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Speakership: Fresh crisis over bid to change voting rules

A fresh crisis is brewing at the House of Representatives over a move to change the mode of electing the presiding officers of the House, with just 21 days to the end of the current tenure and the election of the Speaker of the 8th Assembly.

Under the extant provisions of the Standing Orders of the House, the election of presiding officers is done by secret balloting.

However, there is now a move by some members to amend the rules and change the voting mode to open balloting.

Investigations showed that the development had torn members apart across political parties and geopolitical lines, following speculation that the planned alteration of the rules was intended to favour certain contestants.

The race for the speakership has since narrowed to current Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos APC), and the Chairman, Committee on House Services, Mr. Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi APC), as main contestants.

However, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin (Kano APC), the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Mr. Mohammed Monguno (Borno APC) and the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Constituency Outreach, Mr. Pally Iriase (Edo APC), are still in the race.

One National Assembly official conversant with the underground moves, said, “The reason for moving to change the rules is simple. Some lawmakers are seen not to be sincere in their commitment to the contestants.

“They have been attending meetings called by all the contestants and pledging support to all of them. But there is an understanding that a particular contestant should be elected the Speaker. There are members who are against this understanding, even though in the open, they agree that we are all on the same page.

“Amending the rules to open balloting will allow everyone to see how members are voting; to identify those who will go against this understanding.

“But, there is going to be some crisis because many lawmakers are opposing this move to alter the rules.”

A source gathered that the move to change the rules came amid unconfirmed reports that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress had zoned the speakership to the South-West.

But the party continually keeps mute over the issue, further deepening the disagreement among lawmakers over who to back for the speakership between Gbajabiamila and Dogara.

Another senior member of the House said, “What is going on has actually gone beyond zoning. There is so much division now that even an official position taken by the party will not stop members from insisting on having a contest between the leading contestants.

“The motion to amend the rules was to have been moved on Thursday with the knowledge of the leadership of the House.

“It was rescheduled to next week at the last-minute when it became clear that the House was not ready for it.”

Investigations showed that there was a deepening crack among members in many states and the Federal Capital Territory caucuses of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party over Gbajabiamila and Dogara.

There are some members said to have latched onto the latest comments by the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), that he would not interfere with the election of officers of the National Assembly to mean that the APC should jettison zoning.

Asked to comment on the issue, House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said any member was free to move a motion on the floor of the House. He, however, clarified that the decision of members to accept the motion would depend on its “merit.”

Mohammed added, “The House cannot stop any member from moving a motion. All motions are heard by the House.

“What is important is the merit of the motion. Members will on hearing the motion, vote to either accept the motion or reject it.”

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Posted By BOBRICKY On 07:53 Sat, 16 May 2015

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