…as Ihedioha dissociates self from APC reps’ appeal over defection from PDP
The Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, is not under pressure from any quarters to declare vacant the seats of the 37 defecting lawmakers at the House of Representatives, despite the court verdict asking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to do so.
The House Spokesperson, Mr. Afam Victor Ogene, disclosed this to newsmen after speculations that PDP lawmakers have been instructed by the Presidency to ensure that the defecting lawmakers were forced to vacate their seats in accordance with the ruling by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Abuja High Court.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, has re-affirmed his loyalty to the ruling PDP.
In a statement yesterday, his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Oke Epia, dispelled reports in a section of the media that he was among the 37 defecting members in the House that appealed against the judgment of Justice Ademola.
According to the statement, Ihedioha “wishes to clarify that he is just a nominal party in the suit by virtue of his office and counsel was briefed by the management of the National Assembly to represent the House of Representatives as an institution.”
Noting that “the appeal was primarily instituted by the 37 members who defected from PDP to APC,” it stated that Ihedioha remained a firm and committed member of the PDP and associates himself fully with its ideals, principles, purposes and progress, and would “take steps to retain an independent counsel of his choice to take steps to protect his legal interests in the matter.”
Nevertheless, signs that all was not well with the House became palpable when the PDP lawmakers and their counterparts at the All Progressives Congress (APC) held separate caucus meetings as early as 9.00 a.m. yesterday, apparently to strategise on how to protect their respective interests.
And barely 10 minutes after the start of the plenary session at about 11.30 a.m., with Tambuwal presiding, the House dissolved into executive session. However, Ogene, who is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said the closed-door meeting was aimed at strengthening the chamber’s resolve to put aside their differences and work towards ensuring good governance in the country.
“I can tell you straight away that there is no pressure on Mr. Speaker,” he said. “If he were under pressure, we would have held this closed-door session yesterday (Tuesday). But we decided to wait until all the parties get copies of the ruling. So, there is no pressure on Mr. Speaker to declare any seat vacant.”
Acknowledging that the issue of the defecting lawmakers came up for deliberation during the closed-door session, he noted: “One of the decisions is to allow the different cases in court on defection of some members take its due course.
“In arriving at that decision, the House took cognisance of the fact that precedence has been set before last Friday and Monday rulings. If you recall, a serving member had defected from the Labour Party in Ondo State to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
“That matter is still in court and that member is still participating in the affairs of the House. There are some other instances that fall in that category. But more importantly, we also decided to insulate the House from the growing tendency of partisanship that is beginning to arise on the floor of the House during plenary.
“Upon our inauguration on June 6, 2011, we all consciously decided to keep party affiliation aside to work to make good laws for the order, peace and good governance of the country. We thought it was important to restate that that is our core mandate as members of the 7th House of Representatives. That point was well taken by all the members present at that executive session.
“And lastly, we also noticed that some publications tried to drag the person and office of the presiding officers into the ongoing judicial matter. The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker did not appeal any judgment in their individual capacities.
“The House, as an institution, was made a party to the different cases and so, if the National Assembly management goes on appeal, it will be wrong to say the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have appealed the judgment. They have no personal interests in the ongoing matters.”