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Lawmakers Walk Out On Ihedioha, Protest Deputy Speaker's High-handedness

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ABUJA, February 14, (THEWILL) - Members of the House of Representatives, Thursday, vehemently protested alleged high-handedness of the deputy speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who presided over the session for what they described as " a skewed and dictatorial " conduct at the plenary.

The aggrieved members who eventually walked out of the chamber before it adjourned were angry over the manner in which the deputy speaker shortchanged them on a bill majority of them opposed. The quarrel was over the debate for second reading on a bill for an act to amend the Industrial Training Fund for the purpose of empowering the fund to design, set up and operate guidelines for the training, certification, nationwide, at state, local government and ward levels and to establish areas registries for maintaining up-to-date registers of certified artisans and technicians in all fields and in all parts of the federation.

When debate opened on the bill, the members were sharply divided on the need for the bill as many argued that it was a duplication of the functions already being performed by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

The bill, sponsored by Hon. Chudi Uwazuruike, and aimed at setting standards for artisans so as to expand the scope of industries, attracted massive opposition from the lawmakers who argued that NDE was already taking care of the functions being sought by the new bill.

However, signs that there was no love lost between the deputy speaker and the lawmakers, especially those from the northern geopolitical zone, emanated when after the close of debate on the bill, the deputy speaker put up a question to decide its fate.

After the first call, he opted to take it the second time, explaining that the difference was not discernible. He therefore put the question again, and subsequently ruled that those supporting the bill were victorious, thereby passing it for second reading.

The lawmakers opposed to the bill did not take his antics lightly and instantly challenged his decision, as according to them, they were clearly in the majority.

Ihedioha, who was visibly jolted by the protest and threats by the lawmakers to leave the chambers, quickly appealed to the aggrieved members to stay back. However, after conferring with the deputy clerk, he ruled in favour of those in support of the bill.

But as soon as he ruled, those who were against the bill did not wait for the House to adjourn as they angrily stormed out of the chambers.

Before he ruled, Hon. Ali Madaki (PDP, Kano) had raised a point of order reminding the deputy speaker that according to the House Standing Rules, in situation like that, the members would have to be divided to decide. The deputy speaker ignored the point of order and ruled that "this bill has been referred to the committee on industries."

His decision angered the protesting lawmakers who maintained that they won’t accept it. As the Sergeant at Arms was leading the deputy speaker out of the chambers, Hon. Tijanni Abdullahi Jobe was shouting on the top of his voice: "You cannot continue this type of attitude in this House. You have to respect our opinion because we are all representatives of the people.”

Shortly, the lawmakers who supported the bill such as Friday Itulah (PDP, Edo), Patrick Ikhariale (PDP, Edo), Sekonte Davies (PDP, Rivers) and the sponsor of the bill, Nwazuirike (PDP, Imo) also came out of the chambers after the deputy speaker attempted to calm down their aggrieved colleagues to no avail.

Hon. Aisha Ahmed (PDP, Adamawa) who laid a solid foundation for opposition against the bill on the floor said: " We cannot sit here all day and our opinion will not be taken into consideration by the presiding officer. Nobody was elected as presiding officer from his constituency; they were all voted here on the floor. This is bad and it has to stop."

The deputy speaker walked passed them but as he was leaving the main building otherwise known as "White House" for his office in the new building, he was again accosted by the aggrieved lawmakers who expressed displeasure at the way he handled the ruling on the bill.

It was at this point that the deputy speaker engaged Jobe in a shouting match, screaming “Keep shut! Keep shut! You impugn motives into everything we do on the floor of the House. We don't have any interest in this bill."

But the lawmaker would not give up easily as he replied Ihedioha: "The way things are done in this House is wrong, you cannot continue to treat us this way."

At this point, the deputy speaker who was visibly angered by the comments charged at Jobe, "Don't portray us in the way we are not."

Expressing his dismay for the action of the deputy speaker, Hon. Ali Madaki warned that "We will not accept this. This will not stand, it must be revisited on Tuesday. We are not anybody's children and nobody brought us to this House. We voted three times rejecting the bill and that is our stand."