SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, on Tuesday, tactically confirmed that there was a coup threat in the country, as he warned members to refrain from any discussion that could heat up the polity.
He also averted another rowdy session, which was to break out on the floor of the House, on proposed motion on the state of the nation and the health status of President Umaru Yar’Adua, as he compelled the House to hold a closed door session on Yar’Adua’s matter.
During the session, the Speaker appealed to members to soften their stance on the Yar’Adua issues while citing the reports on plans to topple the government as reason the National Assembly must allow the president to be, in order to calm frayed nerves in the country.
Three members– Honourable Mayor Eze; Patrick Obahiagbon and Samuel Whesu Sejoro – representing Imo, Edo and Lagos respectively, had moved to commit the House to taking their points of order on the political situation in the country, all urging the House to take a definite decision on the turn of events.
However, the Speaker, apparently minding the consequences of the proposed motions, prevented each of them from airing their views in the open, as he invited them for private talks.
It was Honourable Eze who first raised a point of order to draw the attention of his colleagues to the remarks credited to the Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, about the influence of certain people in the presidency, who, she alleged, had held the president hostage. But the Speaker cut him short mid-way, and immediately invited him for a one-on-one chat, after which the lawmaker concluded his presentation.
Eze had hardly taken his seat when another member, Patrick Obahiagbon, raised a point of order with intent to condemn the manner troops were deployed in the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport last Wednesday by the Brigade of Guards in the presidency without the order of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
Obahiagbon told his colleagues that the secret deployment of troops to the airport for security surveillance on the day Yar’Adua arrived in the country was a breach of Parliamentary Privileges and Nigerian Constitution, citing Section 218 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 8 of Armed Forces Act to buttress his point.
The Edo representative argued that since the National Assembly had empowered Jonathan to act as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the authority to summon or order any troops for any assignment rested exclusively on him.
According to Obahiagbon, sections 47 to 89 of the Nigerian constitution conferred on the federal parliament the power to legislate on behalf of Nigerians, arguing, therefore, that the resolve by the National Assembly to confer the power of acting president had firm roots in Nigerian law.
He was not allowed to explain himself before he was summoned by the Speaker for a brief session of one-on-one, which eventually led the lawmaker to stand down his motion.
In the same vein, Sejoro raised another Point of Order calling members’ attention to the manner President Yar’Adua was being kept out of sight as he accused the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, of holding the president captive against his wish.
Sejoro was attempting to mobilise the House towards deciding on compelling the first lady to present her husband for Nigerians to see and know his true health situation, but was prevented from doing so as the Speaker again invited him for a private discussion on the issue he was trying to raise.
It was when members looked set to raise another motion after the motions on the Yar’Adua issue that the Speaker called for a closed door session which lasted more than two hours after which members passed a one-paragraph resolution which called on Nigerians to focus on matters that would promote peace, unity and progress of the country.
However, members who briefed Nigerian Tribune on issues discussed during the closed door session said those who spoke were given sufficient time to air their views on the state of the nation, and a majority of those who spoke were displeased with the uncompromising stance of the leadership in sweeping any matter concerning the ailing president under the carpet.
Some members were said to have expressed regret that the Senate had started taking the initiative to toe the line of the Nigerian public on the current political situation in the country while blaming the House leadership for tempering the progressive disposition of the House on national matters.
Some members were said to have confronted Bankole on his initial claim to have spoken with Yar’Adua while he was in Saudi Arabia, even as they asked him to tell the plenary session whether or not he had been able to see the president since he was smuggled back into the country about a week ago.
The Speaker was said to have calmed down his colleagues with scary reports about the possibility of a military take-over of government in the light of lingering crisis on the health condition of President Yar’Adua, a reason he reportedly asked members to be circumspect commenting on the political situation in the country.
Some members told the Nigerian Tribune that Bankole hit hard at members and softened them instantly when he told them that in the event of any military coup in Nigeria, the lawmakers would be the first casualties.
It was at that point that members restated their commitment to the resolution they had taken on empowering Goodluck Jonathan to act as the president of Nigeria with a plea to him to report to the National Assembly, henceforth, any attempt to prevent him from exercising the full presidential power conferred on him by the federal parliament.
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