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House of Reps

Reps pass new rules for electing presiding officers.

The House of Representatives in Abuja yesterday voted a new set of rules in its standing orders, favouring the election of presiding officers through an open ballot system.

GBAJA DECLARES FOR HOUSE SPEAKER—From left: Members-elects for the House of Reps, Mogaji Aliyu, Leader the House, Femi Gbajabiamila; Abdulmumuni Jibrin and Khadijat Abba Ibrahim, during Gbajabiamila’s official declaration for the post of Speaker of the 9th House of Reps in Abuja, yesterday, Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan. The amendments were parts of the recommendations forwarded to the House by an adhoc Committee chaired by Hon. Julius Ihonvere regarding the election of presiding officers.But the new system received stiff opposition by some opposition lawmakers who argued against leaving election procedure open ended. The old rule supporting secret ballot system was apparently rendered ineffective in the new rules until Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), raised an observation to the effect that making the rule silent on the particular procedure to be adopted for voting would be leaving the decision to the discretion of a civil servant, in this case, the clerk to the National Assembly, CNA. The observation prompted Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who chaired the Committee of the Whole to ask Hon. Ihonvere to explain the intention of the clause. Responding, Ihonvere said that the procedure was left open to allow some flexibility give the Clerk the room to exercise discretion of whether to use open or secret or open-secret ballot system. Ossai, again questioned the rationale behind empowering a bureaucrat to decide the manner in which presiding officers are elected by members, saying that the rule must not be ambiguous but specific. Gbajabiamila at this point called for an amendment to the clause to read that “the election of presiding officers shall be conducted in an open ballot system”. Further attempts by the opposition lawmakers to argue the matter failed as the Speaker went on with the clause-by-clause considering and voting, hitting the gavel. There was also an amendment to include a provision for the division of the House before voting can be done. The amendments were later upheld, effecting changes in the rules of the House. The House also amended the clause to suspension members over a breach of privileges. Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin(APC, Kano), called for removal of the clause prescribing suspension of a member from the House based on a ruling of a court. But again, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai who chaired the ethics and privileges committee in the 8th Assembly, and recommended Jibrin’s suspension for 180 legislative days responded that the essence of the provision for suspension was for sanity in the House and not to witch hunt any member. The Speaker at this juncture lent his voice, saying that there were two types of suspension prescribed by the rules.

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But the new system received stiff opposition by some opposition lawmakers who argued against leaving election procedure open ended. The old rule supporting secret ballot system was apparently rendered ineffective in the new rules until Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), raised an observation to the effect that making the rule silent on the particular procedure to be adopted for voting would be leaving the decision to the discretion of a civil servant, in this case, the clerk to the National Assembly, CNA. The observation prompted Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who chaired the Committee of the Whole to ask Hon. Ihonvere to explain the intention of the clause. Responding, Ihonvere said that the procedure was left open to allow some flexibility give the Clerk the room to exercise discretion of whether to use open or secret or open-secret ballot system. Ossai, again questioned the rationale behind empowering a bureaucrat to decide the manner in which presiding officers are elected by members, saying that the rule must not be ambiguous but specific. Gbajabiamila at this point called for an amendment to the clause to read that “the election of presiding officers shall be conducted in an open ballot system”. Further attempts by the opposition lawmakers to argue the matter failed as the Speaker went on with the clause-by-clause considering and voting, hitting the gavel. There was also an amendment to include a provision for the division of the House before voting can be done. The amendments were later upheld, effecting changes in the rules of the House. The House also amended the clause to suspension members over a breach of privileges. Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin(APC, Kano), called for removal of the clause prescribing suspension of a member from the House based on a ruling of a court. But again, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai who chaired the ethics and privileges committee in the 8th Assembly, and recommended Jibrin’s suspension for 180 legislative days responded that the essence of the provision for suspension was for sanity in the House and not to witchhunt any member. The Speaker at this juncture lent his voice, saying that there were two types of suspension prescribed by the rules.

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