Chaos as House rejects S’East development bill

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  • Osinbajo on State Visit says Nigeria cannot afford to disintegrate 

The House of Representatives was again thrown into a rowdy session on Thursday, forcing a hasty adjournment of proceedings.

The cause of the rowdiness was the rejection of a bill seeking to establish a South-East Development Commission.

The bill failed at the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, after it had been debated.

A similar bill to establish the North-East Development Commission had since been passed by the National Assembly, awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, South-East lawmakers immediately protested the decision on the grounds that the House could have, at least, allowed the bill to pass the second reading for more views to be collated from Nigerians at a public hearing.

Tension had built up in the House since Wednesday when the bill was billed to be moved for second reading.

However, it was stepped down on Wednesday because the lead sponsor and Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Chukwuka Onyeama, was unavailable in the chambers.

He returned soon after the bill was stood down.

The bill was re-listed for Thursday (yesterday), but again, Onyeama was unavailable just as the bill was to be taken and it had to be stood down a second time in line with the rules of proceedings.

But South-East lawmakers began a loud protest, insisting that the bill must be taken.

In the midst of the rowdiness, Onyeama reappeared in the chambers, just like he did on Wednesday after the bill had been stood down.

Dogara had to bend backwards to approve a motion for the rescission of the earlier ruling stepping down the bill.

The speaker said, “Let me clarify that it was not as if the bill was stopped. The sponsor of the bill was not around and we followed the rules to step it down.

“Now that he is here, we will take it. Nobody will shut out anybody because we don’t have the right to do that.”

Dogara calmed frayed nerves and opened debate on the bill.

Onyeama, while leading the debate, said the South-East geopolitical zone needed the commission to develop collapsed infrastructure and the damage suffered by the zone as a result of the Nigerian Civil War.

“The war led to massive destruction of critical infrastructure in the region, including roads, houses and environmental degradation,” he said.

In the meantime, the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has insisted that Nigeria cannot afford to disintegrate.

He said the diversity of the country was the reason why other countries have respect for Nigeria.

Osinbajo, who was on a two-day official visit to Cross River State, said this on Thursday during a courtesy call on the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V.

He reiterated the fact that the country was better together than apart.

“Cross River State is so much an intriguing part of Nigeria and every part needs the other. We are greater together than apart. When people speak of Nigeria, it is because of its diversity. Unity is absolutely important because God wants us to be united,” Osinbajo said.

He said the country has been able to manage its diversity so far, pointing out that crisis of any kind was not a solution to the problems of the country.

According to him, the Federal Government was doing everything possible to accommodate every Nigerian, noting that President Buhari’s government will continue to work assiduously for the interest and development of all sections of the country.

Osinbajo pledged the support of the federal government to the construction of the super highway by the state government, stressing that the initiative would enhance economic and social development of the state.

Responding the Obong of Calabar, while appreciating the visit of the Acting President, pleaded that the traditional institution be given constitutional powers.

According to him, the traditional institution had been the foundation of government.

Meanwhile, the Acting President has performed the ground-breaking ceremony of Ayade Industrial Park as well as unveiling the Calabar Rice Factory and the Garment Factory, which he described as a bold attempt by the Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade to develop the state.

Punch