By Umar Muhammad Puma
Lawmakers under the platform of the people’s Democratic Party, in the House of Representatives yesterday staged a walk out of the plenary in protest over the defection of Rep. Nnanna Igbokwe from the PDP to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The lawmakers accused the Speaker Yakubu Dogara of being partisan in handling Igbokwe’s defection.
In his defection letter, read by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, Igbokwe said that his decision to leave the PDP was due to “the crisis that plagued the party 11 months ago’’.
Igbokwe said that he stopped paying his dues and attending PDP meetings since January 2017.
The opposition lawmakers raised a point of order, asserting that based on the Supreme Court ruling, any House member who dumps his party without any valid reason must vacate his or her seat.
However, while relying on Section 68, sub-section 2 of the 1999 constitution, the Speaker ruled them out of order.
Dogara said “even if there is no division, the House must come to a conclusion first and decide by resolution which is in favour of the majority”.
Briefing journalists shortly after the walk out, Deputy Minority Whip, Rep. Binta Bello (PDP Gombe), told newsmen that the speakers ruling on Igbokwe’s defection contravened the constitution and judgment of the Supreme Court.
She said the apex court had held that any defection can be considered legal when the party under which an elected lawmaker contested is engulfed in a crisis and has two or more factions. Binta, while condemning the Speaker’s action, describing it as a breach of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Standing Order of the House, said that the opposition members would approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of its ruling.
Bello insisted that there was no division in the PDP and demanded that Igbokwe vacates his seat in line with the Supreme Court ruling on PDP crisis.
Similarly, Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP/Delta) said that Section 68 (2) which the speaker read, provided that documents submitted by the defecting lawmaker ought to be verified by the House after which a resolution will be reached.
Rep Ossai, Nicholas (PDP Delta), who raised the point of order said the issue at stake, requires that those documents must be perused by all the 360 members and thereafter an investigative panel be set up to look into the issue and report back to the House.
Igbokwe’s defection letter dated December 19, 2017, and addressed to the speaker, disclosed that he registered and joined the APC in January, 2017.
“My decision to join the APC as at the time I did was as a result of the leadership crisis and division that rocked the PDP.
“You would recall that the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria that finally resolved the leadership crisis was delivered in July, 2017, six months after I joined the APC.
“I have since January 2017 been attending all APC caucus meetings and functions in my ward, local government, state and national levels, and l have been paying my dues and levies. Copies of the payment slips are attached herewith.
“Furthermore, the pending leadership litigations and division in Imo state chapter of the PDP and the current legal crisis with the national leadership of the PDP evidenced by the suit instituted by Prof. Taoheed Adedoja further strengthens my earlier resolve to quit the PDP.
“This letter becomes necessary to clear doubts in the minds of my colleagues, constituents and the general public as to the political party I belong to,’’ the letter said.