The Tuesday, June 22 commotion and free-for-all fight in the House of Representatives, triggered off by allegations of corruption leveled against the House Leadership is still eliciting reactions, and for a long time to come, would continue to elicit reactions, especially since the matter has now shifted from the hallowed chamber of the House to another hallowed chamber- that of the court.
The Hon. Dino Melaye-led ‘Progressives’ has instituted an action in the court, challenging their suspension from the House. While a bewildered nation awaits the judgement of the court and the outcome of the investigations being carried out by the anti graft bodies – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Compliance, Hon. Daemi Kunaiyi-Akpanah has reflected on the incident and described it as ‘unfortunate.’ He contended that the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole cannot resign based on mere allegation of complicity in the raging N9 billion scandal and advised members to follow House rules.
Hon Kunaiyi-Akpanah, the representative of Asaritoru/Akukutoru federal constituency in the House bared his mind to The Tide On Sunday in his House of Representative office, wondering why some members of the House would choose not to subject themselves to the rules of the House in the expression of their grievances. “It’s very unfortunate that people can refuse to subject themselves to a process and believe that even in the democracy that we find ourselves that issues can be resolved through violence so it’s very unfortunate, it’s regrettable.
I think that the House took the right step, proper decision and ensured that proper sanctions were applied to those who were found wanting,” he said.
The Tide On Sunday asked Akpanah how to forstall re-occurrence of such show of shame and he snapped, “our country is a constitutional democracy, we run a constitutional democracy and our freedom is guaranteed by our constitution,” adding there are processes for everything. In our institution – the House of Representatives – we have a Rule-book which is provided for by the constitution. Our ‘Standing Orders’, as provided for in our Rule – book, defines the way we comport ourselves. Just the way we subject ourselves to the constitution, we must subject ourselves to the rules of the House which are contained in the standing orders of the House.
Once we follow our rules, order will naturally be (restored), a lot of these issues that we have raised can be resolved through proper application of the Rule Book.
But is there any substance in the allegation that N9 billion was misappropriated by the Leadership? As a committee chairman of the House (Committee on Legislative Compliance), Akpanah ought to know.
Said he: “Well, as far as I’m concerned, from all the information I’ve seen, I think that part of what is happening is that people are making allegation without facts. There is process to investigate those allegations but none of those processes were followed. You know some people believe that if they threaten you they will get their way. I think that anytime you make allegations it behooves on you to provide the necessary information to substantiate those allegations. And the House itself has also undertaken an investigation of their (Progressives’) claims so like I said, everything is a process.”
He continued: “By our constitution, you accuse someone of an offence, you have to prove the person has committed the offence, if you find that there is not enough evidence to show that the person committed the offence, in a court of law, the person is set free!
You don’t accuse someone of an offence and immediately hang him. This is what people are trying to do! They are trying to claim that people misappropriated funds, they’ve not gone through any processes but they believe that people should be (sanctioned). How can you present information and request that someone resign based on the information that you have? The right thing to do is: If you have information that incriminates someone, you submit it for appropriate consideration.”
He insisted that you don’t give ultimatums based on information that are unsubstantiated. I think that the whole process of investigating any member – not just the Speaker – is prescribed for in our Rules and those processes should be followed if you’re desirous of achieving, or exposing corruption.
The EFCC angle: Is Hon. Kunaiyi-Akpanah in support that EFCC should investigate it since they’ve been petitioned? He has a ready answer: “Well, EFCC must carry out their statutory role. I don’t have any problem about (with) EFCC carrying out any investigation. My problem is there’s a process, in our House, for addressing House issues. I think that as much as possible, members should ensure that they follow that process.”
The Tide On Sunday recalled watching him keenly on the floor and discovered that he was one of the few members that exhibited a high degree of decorum, being calm, cool, calculating throughout the discord and sought to know what was actually responsible for his comportment in view of the fact that the House was literally on fire? But Akpanah would not agree that the House was on fire. “The House wasn’t actually on fire, let me be very clear. You know the truth of the matter is that when people want to disrupt an event, the only way to prevent them from disrupting the event is to ensure that you’re not part of the disruption. If you’re part of the disruption, then everything stops.
He added: “If someone is trying to disrupt an event and everybody respond, then nothing goes. The best way to handle those kinds of disruption is just to remain calm so that whoever is trying to disrupt the event can be isolated, can be contained and I think that’s what happened. If you observed in the House, it was a few people that were trying to create chaos in the House and the way the House dealt with it (was appropriate); people were blowing whistles, some people brought … you know, I don’t want to go into all that.”
Hon. Akpanah continued that a lot of things were happening on the floor of the House, and the way to deal with it is to isolate those people so the best way to do that is for peope not to engage them so that they can be identified, isolated and dealt with, adding, “and I think that is what happened in the house.”
You see people trying to create disruption, majority of members were calm very calm and because they were calm that we are able to isolate, identify and deal with the matter appropriately, so I think that physically, I wasn’t the only person that believes that being as calm as you can be (is necessary) so that, we can be able to contain the few rabble – rousers.”
The Tide On Sunday drew Hon. Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s attention to the fact that many view their suspension for the remaining legislative year (June 2010 – June 2011) as using a sledge hammer to kill a fly, to which he replied that according to the House Rules, punishment (one year suspension for the progressives) was appropriate, stressing that when you come to the floor of the House and you engage in certain activities, appropriate sanctions are there and that under normal circumstance, the House can suspend members for two weeks while periodically, after every two weeks, their suspension is reviewed assuring that even those that have been suspended indefinitely can have their suspension reviewed.
“At the end of the day, all things being equal, and if the people are ready to move forward I’m sure we are going to make progress in the House, even with the suspension that has been given,” he assured.
Justus Awaji, Abuja