Nigeria News
Tambuwal: APC Legislators on Red Alert, Shelve Travel Plans
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Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

Determined to ensure that any move by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to oust the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, is thwarted, members of the lower chamber from the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC) have placed themselves on red alert, including shelving any travel plans during the five-week period of adjournment.The extra vigilance is coming on the heels of unconfirmed moves by the executive to use the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, to reconvene the House ahead of the December 3 date set for the reconvening of the House.

APC is strategising to ensure that it helps Tambuwal to retain the leadership of the lower chamber at all costs.

The apprehension over the fate of the Speaker came just as it was revealed yesterday that the opposition party might have pruned down the expected number of delegates at its presidential primaries from 10,000 to about 8,000.

Details emerged at the weekend that part of the strategy being adopted by the APC to counter PDP’s onslaught on Tambuwal was to ensure that all its members in the lower legislative chamber are solidly behind the embattled Speaker at all times.

In addition, the APC leadership is plotting to ensure that its legislators are in Abuja most of the time and are ready to attend any sitting of the House to make sure that they out-number the PDP in the event of any move to commence impeachment proceedings.  The party leadership has therefore put all its members on red alert and has asked that they remain in touch with the party’s hierarchy.

THISDAY gathered that the party leadership has also prevailed on its members in the House not to embark on travels outside Abuja or out of the country at least till the leadership tussle is over.

According to the top party source who spoke to THISDAY yesterday in Abuja, the party had engaged in series of meetings and consultations over the matter.

“Our party is mapping strategies and considering all options to protect Tambuwal against PDP’s onslaught. We have asked our members in the House of Representatives to be on alert and to make sure that they are present at all sittings. We also advised them to keep the party leadership informed about their travel plans. The party does not want to be taken unawares as far as the power tussle generated by Tambuwal’s defection is concerned, ” he said.

The idea of mobilising legislators is to ensure that PDP does not capitalise on the absence of members to push through its impeachment plot against Tambuwal.

However, despite the moves by the ruling party and the executive, the House has explained that it is only the Speaker who has the discretion to convene the House.
Hon. Zakari Mohammed (APC, Kwara), who is also the House’s Chairman on Media and Publicity, explained this in a statement yesterday.

Noting that the House adjourned its plenary to allow its members to participate in pre-budget oversight activities in preparation for the 2015 budget and also to meet the political calendar of all the political parties, Mohammed said: “This adjournment was unanimously approved by all the Principal Officers of the House without dissent.

“The procedure for reconvening or Re-Assembly of the House is contained in the House Standing Orders made pursuant to Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which empowers the House to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for Summoning and Recess of the House.”

He said: “Order V , Rule 18(2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives provides as follows: Whenever the House stands adjourned either to a date fixed by Resolution or the Rules of the House, and it is represented by the Leaders of the Political Parties in the House to the Speaker that the public interest requires that the House should meet on an earlier or a later date or time than that on which it stands adjourned, the Speaker MAY give notice accordingly, and the House shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”

According to him, “This means that the leaders of all the political parties in the House especially the Majority and Minority Leaders respectively MUST consent before the representation is made to the Speaker who has a discretion to agree or not.”

Already, the defection of Tambuwal is unsettling the PDP, which has inadvertently caused a row among its leadership cadre. Last week, this played out when the Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio at a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan took on the Deputy Speaker, Ihedioha and House Leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande (who were also at the meeting), accusing them of negligence, which created the room for Tambuwal to defect and caused the PDP a huge problem.

“Akpabio told Ihedioha that he and Mulikat deliberately allowed Tambuwal to be having a field day in the green chamber which was why the party was finding things difficult,” the source said.

“However, Ihedioha lambasted Akpabio, accusing him of not doing anything to bolster the strength of the party in the National Assembly. The deputy speaker told Akpabio that as the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, what has he done to the PDP caucus in the House?” the source said.

At this stage, both men started pouring venom on each other and it took the intervention of the PDP National Chairman Adamu Mu’azu before they calmed their nerves, he added.

It was further learnt that the APC is working in concert with the embattled Speaker to enlist the support of his close allies among the PDP members of the House to see if it could tilt the balance of power to its favour and ensure that no attempt to remove Tambuwal from office succeeds.

In the same vein, the  APC caucus in the House will today file a suit against the Inspector General of Police (IG) for his withdrawal of the security aides of the Speaker.

A source within the caucus told our correspondents that this is to increase the pressure on the federal government and the police to restore the privilege of the Speaker in that regard.

Last Friday, the Speaker and the party had filed a similar suit at an Abuja High Court challenging the IG’s action.

It was also learnt that both caucuses of the APC and PDP are billed to hold their meetings on the way forward today. The APC will hold its meeting at the party’s secretariat while the venue of the PDP meeting is yet to be ascertained.

Falana Accuses IG of Compromise

But ahead of the legal fireworks that will follow the withdrawal of the Speaker’s security aides, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), yesterday accused  the acting IG, Mr. Suleiman Abba, of partisanship.

