Kaduna) and Rep. Benjamin Kalu (APC Abia) emerged as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. Few weeks later principal officers were announced to complete the body of leadership, followed by the appointment of 134 committees constituted by speaker Abbas. It is no doubt that the 10th House saw a significant influx of new members. What is not clear is whether this is responsible for the controversies that have been observed, some of which are examined briefly below:

Rep. Tajudeen Abbas flanked by his wives...highlight of the 10th House controversy

  • Abbas and his feuding wives struggle for space 

A mild drama ensued at the House of Representatives as wives of Tajudeen Abbas, then newly elected speaker, shoved each other for space and recognition during the swearing-in ceremony of their husband on June 13, 2023. Abbas had polled 353 votes to defeat the 9th House Deputy Speaker, Rep. Idris Wase and Rep. Aminu Jaji who got three votes each. While the deputy clerk of the House, Kamoru Ogunlana, recited the oaths for the new speaker to respond to, he was interrupted by another wife of Abbas, who barged into the podium and shoved the other wife who was already standing by the brand new speaker, aside. The action appeared to have shocked Abbas, who momentarily halted his oath-rendering session to try to calm things down. But the drama continued as none of the wives backed down in the show of supremacy and attention on the dais.

 

Rep sent off for wrong dress code...one of the controversial moments of the10th House

  • Rep on T-Shirt walked out of the green chamber

Just one month into the 10th House, a lawmaker believed to be a newbie, had walked into the hallowed chambers towards the end of the day’s plenary session and sat down cladded in jeans trousers and a t-shirt. This was clearly against the dress code for members at plenary sessions, which is a suit and tie or a traditional dress with a cap to match. Consequently, Rep. Billy Osaweru (APC, Edo) raised a point of order, drawing the attention of the House to the mode of dressing of the lawmaker, which he said contravened the dress code for members of the House. He said: “Mr. Speaker, our rules state the need for proper dressing while coming for plenary. Mr. Speaker, if you look upstairs, there is a member in Chamber wearing a T-Shirt and jean trousers.” But while Osaweru was raising the point of order, the member stood up and walked out of the chamber with Speaker Tajudeen Abbas saying “point of order complied with.”

N70 billion for lawmakers...10th house controverst

  • N70 billion ‘palliatives’ for lawmakers 

The 10th National Assembly stirred controversy when, on Thursday, July 13, 2023, it amended the N819.5 billion 2022 supplementary appropriation and speedily approved N70 billion to support the “working conditions” of new lawmakers. Although it approved the allocation of N500 billion palliatives for Nigerians to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal, he N70 billion was roundedly condemned by Nigerians on social media. The lawmakers defended the allocation through the spokesperson of the House, Akin Rotimi (APC, Ekiti), who denied the claim, stating that it is malicious and untrue that members of the National Assembly got palliatives.

Luxury SUV for National Assembly members...another controversy of the 10th house

  • Luxury SUV for National Assembly members 

The proposal to purchase exotic Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for 360 federal lawmakers started as a rumour until the House of Representatives confirmed it. The decision to buy 360 luxury vehicles estimated at N160 million each and totalling N57.6 billion was not welcomed by many Nigerians, including CSOs, as they lamented it was a time when Nigerians are grappling with tough economic conditions caused by government policies. Hence the lawmakers were described as insensitive to the plight of the people and the state of the economy. Responding to the reports, Spokesperson of the House Rep. Akin Rotimi Jr. justified the procurement of the SUVs. He said the development was in accordance with extant procurement laws and has been the practice in previous assemblies. He said it was also not peculiar to the legislature, as unelected government officials in the executive arm of government from director cadre and above, in most cases, have official vehicles attached to their offices. “The vehicles are work tools, and not status symbols – Members are diligent and patriotic elected representatives and not entitled. The anticipated allocation of vehicles will contribute to improved representation, constituency outreach and oversight functions,” he had said.

  • Job racketeering and an aborted probe

The 10th House commissioned an investigation into alleged job racketeering and gross mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) system by the Federal Character Commission (FCC). Over the course of a closely watched proceedings, shocking discoveries about the unethical activities of the FCC were made through the testimonies of some of the individuals involved. Nigerians learned that the FCC operated like to a bazaar with federal government jobs and employment opportunities either auctioned to the highest bidder or preference given to the offspring and wards of commissioners and other highly placed Nigerians. The investigation further revealed that Haruna Kolo, a former desk officer at FCC had admitted collecting money from job seekers to offer them jobs, on the instruction of the FCC Chairman, Dankaka. However, during the course of the investigation, some members of the House committee carrying out the probe were accused of receiving bribes. Eventually, nothing was heard about the report of the investigation by the committee despite demands made by CSOs and Nigerians .

Binance bribery allegation saga

  • Binance bribery allegation saga

Rep. Dominic Okafor (APGA, Anambra) came under negative spotlight over alleged demand of a bribe of $140 million from cryptocurrency company, Binance, shortly after moving a motion on May 8, 2024 to investigate the escape of Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla from custody of the Nigerian security operatives. Okafor, who refuted the allegation, threatened legal action against the online which reported the story. OrderPaper recalls that the news of bribery allegations ensued when Binance Chief Executive Richard Teng, made the allegation in a blog post published on New York Times (NYT) on Tuesday May 7, 2024.

Ugochinyere and Gagdi's face-off

  • Wike Vs Fubara spill over

The political crisis in Rivers State between Governor Sim Fubara and his predecessor and minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, spilled into the House of Representatives. It blew open when Rep. Ikenga Ugochinyere (PDP Imo) led a group of lawmakers to diss the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in an apparent move to shore support for the Rivers governor. Rep Yusuf Gagdi recently during plenary called out Ugochinyere for using the auspices of the House to pay a solidarity visit to the Rivers governor. The Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu who presided over the session referred the matter to the ethics and privileges committee without allowing further debate. This decision created a melodrama in the House with some members expressing that it was a trivia issue to attract such type of action. Retaliating to Gagdi’s point of order, Ugochinyere moved a motion that the House of Representatives to commit to prison Rep. Gagdi for contempt of parliament and misleading the House through falsehood. “We did not go to any oversight function, not to talk of politicising oversight functions. A group of like-minded lawmakers, on our own, not on behalf of the House, went on a Thanksgiving service in Port Harcourt to celebrate Governor Fubara’s one year of transformational leadership,” he explained.

Leah Twaki

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