Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Gbajabiamila faces impeachment for ‘forging’ House rules to impose Abbas Tajudeen as new speaker

A lawmaker said Mr Gbajabiamila should be allowed to spend out his tenure, but any criminal substances of the action could be referred to federal authorities.

• May 8, 2023
Femi Gbajabiamila
The Speaker of House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila (Photo Credit: THISDAYLIVE)

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, may face impeachment at the plenary Tuesday, weeks to the end of his tenure after members of the lower chamber accused him of forging the house’s standing rules in favour of his ally as his successor, Peoples Gazette learnt.

A source familiar with the matter told The Gazette that about 100 lawmakers had registered their displeasure at the development and signed a notice of impeachment on the Speaker.

After the recently held general elections, in which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) maintained a majority of seats in both chambers, the race for leadership positions in the Senate and House of Representatives has commenced, with Mr Gbajabiamila tapping Abbas Tajudeen (APC-Kaduna) as his top choice.

Ahead of the inauguration of a new session of the National Assembly next month, Mr Gbajabiamila’s colleagues are accusing him of manipulating the standard rules of the parliament for Mr Tajudeen, who many claimed is unpopular with other House members.

The lawmakers alleged that Mr Gbajabiamila falsified the clause on the procedure for electing the speaker and his deputy in the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (10th edition). They alleged that the doctored document provided that the house presiding officers would be elected through an open ballot against the existing rule of secret ballot.

“Section 2 (f) (iii) of the controversial clause captioned ‘election of presiding officers’ stated that ‘every member voting shall name clearly and in the open the candidate of his choice,’” the source told The Gazette.

“Yes, I can confirm that an alteration has been done, and the document has been printed,” another top lawmaker said. “But I want to tell you that even as a principal officer in the house, I am unaware of this. No such amendment has been officially carried by the house.”

The legislators, who believe that doctoring the document was the only way Mr Gbajabiamila could impose his anointed candidate on members, described the development as a bizarre deviation from the normal procedure.

“We have never discussed the issue of amending our rules in this respect in the last four years,” said another lawmaker, who vowed that the house would investigate the alterations.

“The goal is to create fear in members and open them up for victimisation by the new government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which is believed to have been zoned to the North-West geopolitical zone ostensibly to pave the way for the emergence of Abbas Tajuddeen,” he said.

He added, “We will insist that Gbajabiamila should step aside for proper investigation to be carried out on how the rules were doctored. Where is the votes and proceedings of the session and the order paper of the day that the amendment was carried out.”

The lawmaker also disclosed that Deputy Speaker Ahmed Idris Wase was unaware of the amendment.

“It is unfortunate that this is coming a few weeks to the end of Gbajabiamila’s tenure just because he wants to be controlling the House of Representatives after his tenure,” he added.

The Gazette also gathered that the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business and Mr Wase would be queried for their roles in the doctored clause.

Two lawmakers who are part of the revolting bloc spoke with The Gazette under anonymity to prevent a preemptive attack from the Speaker, who they still see as powerful even though he is now a lame duck.

Mr Gbajabiamila did not return The Gazette’s request seeking clarification on the development. Mr Wase (APC-Plateau) declined comments on Monday evening.

A lawmaker was said to have argued during the meeting that Mr Gbajabiamila should be allowed to spend out his tenure, and any criminal substances of the action could be referred to federal authorities.

Ike Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President, was charged by the police in 2016 for allegedly forging Senate rules to usher in the leadership of Bukola Saraki in the Eighth Assembly. Mr Ekweremadu denied the allegations and a federal judge later dismissed the case.

But even if he escaped impeachment, Mr Gbajabiamia, being from the same state as President-elect Bola Tinubu, will not be standing again for speakership because of the zoning arrangement his party adopted.

The ruling party, in a statement on Monday by its National Working Committee (NWC), endorsed Mr Gbajabiamila’s most preferred aspirant as the speaker.

Barely a month ago, the outgoing Speaker, in a tweet, announced that he met with nine aspirants seeking to replace him.

The aspirants were Messrs Wase and Tajudeen, Abubakar Makki (APC-Jigawa), Mr Tajudeen, Tunji Olawuyi (APC-Kwara), Yusuf Gagdi (APC-Plateau), Muktar Betara (APC-Borno), Ben Kalu (APC-Abia), Sada Soli (APC-Katsina), and Aminu Jaji (APC-Zamfara).

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