The House of Reps. in response to a press release by Mr. Francis Agbo, who claimed to be the spokesman of the minority caucus, alleging that the speaker was wrong in not allowing the debate on the issue raised by the minority leader, has insisted that there was no error in the statement by the Speaker and has refused to withdraw earlier statement, reiterating zero tolerance of terrorism of any kind.
The Spokesperson of the House and Member representing Bende Federal Constituency, Rep. Benjamin Kalu in another press release stated that his office will not join issues with him neither will he delve further to the content of the lead debate yet to be presented. However, for the sake of necessary clarity he insisted on the following points;
A. That the press release in reference, was not directed at the minority leader or to disparage his person in any form, truth be said, raising such issues on behalf of Nigerians defines the value of our representation and we commend him. However, there are rules for such a presentation that must be followed in line with parliamentary practice.
B. The House acknowledges the severity of the issue and its nature as a matter of public concern. As always, the House stands ready to give audience to Rep. Ndudi Elumelu or any other member of the House on this issue, provided that such audience is sought through the proper channels and brought under the relevant rules of the House.
C. The House rules allow for Motions on Notice, Motions without Notice, and Motions on Matters of Urgent Public Importance. The minority leader could have come under any of these but he erroneously chose to come by way of privileges.
D. That Order 6 (1) reads; Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually, conferred by the legislative Houses( Powers and Privileges )Act, 2017 and other statutes, Practices, Precedents, Usages, and customs. Purposively speaking, privileges are House-specific either individually or collectively. Therefore, issues that come under privileges must have this all-important element and must not be general in nature.
E. That Order 6(3) reads; A member raising a matter of privilege shall draw the attention of the House to the provision(s) of the Legislative Houses ( Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 or the standing orders of the House and other statutes breached in relation to him or the House. At no point did the minority leader, Hon Ndudi Elumelu comply with these provisions of the house rules, simply because there was no nexus between the issue and the provisions of this Powers and Privileges Act, 2017. The matter did not and will never qualify to be brought to the house under Order 6. (Privileges)
F. That the relevant issue raised by Hon Elumelu which is of national importance is inadmissible under privileges for what it seeks to address, since matters under privilege, once breached, must be personal and internal to the House. This is why all matters of privilege are sent to the House committee on ethics and privileges, not to the President directly as the house resolution as alleged by the yet to be tutored “spokesman” of the minority caucus. One wonders what the house committee on ethics and privilege will be doing with the sack of Pantami.
G. That there is no debate on privileges unless a motion has arisen from it, in which case, it must be seconded before debated in line with the house rules and procedure to a motion.
H. That Hon Ndudi Elumelu, though seasoned, experienced, and celebrated legislator unlike his spokesman Hon Francis Agbo, came under the wrong order on this issue and the presiding officer, the Rt. Hon. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila brought it to his notice openly on the floor of the house and in front of the camera watched and heard all over the world.
I. That the right parliamentary corridor to pass important issues like this, which had a national out-look, not specific on a particular member of the House to the exclusion of all others and urgent, should have been either through a Motion on Matter of Public Importance or a Motion on Notice, since it concerns the entire nation.
J. That bringing it up under any of the two motions, will give the debate a democratic spread among members from different constituencies to be well heard.
K. That at no point did the presiding officer, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, acknowledge that Hon Ndudi Elumelu came through the correct Point of Order, rather, he told him the opposite, and Hon Francis Agbo should be honourable enough, not horrible in deceiving Nigerians with his skill in the misrepresentation of facts. I refer Nigerians to the video coverage of the plenary of the said date.
L. That it appears the Minority Caucus “spokesman “ is just waking up, because one wonders where he was when Hon Jaha Babao brought a proper Matter under Privileges the following day on the same issue in the presence of the minority leader, to correct all the misrepresentations and unanimously adopted by the House. This resolution of the house is in line with my formal Press Release since it was not contested by any segment of the house including the Minority leader or the Caucus members. It was a very ranking member of the caucus Hon Nkem Abonta, who openly agreed with Hon Jaha Babao and pleaded that the right thing should be done and proper motion tabled by the Minority leader Hon Ndudi Elumelu on this issue before the house. It appears the caucus is divided on this; the knowledgeable against the learners.
M. That the minority leader has allowed Hon Francis Agbo to defeat the integrity of the content of his call, by opting to play politics on such a serious matter with his sentimental appeal to the public rather than do the right thing by representing the matter to the house as being guided. After all, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker at one time or the other were guided and they retraced their procedural steps on important issues ( Eg. Disease control bill and the Diaspora Petition) The minority leader and his mouthpiece are advised to show humility in leadership and service to Nigerians on this issue like the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have shown severally.
N. It is therefore pertinent to inform Nigerians that the House has not acted in error, but in line with the provisions of its rules. All insinuations that the House did not allow democratic debate to take place on the important issue of Pantami’s resignation are simply untrue. As always, the House stands ready to give an audience to Rep. Elumelu or any other member of the House on this issue, provided that such audience is sought through the proper channels and brought under the relevant rules of the House.
O. The leadership and membership of the 9th House of Representatives does not, and would never support terrorism or its sponsors in any form.
P. That the House stands by these positions as they are in line with the House rules we made to guide us and should not be seen breaching it as every good law applies to both principal officers and first-time members in the spirit of equality before the law. How can we breach the laws we made for ourselves and expect Nigerians to obey the ones we make on their behalf.
Q. That the house will not be apologizing for properly guiding a derailing senior member of the house, hoping that the minority caucus should scout for a knowledgeable spokesman, not just a prose writer. The job of a good spokesman goes beyond literature.
R. That to continuously misrepresent the house before the public will attract the actual invocation of the spirit of Privileges that might lead to an invitation by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, on why the spokesman should be allowed to be destroying the image of the House of Representatives.
April 23, 2021
Our attention has been drawn to the press release by one Hon Francis Agbo, who claimed to be the spokesman of the minority caucus, alleging that the speaker was wrong in not allowing the debate on the issue raised by the minority leader. My office will not join personal issues with him or go to the content of the yet to be presented lead debate but will not fail to insist, as follows;
Rep. Benjamin Okezie Kalu
Spokesperson, House of Representatives