Patricia Etteh, the embattled speaker of the House of Representatives, may be on her way out of office, in disgrace. This afternoon, after much public pressure and the relentless opposition by members, she finally stepped down from the exalted seat of speaker of Nigeria’s lower chamber. Her action finally paved way for the deliberation of the house on the report of the Idoko panel that probed the N628 million renovation contract scandal.
But the drama that followed her stepping down from her seat, may well be a pointer to the fact that the woman may have lost her seat as speaker. Members overwhelmingly endorsed the nomination of a representative from Benue State, Mr. Tenrgu Tsegba, the favourite of the combative opposition, as the temporary speaker to preside over the discussions on the Idoko report. Etteh’s candidate, West Idahosa had few members in his support.
Tsegba scored 255 votes while Idahosa got only 33 votes. The winner was making his inaugural speech as at the time of filing this report.
Earlier today, the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Abdulkadir Omar, led members and pro-democracy activists to storm the House of Representatives to protest the continued stay of Olubunmi Etteh, as the Speaker.
Thousands of labour activists wearing T-shirts and carrying placards with inscriptions calling on Madam Speaker to resign, stormed the premises of the National Assembly in several mass transit buses, singing and chanting anti-Etteh slogans.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: Etteh Must Go; Haba, N628m for renovation; Madam Speaker, you are wicked; Etteh Go; Etteh Resign Now.
The protesting activists barricaded the gates leading to the House of Representatives and forced Madam Speaker and her entourage to enter her office through the entrance behind the complex.
P.M.News gathered that before the Speaker arrived the Assembly Complex, the PDP caucus in the House held a two-hour meeting with the national leadership of the party at the party’s secretariat where the issue of a speaker extempore, to preside over the deliberation of the Idoko Panel report, was discussed.
P.M.News gathered that a consensus to elect a speaker ex-tempore could not be reached at the meeting as the anti-Etteh group (Integrity) insisted that members of the House should be given the opportunity to elect a speaker ex-tempore on the floor of the House.
This was the same issue that led to a deadlock during a meeting between anti- and pro-Etteh groups called by the party leadership yesterday at the PDP secretariat.
Some members of the House were seen at the chambers waiting calmly for the Speaker to arrive for the business of the House to commence before voting started today.
It was observed that members of the opposition against Etteh were upbeat as they kept singing and backslapping one another in the chambers.
A member of the house who spoke with P.M.News on the development, Hon. Olaka Olaogu, pleaded with members to be patient for the speaker to arrive and convene the House.
He appealed to his colleagues to refuse to be provoked, saying the House would follow the best democratic practice in resolving the crisis facing the house.
Everything that will be done today will be by votes of members. We should avoid rowdiness, he stated. Meanwhile, while labour activists continued their protest at the gates of the assembly complex, the atmosphere inside the house was calm as legislators await the arrival of Madam Speaker to convene the House.
Although the Speaker had last week agreed to step aside for a chairman pro-tempore to preside over discussion on the report, there were allegations that the PDP might guide its lawmakers to appoint a Speaker pro-tempore.
A statement by the chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mr. Dino Melaye, claimed that Etteh’s supporters had consented that a Speaker pro-tempore be appointed.
Melaye told journalists after a meeting the PDP had with Etteh’s supporters and the Integrity Group (IG) yesterday, that the two camps were directed to present one name each for the post. Yes, it is true that we have all agreed to that, he said.
However, the Leader of the IG, Mr. Farouk Lawan, said he was not aware of any such agreement.
Mock election? I am not aware of that, and I hope people are not trying to make a mockery of our democracy. We must follow our rules and the party is aware of that, he said.
The PDP chieftains at the meeting included the National chairman (South), Chief Bode George; the National Vice-Chairman (South-West), Chief Yinka Omilani; and the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Imeh Udom.
The PDP was to hold another parley with its lawmakers in the House yesterday but it was called off following what a source called poor attendance.
At least 100 lawmakers were said to have arrived at the party’s secretariat and waited till 4 p.m. for the meeting which was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
The legislators protested when the Leader of the House, Mr. Tunde Akogun, informed them that the meeting had been shifted till 9 a.m. today, alleging that the PDP was plotting to force members of the House to elect Speaker pro-tempore outside their chamber.
– PM News