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Mark defends tenure as Senate president as Reps crisis persists

By Adamu Abuh and Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Abuja
20 July 2015   |   11:33 pm
IMMEDIATE past Senate President David Mark has clarified that there was no secrecy in the affairs of the National Assembly, insisting that parliamentary practices and procedures dictate that all issues are carried out in the open. Reacting to insinuations in some quarters that the National Assembly budget and salaries were shrouded in secrecy, Mark maintained…
Senate-President-David-Mark1

David Mark

IMMEDIATE past Senate President David Mark has clarified that there was no secrecy in the affairs of the National Assembly, insisting that parliamentary practices and procedures dictate that all issues are carried out in the open.

Reacting to insinuations in some quarters that the National Assembly budget and salaries were shrouded in secrecy, Mark maintained that the allegation was either borne out of mischief, blackmail or outright ignorance.

He said: “ How can anyone claim that the National Assembly budget is secret. Or that our earnings are secret. The National Assembly budget is part and parcel of the federal budget. It is not a separate document. If anybody is in doubt, he or she should get a copy of the national budget and clarify. It is a public document.

“Every time you hear people talk about National Assembly budget as if it is independent of the federal budget. For heaven’s sake, the National Assembly budget is an open document. It is a public document. Unless you are saying you have never seen the national budget.

“The National Assembly budget is in the open. Anybody can access it. We don’t fix our salaries. Appropriate federal government agency does. What we earn is open. We should put an end to this cheap blackmail.

“It is sad and ridiculous when people give impression that that the National Assembly budget has continued to be increased annually. This is not correct. It is unwarranted and needless accusation.

“The National Assembly under my leadership was bold, courageous, steadfast and truly patriotic. We stood on the side of the people, the truth, transparency and above all in the interest of the nation.

“We were the first to make cut in our 2015 budget. People should appreciate what we are doing. We tightened our belts more than any other ministry or parastatal today. I can put my hand on my chest without fear of contradiction to say we make a lot of sacrifices in our budgetary systems.”

He added: “People should not play politics with serious national issues like appropriations.

“With every sense of responsibility, in 2008, the National Assembly under my leadership was the first arm of government to return the sum of N7 billion unspent fund to the national treasury during late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration. Some people would have done otherwise.

“ I remain a patriotic and committed pan-Nigerian ever determined to do my utmost best to improve the lots of my country men and women.”

But the crisis rocking the House of Representatives which reconvenes next Tuesday persists as the group loyal to Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila are still feuding over the choice of principal officers.

Speaker House of Representatives , Yakubu Dogara raising the Gavel after his election during the the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly in Abuja on Tuesday. PHOTO: Ladidi Lucy Elukpo.

Speaker House of Representatives , Yakubu Dogara raising the Gavel after his election during the the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly . PHOTO: Ladidi Lucy Elukpo.

The pro-Gbajabiamila APC loyalists group yesterday totally rejected the recent concessions made by Dogara in which he ceded the positions of House Leader and Chief Whip to them.

The group, in a correspondence delivered yesterday to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and signed by Malam Nasiru Sani Zangon-Daura, said that Dogara lacked the moral latitude to dictate to the party over the choice of principal officers of the House.

Accusing Dogara of interpreting the position of the law upside down as far as issues of sharing positions of the principal officers are concerned, the group in the correspondence copied to President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Rochas Okorocha (Chairman, Progressive Governors’ Forum) and Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who is the Forum’s mediator on the crisis aligned themselves to the APC’s earlier position on the sharing of the positions of the principal officers.

The group, in rejecting Dogara’s offer of the position of the House Leader and Chief Whip to them, argued it was highly immoral, disingenuous, insincere and downright hypocritical that the Speaker who allegedly rebelled against the APC would now be the person waiving the zoning card when it serves his purpose. It stressed that the Speaker’s letter was fraught with several fundamental flaws in his analysis and interpretation of the Constitution and House Rules.

The group argued inter-alia among others: “We stand on our earlier position that whilst we accept and agree with the principle of Federal Character, the constitutional provisions in that regard are strictly in reference to the appointment to the Federal Executive and its agencies. The principle of Federal Character is not intended to be given such elasticity to the extent that it would extend to the running and internal workings of the House which is not a government agency and whose members are not appointed but elected.”

Dogara had in the letter dated July 16, 2015 while making the concessions, ruled Gbajabiamila out of contention for any of the four offices.

He had insisted that the four offices must reflect the principle of Federal Character as had been the practice since 1999, adding that appointing Gbajabiamilia and Mohammed Moguno as House Leader and Chief Whip as demanded by the party would mean that the North-East and South-East would for the first time not be represented in the ruling party’s pack of principal officers.

Similarly, Dogara had, in replying a letter sent to him by Odigie-Oyegun, dated Thursday, July 16 stated why the leadership of the lower legislative chamber will not abide by the directive of the party leadership to pick the House Leader from the South-west.

Dogara, in the letter which was also sent to Buhari, Okorocha and Tambuwal, insisted that adhering to party directive will negate the principle of federal character and laid down precedents since return to democratic rule in 1999.
Consequently, the Speaker proposed that the distribution of Principal Offices should reflect federal character, saying: “Sir, we propose the following zoning arrangement for the distribution of principal offices in the House of Representatives.

Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara – North East
Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun – South West
House Leader: North West (with 86 APC members)
Deputy House Leader: North Central (with 33 APC members)
Chief Whip: South South
Deputy Chief Whip: South East.

Dogara stated further, “It is evident that there are existing Precedents and Practices which the House has been following for a long time and in particular since 1999. Since 1999, Zonal Caucuses of a Party have been primarily responsible for nominating Principal Officers of the House, other than the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that are elected by the entire House.

“These are clear Precedents and Practices for Majority leadership positions since 1999. They therefore, constitute precedents and practices of the House as enshrined in the Standing Orders of the House. We are bound by it by virtue of Provisions of Order 1 of our Standing Rules.

“The issue of Federal character has very strong constitutional foundations. They are indeed mandatory provisions of the Constitution”.
Read the full letter below:
July 16, 2015.

The National Chairman,
All Progressives Congress (APC),
National Headquarters,
Abuja.
UPDATE ON ELECTION OF PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF THE 8TH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
This is to formally acknowledge receipt of your letter Ref. No. APC/NHDQ/NAM/01/015/06 dated 23rd June, 2015.

2. After the letter was received but before I could make the necessary consultations concerning the letter because of its sensitive nature, I was served with Court processes on the subject matter filed by some Members of the House and other persons and groups from the North Central and South East Zones of Nigeria. The Rules of the House enjoin us to make a determination whether discussing a matter pending in Court in the House would be prejudicial to the Case.

3. However, before this determination could be made, on the 25th June, 2015, I took steps to discuss the matter in an Executive Session of the House which is open to only House Members and not the public. We were prevented from doing so by some House members who conducted themselves in a most unparliamentary manner. It is necessary to point out that the mechanism of Executive Session is resorted to in order to iron out controversial matters in an amicable way to preserve the unity and cohesion of the House.

4. Since then, efforts have been made by the Party, Progressive Governors and other interested persons to intervene and resolve the issues. We want to place on record, our unflinching loyalty and respect not only to you as an individual, considering your antecedents, but also to the party, APC, under whose platform we were elected to the House. We have no intention whatsoever of disobeying your directives or the party’s position on any matter. We would, of course, prefer a situation where we are consulted on matters concerning the House before directives are issued and made public.
5. We feel strongly, that the issue of federal character in the election or appointment of principal officers of the House is a cardinal legal, moral and constitutional principle that should be respected by our party. It is however obvious from the letter under reference that this principle was not taken into consideration. If the letter is enforced the way it was conveyed, it will lead to the following unjust result:
Speaker: North East:
Chief Whip: North East
Deputy Speaker: South West
House Leader: South West
Deputy House Leader: North West
Deputy Chief Whip: South South

This will totally and unfairly exclude the South East and North Central Zones in the distribution of these political offices and lead to undue concentration of some offices in the South West and North East Zones of Nigeria.

6. The House Rules provide that in filling the positions of Majority leadership of the House, namely, leader of the House, Chief Whip, Deputy Leader, Deputy Whip of the House, each candidate “shall be a member nominated from among the members in the majority party in the House.”

“Furthermore, Order 1, of the House Rules provides that
’In all cases not provided for hereinafter or by sessional or other orders, Precedents or practices of the House, the House shall by Resolution regulate its procedure.’”

“It is evident that there are existing Precedents and Practices which the House has been following for a long time and in particular since 1999. Since 1999, Zonal Caucuses of a Party have been primarily responsible for nominating Principal Officers of the House, other than the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that are elected by the entire House.
In 1999, Principal Officers of the House were as follows:
1.Speaker:Rt. Hon. Salisu Buhari &
Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba-North West
2.Deputy Speaker:Rt. Hon. Chibudom Nwuche-South South
3.House Leader: Hon. Mohammed Wakil-North East
4.Chief Whip:Hon. Bawa Bwari-North Central
5.Deputy Leader:Hon. Mao Ohuabunwa -South East
6.Deputy Whip:Hon. Samuel Sadiq Anwo-South West

2003:
1.Speaker: Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari-North West
2.Deputy Speaker:Rt. Hon. Austin Opara-South South
3.House Leader:Hon. Abdul Ningi-North East
4.Chief Whip: Hon. Bawa Bwari-North Central
5.Deputy Whip:Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh-South West
6.Deputy Leader: Hon. Gilbert Nnaji -South East

2007:
1.Speaker:Rt. Hon.Patricia Olubunmi Etteh
& Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole-South West
2.Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Nguruoje Babangida &
Rt. Hon. Bayero Usman Nafada -North East
3.House Leader:Hon. Akogun Tunde-South South
4.Chief Whip: Hon. Bethel Amadi &
Hon. Emeka Ihedioha-South East
5.Deputy Whip: Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal-North West
6.Deputy Leader: Hon. Baba Shehu Agaie -North Central

2011:
1.Speaker: Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal-North West
2.Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha-South East
3.House Leader: Hon. Mulikat Akande-South West
4.Chief Whip: Hon. Isiaka Bawa -North East
5.Deputy Whip: Hon. Muktar Mohammed-North Central
6.Deputy Leader: Hon. Leo Ogor-South South

2015:
1.Speaker: Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara -North East
2.Deputy Speaker: Rt. Hon. Lasun S. Yussuf -South West
3.House Leader?
4. Chief Whip?
5. Deputy Whip?
6. Deputy Leader ?

These are clear Precedents and Practices for Majority leadership positions since 1999.