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There is a plot to secretly amend the standing rules of the House of Representatives ahead of the inauguration of the 9th Assembly early next month, Daily Trust has learnt.
The plot, it was gathered, is to tinker with the provisions for the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker so that the current conditions where a winner must get votes of 50 percent of members-elect plus one would be removed.
As it obtains in the current House Standing Orders, if all the 360 members-elect of the House are seated during inauguration, once there are two or more nominees for the office of speaker, the winner must get 181 to emerge. But the intended secret amendment, it was learnt, would do away with that so that if there are more than two candidates nominated for speaker, anybody with the highest votes without necessarily getting up to 181 will be declared speaker.
Order Two Rule 3 (g) of the Standing Orders of the House, 9th Edition, provides that: “When more than two members-elect are nominated and seconded to be speaker and where two or more accept, the division shall be conducted in the manner prescribed in Rule 3 (f) herein and the member-elect who has received more than one-half of the votes shall be the Speaker-elect.”
However, the rule states as a proviso that in the event that no member-elect gets more than one-half of votes in the division, the candidate with the smallest number of votes shall be removed and a fresh election will be done between the candidate with the highest votes and the runner-up. But the secret plot is to remove the proviso above so that anybody with slightest lead in the number of votes or simple majority will be declared speaker. The new rule, according to sources, would be in tandem with the Senate provisions for the election of Senate President and the Deputy Senate President where the person with simple majority would emerge.
A correspondent gathered that the secret plot is being hatched by members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to get one of their own to be elected as speaker without much hassle. It was further gathered that part of the plot is for the opposition lawmakers to initially push for a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be nominated to challenge the party’s choice candidate for the position, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), who is the current House Leader.
Once Gbajabiamila and the other APC member are nominated on the floor, a PDP member will then nominate a member of the party for the position, which will make three candidates to contest for the position, two from APC and one from PDP. Though a nominee may decide to withdraw his acceptance of nomination before voting commences, the APC member to be nominated against Gbajabiamila will be someone who will stay put, it was further learnt. This will make the PDP members to deliver their block votes to their member in the contest, while the APC lawmakers may divide their votes, which could give room for the opposition lawmaker to emerge.
A source said a similar thing is being targeted for the position of Deputy Speaker, which Rep Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), is being positioned to occupy.
“What they want to do is to connive with the management to amend the rules like it was alleged some people did in the Senate in 2015. They want to take us unawares, but we already heard it. “As a matter of fact, they want to conceal everything and let it be among very few of them so that on the day of inauguration, they will strike.
Another thing is that they’re likely to get the buy-in of some members of our party, APC, and other smaller opposition parties. “Everything will happen like drama. The plan is to let people know on the floor, just before the voting takes place. Their main target is the position of speaker, nothing less. But we won’t allow that to happen.
There’s procedure of amending the House Rules, which is through a resolution of the entire House,” one of our sources said. Another APC member told Daily Trust that “let them do whatever they want to do. We won’t fold our hands and look at them. We’re equal to the task. We know the procedures of amending the rules, so let them go ahead and see what will happen.” In the incoming 9th House, APC has 224 seats; PDP has 122; while other opposition political parties have 14.
Those plotting the secret amendment of the House rules are said to be encouraged by the fact that during the inauguration of the 8th Assembly on June 9, 2015, a new Senate Rules surfaced, which changed the method of the election of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President from open to secret ballot.
Though the new Senate Rules became a subject of litigation, it is still being used by the 8th Senate. Speaker Yakubu Dogara has so far not endorsed any of his loyalists in the APC for the speaker’s seat and has kept mum on the matter, rising speculations that he is still eyeing the seat in an APC-dominated chamber. Dogara’s spokesman Turaki Hassan had however said in a statement in March that the speaker “is concentrating in accomplishing all he promised in the Legislative Agenda of the House of Representatives. Who becomes what in the 9th House of Representatives is not the concern or business of the current Speaker, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara.”
House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) could not be reached for comments as his mobile phones were switched off. Also, the chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, Rep Edward Pwajok (PDP, Plateau), who is the custodian of the rules of the House, did not pick calls put to his mobile phone. He did not also respond to a text message sent to him.