According .to the 1999.Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the National Assembly has the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter inc1uded in the exclusive list. This means that the National Assembly is in charge of making laws for the progress and peaceful existence of the citizens of this country. Members of the Assembly should therefore be honourable men and women whose behaviour should be standard and above those of street fighters in every ramification.
But what the nation witnessed on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 in the National House of Representatives fell far short of the behaviour that is expected of the honourable men and women. However, trouble started when some members of the House of Assembly who cal1ed themselves the “progressive minded legislators,” accused the Speaker of being corrupt. They alleged that the House leadership embezzled capital votes for two years and called on the leadership to explain how the nine billion naira capital votes for the fiscal years of 2008-2009 was spent. Led by Mr. Dino Melaye, the progressives called for the resignation of the Speaker of the House, Mr Dimeji Bankole for alleged corruption. In fact, the progressives gave him seven days ultimatum to resign for the alleged corruption. The progressives also submitted petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission on the alleged embezzlement of the nine billion naira.
In any case, the brawl started when the Speaker of the House called upon Mr. Chile Igbauwa to move a motion under Matter of Privilege and urged the House to invoke Order 5 (1) sub Rules 2 and 3. But the leader of the Progressives rose and challenged the Speaker insisting that the motion could not be read. Later his supporters moved towards the mace in order to seize the symbol of authority.
But they were prevented physically by their opponents in the House.
Then confusion ensued which led to fight between the progressives and the supporters of the Speaker. Elsewhere in the House, some members attacked Austin Nwachukwu and tore his body wears into shreds. Following this, eleven members of the progressives were suspended indefinitely by the leadership of the House. Those suspended were Messrs Independence Ogunewe (PDP Imo) Austin Nwachukwu (PDP Imo) Dino Melaye (PDP Kogi) Ehioge West-Idahosa (PDP Edo) Doris Uboh (PDP Delta) Solomon Awhinawi (PDP Delta) Abba Anas Mohammed (PDP Kebbi) Gbenga Oduwaiye (PDPOgun) Kayode Amusan (PDP Ogun) Gbenga Onigbogi (PDP Osun) and Bitrus Kazie (PDP Plateau).
Meanwhile, Austin Nwachukwu was arraigned in court on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, for allegedly wounding a colleague, Chinyere Igwe. Igwe’s arm was broken during the fight in the House on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. Nwachukwu was alleged to have hit Igwe who represents Port Harcourt I, Federal Constituency in Rivers State with a fire extinguisher. Nwachukwu representing Ehime / Mbaino Federal Constituency in Imo State appeared before a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Abuja. He faced a three-count charge of criminal conspiracy,’ criminal use of force and assault causing grievous hurt. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of five million naira with two surties.
The People’s Democratic Party reprimanded its unruly party members describing their action as shameful. It surnmoned the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole and other leaders of the House to the party headquarters. Following the invitation, Bankole met with the National Working Committee of the Party behind closed doors. In a statement, the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali condemned the fracas in the House of Representatives. He said, the NWC expressed its disappointment over the embarrassing scenes in the House of Representatives where members openly engaged one another in an unparliamentarily conduct. The statement pointed out that the NWC was particularly saddened that its earlier appeal for members to sheathe their swords and embrace dialogue in resolving all lingering issues went unheeded. It strongly condemned the resort to violence which was carried out in the full glare of the public including school children who had gone to the National Assembly to experience the process of legislation first hand.
The NWC stressed that the outcome of the sitting of the House of Representatives on June 22, 2010, was regrettable and did not tally with the mood of the nation and the policy thrust of President Goodluck Jonathan which encouraged constructive engagement.
Nevertheless, the behaviour of the lawmakers in the House of Representatives was embarrassing to the country and international observers. Lawmakers should always guard against violence and dishonourable behaviour in the National Assembly. The National Assembly is a hallowed institution making laws for the good governance of this country. Those in the House should therefore behave with maturity, wisdom and honour that befit a law making body. They should not be seen as thugs and street fighters occupying high political offices. Such unbecoming behaviour should be condemned by citizens of this country. Those making laws for the governance of this country should be men and women of integrity and excellence not thugs and street fighters. We should all have a sense of our political history and not allow the ugly side of our history to repeat itself.
Dr. Tolofari is a Fellow, Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria .