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NASS Crisis: Uncertainty Looms As Senate, House Resume Tuesday

NASS-leadership-300x225The prospect of peaceful resumption in the two chambers of the National Assembly Tuesday was clouded by uncertainty despite trouble shooting efforts that were still in the works at press time last night.

It was feared that should the peace efforts fail, the brawl that smeared the last sitting of the House of Representatives last month could replay itself and spread to the Senate on the resumption of the two chambers today.

The fears were heightened upon the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to decisively reconcile the two camps of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House at a meeting he summoned Monday evening.

Before the failed meeting by the President which ended last night without a breakthrough, meetings by APC governors to reconcile the party’s brawling camps in the Senate also failed to produce a significant result.

Ahead of the meeting with the President in the Villa, the Yakubu Dogara-led House issued a stern warning of possible sanctions against trouble-makers who may decide to run riot in the chambers today. The ad-hoc committee on Code of Conduct warned that any member that exhibits any act capable of disrupting the sitting would face severe sanctions.

The meeting with Buhari
At the meeting in the Villa, the President appealed to the two camps led by Speaker Dogara and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was defeated in the leadership contest, to sheathe their swords and project the interests of the party.

He pleaded with the members to heed the party’s position on the issues, a stance that was immediately lapped up by Gbajabiamila, who is being projected by his camp to become the House Leader.

That quest is, however, opposed by the mainstream of the House led by Dogara on the claim that it would infringe on the principle of Federal character given that the Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep. Yusuf Lasun is also from the same Southwest zone as Gbajabiamila.

Coming out from the meeting, some members apparently divided in their interests wore looks of anxiety.

Those who spoke said that the President asked the House leadership to toe the party’s line in appointing principal officers.

However, Dogara and Gbajabimaila told State House correspondents that they were optimistic the problem would be resolved soon.

It’s a family affair— Gbajabiamila
The first to speak was Gbajabiamila, who said that the meeting was a family affair.

“We had a family meeting. We spoke heart to heart. The President was very forthright. It was basically on party supremacy. I believe that by the end of the day, before the end of this night, you guys will know the outcome. We are still talking. But I think this is the first time everybody is coming together in a cordial atmosphere as one family. I think we are almost at the point where all of these will be behind us.”

We’ll pull through— Oyegun
Also speaking, National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said that hopes were bright that the party would pull through.

“Everything is up. You can see I am smiling. You will be very surprised. A lot was achieved in 20 minutes. You can see the Speaker of the House standing firmly by me. In another three, four hours, we will have good news for the nation. It is never too late to strengthen the past”, he said.

I stand by the party — Dogara
In his comment, Dogara said he had always stood by the party.

“I have always been by the party. There has never been a time that I never stood firmly by the party. So, like my chairman has explained, sooner or later, we will have good news for Nigerians,” he said.

Following the meeting in the Villa, the President asked Oyegun to iron out the issues with the two camps. That meeting was yet to commence at press time.

Sources in the Dogara camp buoyed by the increasing strength of the group upon the depletion of the Gbajabiamila group, pledged that the limit the group would offer to Gbajabiamila would be a juicy committee position and not the House Leader, he and his group have demanded.

However, following the villa meeting, the Dogara camp resolved to concede two of the principal officer positions, House Leader and Chief Whip to the Gbajabiamila group, while the Dogara camp would do with the deputy leader and deputy chief whip. A source in the Dogara camp said that the group had offered the position of House Leader to Alhassan Doguwa from Kano State and Chief Whip to Pally Iriase from Edo State.

The deputy leader position is to be filled by Buba Jibrin from Kogi State and deputy chief whip by Chike Okafor from Imo State.

The statement of caution against violence on the floor signed by Rep. Aminu Shehu Shagari, Chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Code of Conduct, explained that the committee had been mandated to act as Standing Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Cautions against violence
The statement read in part: “The Adhoc Committee on Code of Conduct of the House of Representatives hereby welcomes members from their working recess.

“Members may wish to note that the committee has been saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the functions of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

“As we resume plenary on Tuesday, 28, July 2015, the committee wishes to call on all members to conduct themselves in an orderly manner. The committee will no longer tolerate any unruly behaviour by any member of the House no matter how highly placed.

“Members who have grievances are advised to explore peaceful avenues of seeking redress instead of resorting to violence on the floor of the House or the precincts of the National Assembly.

“There are adequate sanctions in place to penalise any member who may want to disrupt the peace during plenary, Committee meetings or other legislative functions of the House.

“The House will deal decisively with any member who violates the rules, disrupts plenary, or is found wanting of misconduct and other sundry offences.

“Members are admonished to demonstrate high standards of ethics consistent with the important role of lawmaking and the 8th Assembly Legislative Agenda, which places emphasis on the well-being of the Nigerian people. We should all be guided accordingly.”

Buhari justifies reluctance to interfere
Earlier, Monday morning, the President had justified his reluctance to interfere in the crisis in the National Assembly on the basis of separation of powers.

The prospects of peace were also clouded in the Senate which has also been rocked by internal schism following the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President.

Sources disclosed that the troubleshooting efforts of Governors Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State also failed to reconcile the two APC factions in the Senate respectively led by Saraki and Senator Ahmad Lawan.

C’ttee efforts derailed
A source disclosed that the Oshiomhole–Bagudu committee efforts were derailed after separate meetings with the two camps termed the Senate Unity Forum (SUF) loyal to Lawan and the Like Minds loyal to Saraki failed to produce peace.

The SUF, according to sources, was adamant that Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu should step down as Senate President.

The Like Minds senators were also planning their offensive through a scheme to suspend six members of the Lawan group from the Senate at Tuesday’s session.

The basis of their suspension, it was being speculated, was upon their alleged sponsorship of a petition to the police alleging forgery of the Senate Standing Rules, which is said to be an infringement of Senate standing orders against the externalisation of the internal affairs of the Senate.

The Lawan-led group, on the other hand, is also said to be mobilising to counteract any plan to suspend any one of their members at Tuesday’s sitting.

Meanwhile, as a way of nipping the crisis in the bud, the Oshiomhole-Bagudu committee, it was gathered, had recommended that the Senate leadership should offer juicy committee positions to the Lawan group as a way of mollifying the angst of its members.

Following their interactions, the two governors, briefed the President in the Presidential Villa on the outcome of their intervention.

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