OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives on Thursday adjourned plenary session abruptly as commotion ensued amongst members in the chamber during consideration of report on the electoral act amendment bill.
The House also resolved to invite the Executive Chairman, Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to brief it on certain clauses relating to the controversial electronic transmission of results in the bill.
The House dissolved into Committee of the Whole to consider the report as the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, took charge of affairs.
The contentious clause 52 in the bill originally seeks to allow INEC to determine the manner in which it wants to transmit election results, either via electronic or manual means.
The drama began when the deputy Minority Leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) moved that the said clause should be amended to allow that transmitting of election results should only be via only electronic means and not manual.
Surprisingly, Okechukwu’s motion was seconded by the deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia).
But when the presiding deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase put the question on the amendment, there was an overwhelming ‘Ayes’ in favour of the amendment, but the deputy Speaker decided to give it to the ‘Nays.’
At this point, lawmakers across different divides took to the floor to protest the ruling as some were seen approaching the mace even though the gavel had dropped on the matter.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who vacated the chair for the deputy to preside over the Committee of the Whole remained mum as the commotion ensued.
During the commotion, some lawmakers were seen approaching the chair and pointing fingers and uttering words at the deputy Speaker which he considered insulting.
Reacting to the scenario after a while, Wase said: “As legislators we are at liberty to lobby ourselves on issues. But I take exception to people coming here to insult me on an issue. Yes, it happened! It happened!!
“We are all saying this clause should go, and let me say it here that when we make laws, we don’t just make them for ourselves in this room. I am for electronic voting and everything that comes with it. But I make bold to ask that those who are saying we should transmit election results via electronic means, what about our brothers and sisters in Maiduguri, Yobe and the rest?”
While he was still complaining about the insults hauled at him, he was shouted at again as lawmakers interrupted.
At this time, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) raised a point of order asking the chair to divide the House so that the votes could be taken via head count. But the presiding officer ignored his point of order.
James Faleke (APC, Lagos) moved another amendment to the effect that a clause allowing for the use of both electronic and manual transmission of result should be included in the provision.
The presiding officer again said he had ruled on the matter and would not reverse himself.
At this point, Speaker Gbajabiamila who joined his colleagues on the floor to participate in the proceedings intervened, noting that the amendment sought by Faleke was different from that of Toby Okechukwu, and as such should be considered.
“Mr. chairman, many of our colleagues including Hon. Toby and others had made this point to the effect that you have not ruled on this matter. The amendment by Hon. Toby is for the electronic transmission of result, which is different from that of Hon. Faleke. So you need to put a question on it,” Gbajabiamila said.
At that juncture, Wase put the question on Faleke’s amendment, and despite having overwhelming support from members via voice votes he ruled against the overwhelming majority who said ‘Ayes.’
This led to another round of protest and altercations on the floor with Bem Mzundu, Kpam Sokpo, Mark Terse Gbillah, all from Benue State and of the PDP as well as Ifeanyi Momah from Anambra (APGA) prominent in the fray just as Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) had to be physically restrained to prevent him from attacking other colleagues.
The commotion lasted for over an hour until the House reverted back to plenary at 5:32pm following a motion moved by Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.
The House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, after taking charge of proceeding, announced for the continuation of plenary session on Friday by 10am where the heads of NCC and INEC are expected to brief the House.