OrderPaperToday-The House of Representatives on Tuesday took a decision that appeared to tell Nigerians in the Coronavirus ravaged city of Wuhan, the Peoples Republic of China, that they are own their own.
Throwing all caution to the wind, the lawmakers threw a motion seeking the evacuation and quarantine of the Nigerians out even before hearing it out. To them, it seems, the 65 Nigerians now stranded in Wuhan can resign themselves to fate.
Spokesperson of the House, Ben Kalu (APC, Abia) had attempted to move the motion on behalf of himself, the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu; deputy majority leader, Peter Akpatason and 37 others who had their names listed as co-sponsors in the Order Paper of the day.
However, they backtracked and moved against its consideration, even vehemently rejecting appeals from the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to consider the motion.
According to the rules of the House, motion on matters of urgent public importance can be moved by suspending relevant rules of the House. Order 8, rule 4 of the standing rules of the House reads:
“(1) The matter for discussion shall, if possible, be referred to the Speaker prior to the commencement of the day’s sitting and the Speaker shall refuse to allow the claim, unless he is satisfied that the matter is definite and urgent.
(2) The text of the matter shall be submitted in writing to the Speaker prior to the sitting of the House.
(3) If the claim is allowed by the Speaker, and the leave of the House is given by majority of all members present, the matter shall stand over till the next Legislative Day.
(4) Not more than two of such motions shall be made at the same sitting.”
But as soon as the title of the motion was being read by Kalu after recognition by the presiding officer, the members present at the plenary, perhaps shaken by the possibility of the virus spreading to Nigeria through the returnee Nigerians, started registering their opposition loudly in shouts of disapproval.
Kalu started with the title, “Urgent need to evacuate over 65 Nigerians from the City of Wuhan and the wider Hubei Province of the Peoples Republic of China,” but as soon as Mr. