HERE IS THE FULL
STORY FROM PUNCH NEWSPAPER
The crisis in the House of Representatives degenerated
into a free-for-all on Tuesday, as lawmakers exchanged blows, injuring one
another in the process.
Eleven members of the Progressive-Minded Legislators,
a group calling for the resignation of the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, were
placed on indefinite suspension, following the fracas.
The suspended lawmakers are Mr. Dino Melaye; Mr. Anas
Adamu; Mr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa; Mr. Independence Ogunewe; Mr. Solomon
Awhinawhin; Mr. Austin Nwachukwu; Mr. Gbenga Oduwaiye; Mr. Gbenga Onigbogi; Mr.
Kayode Amusan; Mr. Bitrus Kaze; and Ms. Doris Uboh.
A pro-Bankole lawmaker, Mr. Chinyere Igwe, was injured
on his right arm after Nwachukwu attacked him with a substance suspected to be
But as the fighting continued, operatives of the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission raided the office of the Clerk of the
House and took away documents believed to be those relating to the N9bn
allegation against Bankole by the PML.
A source at the EFCC, who disclosed this to one of our
correspondents, said that the operatives, on arrival at the National Assembly
complex around 10am, restricted movement around the clerk’s office before
taking away the documents.
Trouble broke out on the floor of the House when Igwe
and Nwachukwu confronted each other, with the latter allegedly spraying the
substance on the former.
Igwe stumbled and fell before he was helped out of the
chamber. It was unclear whether he broke his arm as he held it and writhed in
pain on his way out.
The speaker‘s loyalists reacted to the development by
pouncing on Nwachukwu, and tearing his clothes to shreds before dragging him
out of the chamber.
In the ensuing commotion, Awhinawhin was also beaten
and forced out of the chamber. He had attempted to snatch the mace but was
prevented by the Sergeant-at-Arms, Col. Emeka Okere(retd.), and his aides.
Many members punched Awhinawhin in the melee but he
replied with blows. He was left with a bleeding nose before he too was dragged
out of the chamber by pro-Bankole legislators.
The PML, which is led by Mr. Dino Melaye, had accused
the leadership of the House of allegedly misusing N9bn out of the N11bn voted
as the capital vote of the House between 2008 and 2009.
The group had earlier given Bankole a seven-day
ultimatum to resign or be “disgraced out of office.”
On Monday, the group submitted a petition to the
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri,
seeking an investigation into the matter.
Waziri had promised to investigate the allegation
immediately and went ahead to say that Nigerians had become fed up with the
”scandals upon scandals” in the House since 1999.
The exchange of fisticuffs took place on Tuesday as
the House made to suspend the anti-Bankole lawmakers, on the grounds that the
method they adopted in attacking the speaker brought the House to public
The House argued that whatever offence the speaker was
alleged to have committed should have been addressed through an internal
mechanism rather than taking the matter to the public.
A member of the House, Mr. Chile Igbawua, was called
by Bankole to move a motion for the suspension of the 11 members.
Igbawua stood and said that the conduct of Melaye and
his group breached Section 24 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges)
He said that the law prohibited anybody from
publishing any statement, ”whether in writing or otherwise, which falsely or
scandalously defames a legislative House or any committee thereof.”
Igbawua added that it was an offence under the Act for
anyone to publish any material ”reflecting on the character” of either the
President or the speaker or ”publishes any writing containing a gross, willful
or scandalous misrepresentation of the proceedings of a legislative house or of
the speech of any member in the proceedings of a legislative House….”
As Igbawua read the motion, Melaye suddenly sprang out
of his seat and started shouting, “Point of order, Mr. Speaker, no, it cannot
happen; it cannot be, not here, never!”
Melaye, who came into the chamber with a whistle,
started blowing it to distract Igbawua when it was apparent that the speaker
was not listening to him.
Bankole asked Igbawua to proceed, but Uboh surged
towards Igbawua and tried to snatch the paper from him.
A member sitting next to Igbawua, Mr. Ishiaku Bawa,
pushed Uboh, who almost fell. She fought back, hitting Bawa with punches.
Melaye snatched the paper from Igbawua, tore it and
threw the pieces on the floor.
Pandemonium resulted as Awhinawhin rushed to snatch
the mace but was prevented by Okere, security operatives and some lawmakers.
They beat him repeatedly.
In a bid to restore order, Bankole adjourned the
sitting of the House by ramming his gavel.
However, the majority of lawmakers led by Mr. Abdul
Ningi, a former majority leader, advised him to go back to his seat to continue
with the motion.
For over 25 minutes after Bankole returned to his
seat, there was a free-for-all as the majority of members backing him, fought
with the PML lawmakers.
In the midst of the fracas, Bankole rammed his gavel,
endorsing the motion for the suspension of the 11 members.
A bizarre drama followed thereafter, as the PML
members were dragged out of the chamber one after the other.
Nwachukwu, who also brought a walking stick into the
chamber, received the worst beating. He was almost stripped bare before he was
Kaze, Melaye, Awhinawhin and Udoh were also beaten and
dragged out of the chamber.
Some journalists were also attacked by security agents
on Tuesday in the course of performing their legitimate duties.
The Aide-de-Camp to Bankole, Mr. Dauda, personally
confiscated the camera of a photojournalist for daring to take shots of the
fighting from the press gallery.
The photographer was later beaten and taken out of the
gallery. Two reporters suffered a similar fate.
The spokesman of the House, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, later
told a news conference that the disorderliness in the chamber took place
because the 11 suspended members failed to heed the order of the speaker to
leave the chamber after they had been suspended.
He also claimed that the PML members attempted to
disrupt the proceedings of the House by attacking Igbawua, while he was moving
Eyiboh said, ”Nwachukwu came to the session with
tear-gas while Melaye brought a whistle and was blowing it. These are weapons
and under the rules of the House, they are not allowed to do what they did; it
”The speaker invoked Order 10 (5)(6), which culminated
in their indefinite suspension.”
When asked whether the suspension had addressed the
allegation of abuse of funds by the leadership, Eyiboh replied that the PML
members knew the rules of the House and should have exhausted them before going
to the public with their allegation.
But reacting to the incident, Melaye said that the
House was under the spell of a tyrannical leadership.
He added, “It is the height of tyranny; what they
accused us of, Eyiboh and Bankole are also guilty of talking to the press.
“There is nowhere in our rules that says we cannot
talk to the press. Mr. Halims Agoda did the same thing when Mrs. Patricia Etteh
was the speaker; Farouk Lawan did the same.”
Melaye and Nwachukwu were later invited by the Federal
Capital Territory Police Command for questioning over the fracas.
The command’s spokesman, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, told the
News Agency of Nigeria, that the Commissioner of Police ordered that they
should be questioned.
Moshood said, “It is true that Mr. Melaye and Mr.
Nwachukwu were invited. They were questioned over the attack on another member
of the House, Mr. Igwe.
“I cannot confirm if they have been released or not;
all I know is that the commissioner of police ordered their interrogation.”
One of our correspondents learnt from an EFCC source
that while the free-for- in the House was going on, five operatives of the
commission headed straight for the office of Clerk and retrieved some documents
on the award of contracts by the House between 2008 and 2009.
A source at the EFCC who disclosed this to our
correspondent said, “They (operatives) moved from office to office to retrieve
documents relating to award of contracts that covered 2008 and 2009. The
lawmakers were having a stormy session at the period.
“The EFCC men combed all the administrative offices
and restricted movement of people around the area. They were seen moving big
bags of documents out of the office of the Clerk.
contacted, the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi,
denied knowledge of the operation.