Reps in rowdy session over use of troops for elections
THE House of Representatives was again Wednesday thrown into a rowdy session over whether or not to use troops to provide security during the forthcoming elections.
Proceedings on the floor was intermittently disrupted with members sharply divided along party leanings. Tempers rose and emotions heightened on the floor of the Lower Chamber as the development caused a stare forcing four members of the Sergeant-at-Arms to move to shield the maze, the official symbol of authority of the parliament.
The subject of discord was the outcome of the report of a motion on the unconstitutional deployment of military personnel for election purposes earlier referred to the Joint Committees on Rules and Business, Justice and Judiciary headed by Albert Sam-Tsokwa to advice the House on the matter.
Members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) alternated between a brief walk out and persistent voice dissent when they re-entered the chambers which was characterized by heightened disorderliness.
Trouble started when Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, called on Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba) to present his report on the desirability of taking the motion introduced to the floor last week by Femi Gbajabiamila seeking the parliament to reverse the Federal Government’s move to deploy troops during the forthcoming elections.
Gbajabiamila had on Thursday last week specifically sought, interalia, a resolution of the House restraining the Federal Government from deploying the military for use during the forthcoming general elections in the country.
But the panel could not brief the House Tuesday on the outcome of the referral to the joint committees, instead, it requested for more time (yesterday) to present the report.
Submitting the report on the floor yesterday, Sam-Tsokwa declared that the controversial motion was caught in the cobweb of both the constitution and the House Standing Orders and therefore should be thrown out by the parliament.
He cited the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill wherein the House approved a clause empowering the INEC Chairman to request Mr. President to deploy the military in appropriate circumstances, on election duty.
The lawmaker also cited relevant sections of the constitution establishing the armed forces of the federation, the role of the commander-in-chief exercisable by the president in crisis situations as well as the Armed Forces Act which, according to him, formed the basis of the committee’s submission.
Specifically, Sam-Tsokwa submitted that the committee reasoned that the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act sufficiently give powers to the President on the operational use of the military, and that an earlier resolution on the same subject matter, which gave the INEC chairman powers to request for the deployment of the military during elections, before such is done if need be, can be rescinded to take the motion in question, only through another substantive motion.
He argued that “the legislature cannot give with the right hand and take back with the left. The rules say, to do so, the earlier decision has to be rescinded first and this has not been done.”
Ruling based on the advice as suggested by the panel, Ihedioha, who presided over the plenary, upheld the call to drop the motion, a development that angered members of the opposition APC, and their leader Gbajabiamila who made several unsuccessful moves to bring up the matter again via a point of order, arguing that the committee went beyond its brief as directed by the Lower Chamber.
Protesting, he said the House will be setting a bad precedent if it decided otherwise on the motion and vowed that the matter “will not die.”
Emotions continued to rise, as members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were applauding the decision, while their APC counterparts were sternly opposing any attempt to continue the House’s proceedings, and the session was turned into a shouting bout, as shouts of “PDP” and “APC” continued to rent the air from the opposing camps. Shortly after, the APC Caucus members staged a brief walk-out.
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