A week ago, the news of an alleged plan by members of the House of Representatives from the North to impeach Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila over his position on the controversial Water Bill ruffled some feathers in the lower chamber. PHILIP NYAM reports
The peace and tranquility that has pervaded the atmosphere in the House of Representatives since its inauguration on June 11, 2019, was ruptured for the first time, last week, when an online newspaper reported that lawmakers from the northern part of the country recently held meetings in the country and Saudi Arabia and concluded plans to impeach Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila if he does not work for the passage of the contentious National Water Resources Bill.
Titled “A bill for an Act to establish a regulatory framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable redevelopment, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources and for related matter,” the proposed legislation is sponsored by the chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Hon. Sada Soli (APC, Katsina). Quoting a member of the House of Representatives from Sokoto State, who confided in it about the alleged impeachment plot, the online paper said: “The plan is that if the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, fails to back them to succeed in the second reading of the controversial Water Resources Bill, he would be impeached and I can authoritatively tell you that the Clerk of the House has been mandated already to prepare addendum.
“The presidency is solidly behind this whole arrangement and strong opposition to the reintroduction of the bill to the House will not stop its passage as plans to get it passed this time around have been concluded already. The plot to get the bill passed in the 9th Assembly has the blessing of the President and the leadership of the National Assembly. “Unlike in the last attempt when the Speaker of House of Representatives played a stabilising role leading to the defeat of the bill, this time around, the threat of impeachment is hanging on Femi Gbajabiamila if he fails to play along.” It was against this backdrop that the impeachment plot became an issue of discourse at the plenary of Tuesday, July 26, presided by the deputy speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase. However, the leader of the northern caucus, Hon. Musa Sarkin’ Adar (APC, Sokoto) rose on a matter of personal explanation to clear the air on rumours making the rounds that lawmakers of northern extraction were intending to impeach Speaker Gbajabiamila,who is currently undergoing a leadership course at the Harvard University in the United States.
He stressed that the northern members were united with their southern counterparts and with the leadership of the House under the speaker. Speaking in the same vein, the chairman of the House committee on rules and business, Hon. Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa) explained that the bill in question is an executive bill, which passed the third reading in the 8th House but did not get the concurrence of the Senate. He said as the chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, he committed the bill to the Committee of the Whole before it was withdrawn after objections from certain quarters that wanted further legislative interactions.
Fulata, therefore, wondered how the bill could now be used as a tool to impeach the speaker. In his submission, the minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) wondered why such a trivial issue will be the concern of members when “the country is under siege by bandits,” He assured the public that lawmakers from the North and all political divides were the least concerned about impeachment at the moment and more about security in the nation. While ruling on the point of order, Wase reiterated the unity of all lawmakers to deliver on the mandate of the House of Representatives to Nigerians. He referred the matter to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate further and unravel the source of the rumour. After the plenary, the leadership of the House and members of the northern caucus, at a joint press conference, further denied that there was any plan whatsoever to impeach Speaker Gbajabiamila should he fail to support the bill.
Both the House leadership led by the majority leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, the minority leader, Elumelu, the spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu and the northern caucus led by Musa Sarkin Adar, said the story was baseless and meant to cause friction and disharmony in the lower chamber. Leading the briefing, the leader of the northern caucus, Hon. Adar said: “This is a sad day and coming at a time we should be talking about how to unite this country and provide leadership, we are being dragged down by the agents of destabilisation.
“I say clearly that what has been published is malicious lies aimed at planting the seeds of discord among Nigerians” He said that Gbajabiamila enjoys the support of every lawmaker in the House saying his campaign for speakership was anchored on the crest: “Nation building, joint task” The caucus leader stressed that “people should remember that the person who contested against Gbajabiamila in 2019 was a fullblooded northerner but we voted for him – a Yoruba man for that matter and rejected our own. I will like to use this medium to ask the newspaper to apologise to the House and the National Assembly over that publication” Doguwa, who spoke on behalf of the House leadership, also insisted that there was never such a plan. He explained that the House was more concerned with collaborating with the executive to tackle insecurity and providing good leadership to the people.
His words: “It was only malicious, baseless, mischievously and unfounded. This House in every aspect of its all ramifications had never had an instance where we contemplated impeaching our able speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. The House of Representatives under the leadership of Gbajabiamila has been a very stable House, united and we are even out to join hands with the executive arm of government to see to the development of our dear nation, Nigeria.
“The issue of insecurity as raised by my very good friend, the leader of the opposition, is one major problem that we must have acknowledged and must also give it to the fact that the government is not resting on its oars. Mr. President is doing the best he could, the armed forces are also joining forces with the government to make sure that this thing comes to an end and it is my commitment that this government will fight insecurity to its knees.” Elumelu, on his part, reiterated that any attempt to impeach the speaker would not sail through.
He emphasised that the lawmakers were bothered about the state of insecurity and not interested in mundane issues of impeachment. “I know my colleagues whether APC, PDP or any other party, it is not what we are thinking about. It’s very unfortunate that people will want to sponsor that kind of stupid information. Nigeria is under siege, presidential guards were attacked recently. Kuje prison was evaded. Also, the minister of education just asked the students to go back home. So, insecurity in the country should be our concern. Whoever is dreaming about the impeachment of the speaker; it remains a dream, it’s dead on arrival.”
Also throwing light on the process of bills presentations in the House, the chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hassan Fulata, denied the allegations that lawmakers from the North had instructed the clerk to bring the bill after southern members might have left the chamber as quite unfortunate. He assured Nigerians that the northern members were firmly in support of the speaker.
Shedding light on the position of the controversial bill, the sponsor, Sada Soli, explained that the intendment of the bill was not to cause acrimony. He disclosed that he was not the sponsor of the bill as it was an executive bill but he had to lead because of his position as chairman of the Water Resources Committee. “The bill is not intended to generate any acrimony.
But it is not even Sada Soli’s bill. It is an executive bill but it happens to come to me being the chairman, Water Resources Committee.” In his summation, the spokesman for the House, Hon. Kalu said: “There is no nexus, so the speaker cannot be impeached over a bill. There is no how the impeachment of the speaker can be linked to this. Please, treat this as fake news.” The House, which is presently on its annual vacation, will reconvene in September, when more is expected to be heard about the contentious bill.