Friday, 2 June 2017

SOUTH EAST DEV. COMMISSION: Uproar as Reps kill Bill

  • Bill tears Southern, Northern legislators apart
  • Igbo lawmakers stage walk-out, accuse Dogara of bias

It was a rowdy session at the House of Represent­atives on Thursday when members took oppos­ing sides on the debate on the South East Development Com­mission Bill.

Tempers rose when law­makers, especially those from the North, stoutly kicked against the bill, which enjoyed massive support from legis­lators from the South-South, South West and South East ge­opolitical zones.

As the debate got hotter, its supporters moved away from their seats to confront critics of the proposed law while others engaged one another in a shout­ing match.
It got to a level that no one was hearing the other and they overwhelmed the Chief Whip, who, in an
attempt to restore san­ity to the House, kept shouting: “Members, order!, Members, or­der…!”
The more he shouted, the worse the situation became.
The debate assumed a worri­some dimension when the mem­bers were divided along ethnic and regional lines in their con­tributions.
The death knell on the Bill came when the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, put it to a voice vote.
In the first exercise, it was ap­parent that the ayes carried it, but Dogara was not convinced.
He therefore put the bill to another vote with a charge that members should vote according to their conscience.
The voice vote was conducted again and the two camps main­tained their stance, but Dogara in his conclusion, declared that the ayes had it.
His judgement angered the South East lawmakers, who ac­cused him of bias and staged a walkout from the floor of the House.
The leadership of the South East Caucus, who spoke outside the National Assembly Complex, said that it was Dogara that killed the Bill.
The Bill proposed a Develop­ment Commission to be charged with the responsibility for the al­location of funds from the Fed­eration Account for the recon­struction of infrastructure in the South East.
The sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, said that the Commission, when established, would help to reconstruct the in­frastructure destroyed by the civ­il war in the region.
But some of the lawmak­ers, mostly from the North, who kicked against the Bill, argued that the timing of the bill was wrong and that adequate consulta­tions were not done before it was brought before the House.
Earlier, the Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, said that the Bill was well-thought out.
“This country needs to be re­structured. We cannot continue the way we are going. The Bill is a good step in the right direction. I appeal to all that the Bill be con­sidered,” he said.
Hon. Sani Abdul, from Bauchi State, said that the quest for the creation of the commis­sion was due to the government’s failure to meet the citizens’ expec­tations.
“We should look at it holisti­cally in order not to have a prob­lem. We are worried; the timing of the Bill with the agitation for Bia­fra is suspicious,” he said.
Hon. Sunday Karimi from Kogi State said that some of the South East states were already covered by the Niger Delta De­velopment Commission (NDDC) and the creation of a South East Development Commission “will be too much.”
Hon. Sani Zorro from Ad­amawa State said that enough consultation had not gone into the Bill.
“I won’t be comfortable that at the end of the day we leave here with acrimony. In view of the debate we have had so far, we should consult further,” he said.
Hon. Mohammed Kazaure, who spoke to reporters on the Bill, declared that the Northern lawmakers rejected the bill be­cause it would create a compe­tition among the six geopoliti­cal zones.
He said that they support­ed the creation of the North East Development Commission so that the North can be at par with the South which had the Niger Delta Development Commis­sion.
However, the position of the lawmakers took a North-South dimension, with members from the North opposing the Bill while their Southern counterparts root­ed for its passage.
Angry that Dogara manip­ulated the outcome of the ple­nary session, the proponents of the Bill stormed out of the ses­sion. This brought the session to an abrupt end.
Hon. Gudaji Kazaure, from Jigawa State, an opponent of the Bill, who later addressed journal­ists, berated the lawmakers who accused the Speaker of bias in his ruling.
The South East Caucus in­sisted that it was Dogara that killed the Bill and vowed to re­visit it.

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