Saturday, May 16, 2015

Speakership : Fresh crisis over bid to change voting rules

A fresh crisis is brewing at the House of Representatives over a move to change the mode of electing the presiding officers of the House, with just 21 days to the end of the current tenure and the election of the Speaker of the 8th Assembly.

Under the extant provisions of the Standing Orders of the House, the election of presiding officers is done by secret balloting.

However, there is now a move by some members to amend the rules and change the voting mode to open balloting.

Investigations showed that the development had torn members apart across political parties and geopolitical lines, following speculation that the planned alteration of the rules was intended to favour certain contestants.

The race for the speakership has since narrowed to current Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos APC), and the Chairman, Committee on House Services, Mr. Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi APC), as main contestants.

However, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin (Kano APC), the Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Mr. Mohammed Monguno (Borno APC) and the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Constituency Outreach, Mr. Pally Iriase (Edo APC), are still in the race.

One National Assembly official conversant with the underground moves, said, “The reason for moving to change the rules is simple. Some lawmakers are seen not to be sincere in their commitment to the contestants.

“They have been attending meetings called by all the contestants and pledging support to all of them. But there is an understanding that a particular contestant should be elected the Speaker. There are members who are against this understanding, even though in the open, they agree that we are all on the same page.

“Amending the rules to open balloting will allow everyone to see how members are voting; to identify those who will go against this understanding.

“But, there is going to be some crisis because many lawmakers are opposing this move to alter the rules.”

Saturday PUNCH gathered that the move to change the rules came amid unconfirmed reports that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress had zoned the speakership to the South-West.

But the party continually keeps mute over the issue, further deepening the disagreement among lawmakers over who to back for the speakership between Gbajabiamila and Dogara.

Another senior member of the House said, “What is going on has actually gone beyond zoning. There is so much division now that even an official position taken by the party will not stop members from insisting on having a contest between the leading contestants.

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