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Gbajabiamila apologises over comment on Deputy Speaker Ihedioha



• Reps to probe rice importers over import duties

• Asks panel to investigate Ebonyi fire

THE Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), yesterday apologised to the parliament for his disparaging comments and outburst on the floor which culminated in a rowdy session and a momentary walk out of members of the opposition from the Lower Chamber at the commencement of plenary on Wednesday.

  Meanwhile, the House is to investigate three Nigerian companies, Stallion Group, Popular Foods and Olam Nigeria Limited, for allegedly colluding with their foreign investors to evade payment of import duties running into billions of Naira.

   In a remorseful tone on the floor of the House yesterday, the APC leader openly withdrew the statement in which he described Wednesday’s presiding officer, Emeka Ihedioha, as “Deputy Speaker of the Peoples Democratic Party” just as he called for unity among members of parliament.

  In a point of order bothering on personal explanations, Gbajabiamila apologised to the deputy speaker, saying Wednesday’s uncomplimentary utterances on the floor of the Lower Chamber and the resultant action by the other opposition members was regrettable.

  He noted that the prevailing circumstances in the country call for cooperation of all and sundry, especially by members of parliament who, according to him, represent the symbol of democracy.

  “The event that occurred on Wednesday on the floor of this House was a regrettable and needless one if we had handled it cautiously. We must try to continue tolerating each other. We should not be seen to be heightening tension in the House and in the polity at this critical time in our national life.

“It is on that bases that I wish to withdraw my statement calling the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the Deputy Speaker of the PDP. I withdraw my comment and tender my apologies to the Deputy Speaker and the House,” Gbajabiamila said.

  Responding, the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, told his colleagues that though the retraction and apology were commendable, lawmakers must

endeavor to avoid situations that would bring the institution of the parliament to disrepute in the eyes of the public.

  “Honourable colleagues, I wasn’t around yesterday (Wednesday) but was briefed on what happened during plenary and it wasn’t something that encourages any well-meaning Nigerian.

“If there is any time unity is needed, this is the time when Nigeria and Nigerians need a united House of Representatives in particular and National Assembly in general, more than ever before.

  “We should always place Nigeria above any other interest when discussing matters in this parliament,” Tambuwal said.

  Under a new policy aimed at encouraging investment in local rice production with the overall objective of self-sufficiency by 2016, investors that have milling capacity with verified domestic rice production plans (DRPP) enjoy an import duty of 10 percent and levy 20 percent, while traders will pay an import duty of 10 percent and levy 60 percent.

  The House which adopted the prayers of a motion introduced by Simon Arabo yesterday alleged that the three firms have colluded with their foreign partners to import rice exceeding their approved quota into Nigeria and owe the country about N28.3billion.

  According to the Lower Chamber, the actions of these companies are capable of scuttling the nation’s self-sufficiency drive in rice production and deny the government the needed revenue from import duties.

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