Yar'Adua: House Considers Emergency Session
Nigeria's House of Representatives may reconvene this week in an emergency session to deliberate on some crucial political developments arising from the prolonged absence of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
This is coming amidst pressures from civil society organisations, including the Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) seeking the intervention of the National Assembly on what has now become an endless wait for the return of Yar'Adua who has been on admission at the King Faisal Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for over one month.
Over the past few days, the pressures have been mounting as the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), a coalition of 100 independent lawyers and another group of 55 eminent Nigerians have demanded the intervention of the National Assembly on the absence, without leave, of Yar'Adua.
The House of Representatives, which has been on Christmas vacation, was billed to resume plenary on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 but there were strong indications yesterday that it may have opted to resume earlier because of “some political uncertainties” and the need for the parliament to intervene before it is too late.
The House had avoided deliberations on motions raised on the constitutionality of the President's absence before the lawmakers embarked on their current recess.
THISDAY, however, learnt that some key figures in the leadership of the green chamber were now convinced that the National Assembly may not be able to hold the fire any longer given the long-drawn cat-and-mouse game being played by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the controversy and current scenario where the parliament appears to have assumed the image of a docile institution in the eyes of the public. THISDAY learnt that the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole, met with some principal officers of the House over the weekend where they considered the various options open to the parliament and the need to take some decisive actions within the ambit of the legislative powers to address the situation.
A source close to the leadership disclosed that one of the options thrown up was for the House to resume today and allow members ample time to prepare for a special session on Thursday, where the issue of the prolonged absence of Yar'Adua and its implications on the polity would be debated on live television as is customary with Thursday sittings of the House.
Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Ita Enang, was however evasive when THISDAY sought his comments on the latest developments. Although Enang admitted that the leadership of the House had been meeting even while on holidays, he could neither confirm nor deny that such meetings were not in relation to the state of the nation and the search for legislative solutions.
On whether the leadership of the House has met over Yar'Adua, Enang replied: “I am not supposed to say yes, there was, or no there wasn't. You know that there are meetings and meetings and I don't know which one can be which. I will suggest in this case that we be a little patient, when we get close to the resumption of plenary, the details of what is in the offing will be made known to all. We don't have any motion to that effect yet; there is none yet. If there is I would say yes.
“Until that motion comes we can't speak. But I know that any matter that ought to be in relation to Mr. President has to be by the initiative of the President. Such a matter will have to be attended to if the President initiates the action. So, no action has been initiated and for now, members of the National Assembly are just consciously working on what the constitution allows them to do in circumstances like this.”
HURIWA, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged the National Assembly to constitute a search party to visit Saudi Arabia and ascertain Yar'Adua's true whereabouts and current state of health. The search team, the group said, should be made up of top government officials, National Assembly leaders and some leaders of the organised civil society including Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The search party, HURIWA said, should ensure that when located, the President should respect section 145 of the 1999 Constitution by writing formally to the National Assembly on his medical leave and transmit Presidential powers temporarily to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to fill the leadership vacuum in his absence.