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FRESH STORM IN HOUSE OF REPS

By NBF News
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The last may not have been heard in the crisis rocking the House of Representatives as a new set of lawmakers have begun another move to oust the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole.

This followed the suspension of 11 lawmakers belonging to The Progressives group in the aftermath of last Tuesday's free-for-all inside the green chamber.

Sunday Sun investigation revealed that two separate groups have emerged to launch a fresh onslaught within and outside the National Assembly against the Speaker.

One of the new groups, whose members met at the highbrow Maitama and Wuse II areas of Abuja, have reportedly sworn to ensure that Bankole is ousted.

The group, whose membership is largely sympathetic to the former Speaker, Patricia Etteh, as well as the suspended Hon Dino Melaye group, is said to have decided to move against Bankole because of what they perceived as injustice against Etteh. The former Speaker was removed for a mere intention to spend N628 million on the renovation of an official residence, whereas Bankole is enmeshed in alleged misappropriation of N9 billion.

'They have decided to fuel the ongoing controversy on contract awards and, if necessary, release more documents to the public in order to get rid of the Speaker,' sources close to the meeting revealed.

One member disclosed that a message of solidarity had been sent to Melaye and the other lawmakers that were beaten up inside the chamber, with a pledge to mobilize for their return to the House.

The embattled 'Bankole-Must-Go' lawmakers have therefore reached out to their arsenal to launch a fresh onslaught after Tuesday's chaos.

The lawmakers had resumed plenary from a two-week break last Tuesday but turned the hallowed chamber into a boxing arena at the end of which some left with broken legs, battered nose and torn clothes.

Arising from the fracas, 11 of the legislators were suspended indefinitely and their offices sealed.

But expectations that the suspension will douse the heat and restore normalcy appear dashed as Sunday Sun gathered that if anything, the development has only thrown up more issues, which at the end of the day may consume even those that had been silent and kept a safe distance from the raging imbroglio.

Meetings of caucuses and groups were held after the embarrassing events of Tuesday, with members expressing fears about the backlash from within and outside the chamber. At one of the meetings attended by Etteh's loyalists, it was gathered that members openly disagreed over the handling of the session and the image of the House very close to an election year.

'In our meeting today, most members were not happy. You can feel it and you can see that it is one development members wished it never happened. Nobody is sure what would happen next. Virtually everybody is worried about this ugly development,' a member said.

'What happened on Tuesday is just the beginning of many things that will lead to the cleaning of the House. This is what we have agreed. You can call it Plan A and this is what I'm aware of, that there is Plan B and C.

'I can tell you authoritatively that the House is sitting on a keg of gunpowder and in no distant time, it will explode. The leadership should be prepared to expel more members, particularly those of us who are ready to sanitize the House, ' a member confided in Sunday Sun.

The member from the South-South zone said that the message of The Progressives cannot be wished away just like that, since it borders on the integrity of the leadership and every member of the House.

The show of shame was witnessed by pupils of City Royal Secondary School, Nyanya, Abuja. They were on tour of the National Assembly and were at the gallery to observe parliamentarians at work. Allegations and counter allegations bordering on financial impropriety had fouled the air throughout the two-week recess, culminating in the issuance of an ultimatum to the Speaker to resign or be disgraced out of office.

The Progressives had threatened to release incriminating documents on contracts sleaze and did so at the expiration of the ultimatum. The group also took its campaign to the anti-graft body, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. But the crisis peaked on Tuesday when some of the lawmakers threw punches at each other and tore their colleagues clothes before they were thrown out of the chambers.

Most of the legislators decried the show of shame, but also said their aggrieved colleagues failed to explore the internal mechanism before washing their dirty linen in public. Those suspended include Dino Melaye, West Idahosa, Independence Ogunewe, Solomon Awhinawhi, Austin Nwachukwu, and Abba Anas.

Others are Gbenga Oduwaiye, Kayode Amusan, Gbenga Onigbogi, Bitrus Kaze and Doris Uboh.

However, the names of four members of the group – Darlington Okereke, Ralph Okeke, George Daika and Asita Honourable – were not included on the list of the suspended lawmakers, fuelling speculations that they were planted as moles in The Progressives camp.