Reps in rowdy session over S’East Dev’t Commission Bill

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.Aggrieved members protest, accuse Speaker of bias

.’The timing of bill inappropriate, no adequate consultation’

The House of Representatives went into a rowdy session on Thursday as members were almost in fisticuff over a “Bill for an Act to establish the South-East Development Commission”, sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader, Wilifred Chukwuka Onyema and 42 others.

The House at plenary presided by its Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, rejected the bill after it was put to a voice vote which aggrieved members believed was in their favour.

The proposed Commission among others sought for a Development Commission charged with the responsibility of allocation of funds from the Federation Account for the reconstruction of houses and infrastructure in the South-East.

Chukwuka Onyema, who was absent when the bill was laid on the table but came in later said the Commission will help to reconstruct the infrastructure destroyed by the civil war in the region.

Some of the lawmakers who contributed to the debate, said the timing of the bill was not right and adequate consultations were not done before it was brought before the house.

Speaking earlier, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, while contributing to the debate, said the bill is a step in the right direction.

He said: “This country needs to be restructured. We cannot continue the way we are going. “The bill is a good step in the right direction. I appeal to all that the bill be considered.”

Also speaking, Sani Abdul, a lawmaker from Bauchi, said the agitation to create the commission is as a result government’s failure to its citizens but frowned at the timing of the presentation of the Bill.

“We should look at it holistically in order not to have a problem. We are worried; the timing of the bill with the agitation of Biafra is suspicious,” he said.

On his part, Sunday Karimi, a lawmaker from Kogi State, said that some of the South-East states were already captured in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the creation of a South-East development commission “will be too much.”

Sani Zorro, a lawmaker from Jigawa State, on his part, said not much consultation was done before the Bill was presented.

“I won’t be comfortable that at the end of the day we leave here with acrimony. In view of the debate we have had so far, we should consult further,” Zoro posited.

The position of lawmakers took a South, North dimension with members from the North opposing the Bill while their Southern counterparts rooted for the passage of the same Bill.

Tempers flared and in the melee that ensued with members almost trading blows, Speaker Dogara put the Bill to a voice vote and while those in support of the Bill felt their voice outnumbered the nay sayers, the Speaker ruled in favour of those that opposed it. This led to further commotion in the House as tempers rose and ended with supporters of the Bill staging a walk out. This brought plenary session to an abrupt end.

Speaking after normalcy had returned, Dogara stated that the House would not shut out any region.
According to him, it is the decision of the House to step down the bill, and not his.

Meanwhile, the South East caucus in the House which wanted to brief members of the House press corps after plenary decided against it when Onyema who was to lead the caucus said he was too upset to talk.

However, a member from Jigawa State and one of those opposed to the Bill, Rep. Gudaji Kazaure, later addressed the press corps where he berated those who felt that the Speaker was biased in ruling in favour of the nay sayers.

He said: “The South East legislators were wrong to have accused Speaker Dogara of truncating the passage of the Bill. They are blaming the Speaker on an issue decided by the members of the House. As members, we are all representing Nigeria and should be seen to be working towards what is enshrined in our coat of arm, which is unity, peace and progress.

When we talk about the Niger Delta Commission, everybody is aware of what happened there with regards to degradation and lack of development, the area deserves that commission. Same goes for the North East where Boko Haram destroyed everything which is the reason why we said the commission is also necessary to help in fixing the infrastructure destroyed. The Bill when passed will come as a form of balance, with the south and north having one each.

“We are against the South East Development Commission Bill because it amounts to competition. By the way, the South East is very close to the South South. The legislators are angling for a commission because they saw the huge money allocated to the Niger Delta Commission in the budget”.

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