In a letter to the IG, Falana said the police boss, since his appointment by President Jonathan on July 31, 2014, had been involved in partisan politics to the detriment of law and order in the country.

He also stated that it was Jonathan who instigated the IG to withdraw the security details of Speaker Tambuwal.

He said: “From the information at my disposal your harassment of the Speaker was instigated by the presidency.”

He said by virtue of  section 215 (3) of the constitution which enjoined the police boss to carry out the “lawful directions” of the president of the Republic with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order, the actions taken on the Speaker, were illegal and unconstitutional in every material particular.

He said: “Therefore, you should withdraw your pronouncement on the office and seat of Honourable Aminu Tambuwal and advise the ruling party to seek redress in the Federal High Court on the constitutional implications of the defection.”

According to him,  unless Tambuwal is removed by his colleagues in the House or by a competent court in the land, he remains the Speaker of the House.

“Neither the police nor any other agency of the Federal Government can be allowed to resort to self help on the matter,” he added.

He called on the IG to resign his appointment because law and order could not be maintained by a compromised police institution except he was ready to “discharge your onerous constitutional responsibilities without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

Falana cited three cases of alleged political bias recently displayed by the police under the IG watch.

He said: “Firstly, the Osun State governorship election which took place on August 9, 2014 was almost marred by the police and other security forces which arrested and detained over 700 leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Indeed, some electoral officers who were assumed to be members of the APC were also railroaded to police custody.

“But for the personal intervention of Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the said electoral officers would not have been released.”

He said up till now, the detained APC leaders who were released after the election had not been charged to court for breaching the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law whatsoever.

He said: “Secondly, Mr. Joseph Mbu, the controversial Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 7 of the Nigeria Police Force announced a ban any rally of the #bringbackourgirls group within the federal capital territory.

According to Falana, the IG caused the security details of  Tambuwal to be withdrawn last week on the ground that he had defected from the PDP to the APC.

He said:  “As if that was not enough, you decided to usurp the judicial powers of the federation which are exclusively vested in the courts by section 6 of the Constitution when you claimed that the Speaker had lost his office and seat as a federal legislator having contravened section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

“No doubt, your actions and utterances in the circumstance have exposed the police to unwarranted ridicule as Nigerians are not unaware of the fact that when the Ondo State legislators elected on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) decamped to the PDP last month your office did not declare their seats vacant.

“In particular, you did not withdraw the security details of Jumoke Akindele, the Speaker who led her colleagues to dump the LP for the PDP. In the same vein, Honourable Ahmadu Fintiri, the Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly and his colleagues who decamped from the PDP to the APC and have since returned to PDP. You did not have cause to declare their seats vacant. Neither have you withdrawn the security details of the Honourable Fintiri.

“Thus, by subjectingTambuwal to selective persecution on the ground that he decamped from the ruling party you violated his fundamental right to freedom from discrimination.”

He said it was a breach of section 42 (1) of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to subject any citizen of Nigeria of a political opinion to disabilities, deprivation and restrictions to which other citizens who hold alternative views or opinions are not made subject.

He urged him to restore Tambuwal’s security details since the security details of other Speakers who decamped from the APC and LP to the PDP had not been withdrawn.
Similarly, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed sadness over the withdrawal of Tambuwal’s security details.

It also called for the immediate restoration of the Speaker’s security details and all the rights and privileges that accrue to the Office of the Speaker, stressing that it was not about Tambuwal but the office which he holds.

The Congress, in a statement by its General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, described the action of the IG as shameful, distasteful, unconstitutional and a demonstration of parochial sense of power.

It maintained that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not state the party the Speaker of the House of Representatives should come from.

According to the NLC, Section 50(1) (b) of the 1999 constitution as amended, only says, “There shall be …a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves…”

It condemned the act of the police, saying: “The police and other security agencies complicit in this disgusting conduct should hold their heads in shame. Herein lies the essence of strong institutions which we have always advocated”.

Also, the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji  Abdulfatah Ahmed, at the weekend declared that it was only the nation’s judiciary and not any  organ of governments  that can interpret the laws and legal implication of the recent defection of Tambuwal from PDP to APC.

In addition, Ahmed questioned the constitutionality of the unilateral reduction in the allocations to states and local government councils by the federal government, adding that it needed to be subjected to examination by the judiciary.

Ahmed made these observations during the swearing-in of members of the reconstituted Kwara State Judicial Service Commission in Ilorin over the weekend.

He said: “It is the business of the judiciary and not that of any other arm or organ of government to interpret laws of the land and the legal implication of political action such as cross carpeting at the National Assembly and indeed the Executive.”

Meanwhile, the leadership of APC will this week conclude action of the review of guidelines for the party’s primaries ahead of the 2015 general election.

A reliable party source told THISDAY that following the amendments effected on the constitution of the APC at the last extra ordinary convention in Abuja, the leadership has set in motion a process to review the guideline for primaries, including reducing the number of delegates at the presidential primaries to 8,000.

The source said an approved list of delegates would most likely be published this week and that the party hopes to commence arrangements for the screening of candidates for various offices

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