By Umar Muhammad Puma
Members of the House of Representatives were sharply divided along party lines over a motion on the alleged grant of amnesty by Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha to some suspected criminals reportedly on the wanted list of Rivers State Security Council.
The lawmakers are of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who kicked against the motion and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who supported it.
The motion which was sponsored by Rep Kingsley Chinda (PDP Rivers), and 11 other from Rivers State, condemn the grant of amnesty by Okorocha to the wanted criminals, urge the executive am of federal government not to recognize the amnesty, as well as mandate its committee on legislative compliance to ensure the expected resolution is adhered to.
However, Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara who presided over plenary was forced to technically step the motion down, when the sitting degenerated into a rowdy session as conflicting pieces of constitutional opinion were raised on the matter, mostly divided on the party lines of PDP versus the ruling APC, and River and Imo lawmakers.
Citing section 232 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Hon. Raphael Igbokwe argued against the motion to the effect that the House lacked legal capacity to address issues of disagreement between states of the federation, noting that anyone aggrieved should approach the Supreme Court for adjudication.
Majority Leader of the House, Rep Femi Gbajabiamila while citing section 212 of the constitution, also argued that Governors are empowered to grant amnesty, but Rep Bashir Babale called for caution on the matter, describing it as “very sensitive”.
On his part, Rep Johnson Agbonayima (APC Edo) also insisted that only an amendment can stop the Governors from granting amnesty.
Rep Chinda while leading debate on the motion said the reported amnesty granted the wanted criminals “in concert with some ‘highly placed’ politicians to persons declared wanted by the security council, was in bad faith, unimaginable, preposterous a part of a wider campaign to reintegrate and arm these criminals ahead of the 2019 general elections”.
Seeing that the atmosphere was becoming more tensed as the debate progressed, Dogara said the matter “is confusing”, and that more consultations needed to be done, and therefore directed the Committees on Justice, Ethics and Privileges, National Security and Intelligence to scrutinize the motion against the arguments, and advise the House.