Dog­ara gets sweep­ing pow­ers in new rules

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Musa Ab­dul­lahi Kr­ishi

The new rules adopted by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have given the Speaker, Yakubu Dog­ara, sweep­ing pow­ers to deal with in­di­vid­u­als or groups seen as threats to his seat, Daily Trust can re­port.

This de­vel­op­ment comes as Dog­ara, who emerged speaker of the lower leg­isla­tive cham­ber on June 9 against the wishes of his party, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), con­tin­ues to con­sol­i­date his grip on the House.

The new rules were adopted on Oc­to­ber 8 based on the re­port of the Rep Aminu Sha­gari-led 15-mem­ber ad­hoc com­mit­tee on Rules and Busi­ness which re­viewed the stand­ing or­ders of the House.

Hence­forth, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended, any mem­ber that “ap­proaches the mace with what­ever in­tent” dur­ing

an up­roar shall be meted with a sus­pen­sion of a pe­riod not less than six months.

The new rules pro­vide that: “The mace is the sa­cred author­ity of the House and the only au­tho­rized staff of the Sergeant-at-Arms may ap­proach, han­dle or re­move it in the or­di­nary course of their of­fi­cial du­ties.

“No mem­ber of the House or his agent may ap­proach, han­dle or re­move the mace un­der any cir­cum­stance. Any mem­ber who ap­proaches or han­dles the mace with what­ever in­tent, in­clud­ing to re­move, or who re­moves the mace shall be li­able to sus­pen­sion from the ser­vice of the House for a pe­riod not less than six months or such longer pe­riod as the Speaker or Chair­man may con­sider ex­pe­di­ent hav­ing re­gard to the par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances,” it said.

In ad­di­tion, the new rules pro­vide that the speaker can sus­pend out­right, for 30 ple­nary days, any mem­ber that re­fuses to obey the di­rec­tion of the speaker to leave the House cham­ber dur­ing a par­tic­u­lar day’s sit­ting, af­ter such a mem­ber has been di­rected to as­sume their seat but failed to do so.

It says a mem­ber who is asked to leave the House cham­ber by the speaker but fails, “...when sum­moned un­der the Speaker’s Or­der by the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Speaker shall call to the at­ten­tion of the House that force is nec­es­sary in or­der to com­pel obe­di­ence and any mem­ber named by the Speaker as hav­ing re­fused to obey his di­rec­tion shall there­upon, with­out any fur­ther ques­tion be­ing put, be sus­pended from the ser­vice of the House for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing 30 ple­nary days.”

Sim­i­larly, the re­port gives the speaker pow­ers to sus­pend House sit­ting any­time he fore­sees an ap­par­ent dis­or­der. The rules say: “In the case of a grave dis­or­der aris­ing in the House, the Speaker may, if he deems it nec­es­sary to do so, sus­pend the sit­ting for a time to be named by him.”

The re­port also bans mem­bers from en­ter­ing the cham­ber or any­where in the House with weapons, say­ing “No mem­ber shall en­ter the cham­ber or the precincts of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with guns, dag­gers, grenades, knives or any other weapons or in­stru­ment of vi­o­lence.”

It also pro­hibits the use of gad­gets, say­ing “No mem­ber shall op­er­ate cam­eras, tape recorders, tele­phones and other communications equip­ment in the cham­ber or dur­ing com­mit­tee meet­ings ex­cept strictly for leg­isla­tive pur­poses.”

Our cor­re­spon­dent ob­served that the re­port lim­its the func­tion of the Ma­jor­ity Whip from or­ga­niz­ing “mem­bers in de­bates and di­vi­sions and per­suade them on vot­ing one way or the other,” to or­ga­niz­ing “mem­bers of his/her party in de­bates and di­vi­sions, and per­suade them on vot­ing one way or the other.”

Ac­cord­ing to New Rule 112 (2): “Com­mit­tees of the House shall hold joint hear­ings and joint over­sight ac­tiv­i­ties, where nec­es­sary, to en­sure ef­fi­ciency and avoid over­lap of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

Also New Rule 112 (8) says: “The House and its com­mit­tees shall as far as prac­ti­ca­ble ad­here to stan­dard­ized tem­plates, man­u­als and for­mats de­vel­oped for its ac­tiv­i­ties, such as leg­isla­tive over­sight man­ual, com­mit­tee man­ual, re­port­ing man­ual and pub­lic hear­ing man­ual.”

Some mem­bers of the House who spoke to Daily Trust said the new rules gave the speaker the power he needed to checkmate op­po­nents who might still be nurs­ing the am­bi­tion to oust him.

They said since the re­turn of demo­cratic gov­er­nance in Nige­ria in 1999, there had been at­tempts to take away the mace at the lower cham­ber dur­ing com­mo­tions, but that there was never a time the law­mak­ers came up with any rule sanc­tion­ing such an ac­tion.

Dog­ara had faced stiff op­po­si­tion from ma­jor­ity of his All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) law­mak­ers, which re­sulted in an at­tempt by some of them to snatch the mace on June 23, when the speaker failed to an­nounce names of those nom­i­nated by the party to fill prin­ci­pal of­fi­cers’ po­si­tions.

Dog­ara de­feated cur­rent House Leader Femi Gba­jabi­amila to clinch the speaker’s seat, scor­ing 182 votes to the lat­ter’s 174.

At­tempts to get re­ac­tion of the chair­man of the House ad­hoc com­mit­tee on me­dia Rep Sani Zorro were not suc­cess­ful yes­ter­day.

How­ever, deputy chair­man of the com­mit­tee Rep Ab­dul­razak Nam­das said the rea­son for com­ing up with the new rule on mace was to en­sure that all mem­bers would re­spect the House’s sym­bol of author­ity.

“We don’t want our sym­bol of author­ity to be abused by any­body. Of course out of 360 mem­bers, there may be peo­ple with dif­fer­ent views, but that does not mean one should just rush and pick the mace. So, this new rule will make us to re­spect the sym­bol of author­ity. Th­ese amend­ments are not done with any ul­te­rior mo­tive. We should be com­mended for do­ing that,” he said.

Asked if the amend­ment was done to fore­stall any im­peach­ment at­tempt against Dog­ara in fu­ture, Nam­das said: “That is not true. The amend­ment has noth­ing to do with the is­sue of the im­peach­ment. A speaker can be im­peached with­out pick­ing the mace.”

On the rule that pro­vides for sus­pen­sion for 30 ple­nary days, the law­maker said: “We elected the speaker and we re­spect him. If he says you should sit down or he rules you out of or­der, you should re­spect him. We did every­thing in line with our leg­isla­tive agenda to work for the Nige­rian peo­ple, so we don’t want any­body to dis­rupt our pro­ceed­ings.”

Photo: NAN

A sus­pected Boko Haram mem­ber ar­rested by the mil­i­tary af­ter a bomb ex­plo­sion at Um­mu­dari Mo­lai area of Maiduguri.

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