A rowdy session began at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, forcing the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, to step down a controversial motion temporary, pending further advice by three key committees.
The motion had polarised the House along political party lines and pitting members from Rivers State and their colleagues from Imo State in particular, against one another.
The notion was on the alleged decision of the Imo State Governor, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, to grant amnesty to suspects who had been declared wanted by the River State Security Council.
The suspects were alleged to be part of the gang that killed 23 people during the New Year attack on residents returning from a night service in Omoku town, Rivers State.
The late Don Waney was said to have led the gang of attackers, according to the motion, which was moved by 12 lawmakers from Rivers State.
Mrs. Betty Apiafi, who moved the motion on behalf of her colleagues, informed the House that the suspects ran away to Imo only to be granted amnesty by Okorocha.
The motion alleged that the purpose of granting the amnesty was to use the suspects to prosecute mayhem during the 2019 elections.
The prayers of the motion urged the House to “Condemn the alleged grant of amnesty by the Imo State Governor to the wanted criminals.
“Urge the Federal Government and law enforcement agencies not to recognise the amnesty allegedly granted to wanted persons by Okorocha and ensure the immediate arrest and prosecution of the wanted persons.”
But, the session suddenly turned rowdy after an All Progressives Congress member from Imo State, Mr. Nnana Igbokwe, rose in defence of Okorocha, saying that the House would not entertain the motion.
He got the backing of several APC members, including the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
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Gbajabiamila, a Lagos lawyer, said a governor had powers under Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to grant pardon to anyone.
Igbokwe, a former member of the Peoples Democratic Party before his December 19, 2017 defection to the APC, argued that both Okorocha and Governor Nyesome Wike had the constitutional backing to exercise executive powers in their respective jurisdictions.
Shouting on top of his voice, Igbokwe stated that the only option left to Rivers State was to approach the Supreme Court to challenge Okorocha.
“Let Rivers’ people go to the Supreme Court. We cannot bring a matter upon which an executive conclusion had been reached by Imo State to the House to debate it.
“This is a conflict between two states and the proper place to go is the Supreme Court,” he added.
Supporting him, Gbajabiamila raised his voice as well, “This motion cannot stand on this floor. It is inciteful and will only create more problems.
“Where there is a dispute between two states, it is the Supreme Court that will settle it.”
But, nearly all Rivers lawmakers and some members from Abia State became furious, shouting both Igbokwe and Gbajabiamila down in the process.
At a point, the noise became unbearable that Dogara had to admit that he was unable to hear any of the sides. The Speaker threatened to call off the debate.
His threat produced no results as the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr. Chukwuka Onyema, jumped up to point his finger at Gbajabiamila and Igbokwe.
Onyema said he could not believe that lawmakers would sit in chambers and politicise the killing of fellow citizens instead of supporting the motion.
Shouting at Igbokwe, he stated, “What are you saying? People died in Rivers; they were killed on January 1. Now, Okorocha is granting amnesty to the very suspects accused of carrying out this dastardly act and you are saying that it is okay?”
The Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, also kicked against Igbokwe’s opposition to the motion.
Nkem-Abonta asked whether it was also possible for any governor to grant amnesty to Boko Haram insurgents.
Another member, Mr. Uche Nnam-Obi, asked whether any suspect who killed people in one state could run to another state to be set free.
In their contributions, the Chairman, House Committee on Basic Education, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, and a member from Kano State, Mr. Baballe Bashir, cautioned the House against passing a hasty resolution.
But, Dogara, who confessed that every speaker ended up getting him the “more confused,” opted to refer the motion to three committees to guide the House on the way forward.
“Let us have some of our egg heads to advise us properly. The Committee on Justice, Committee on Ethics/Privileges and Committee on National Security and Public Safety should look at the motion and report back within one week,” Dogara ruled.