House in rowdy session over immunity for NASS leadership

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, again witnessed a rowdy session over an amendment to alter section 308 of the  1999 Constitution (as amended),  to give  immunity to  the leadership National Assembly.

While leading the debate on the need for the amendment, sponsor of the bill, Honourable Leo Ogor, pointed out that by providing immunity for the leadership of the National Assembly, independence of the legislature would be guaranteed.

According to him, “the amendment is straightforward, but needs some clear explanation. The amendment seeks to strengthen the National Assembly, they (leadership) should be protected for the period they are in office.

However, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader kicked against the amendment as proposed, saying the timing of the legislation was not right.

According to him, “we must feel the pulse of the people, there is something about timing, timing in any piece of legislation is important. There are issues in the Senate and I pray it is resolved first.”

Honourable Aliyu Madaki, however, opposed the move through a point of order, reminding the Speaker on the procedure through which bills were passed on the floor.

But the Speaker noted that committing the bill to the committee did not mean outright passage, as the proposal could possibly die at the committee level.

“We have experts in the committee and if they find anything wrong in the bill, they will throw it out and it will never come back to the larger House,” he said.

Trouble started at about 12.11 p.m, when Speaker Yakubu Dogara, after listening to the opposition to the bill by Honourable Gbajabiamila did not avail members the opportunity to vote on it, but  ruled that it be committed to the ad hoc committee on constitution review for further legislative actions.

“Bills like this are sent directly to the House ad hoc committee on constitution review for further legislative input,” Dogara had ruled.

The development, however, did not go down well with those opposed to the bill and they started protesting and shouting “no immunity, no to immunity, no immunity” while supporters of the bill countered “yes to immunity, yes to immunity.”

The Speaker subsequently sought further guidance from deputy chairman of the Rules and Business committee, Honourable Bode, who cited Order 8 rule 98 (3) that “upon  the second reading, such a bill shall be referred to the special ad hoc committee on constitution review, after which Dogara hit the gavel, signalling the referral of the bill to the panel without voice votes, throwing the session into another chaotic moment that lasted for several minutes.

When calmness was finally restored to the House, the Speaker, Dogara, said according to the House Rules, the bill will be sent to the special committee on constitutional review, stating that “the bill can die even at the committee stage.”

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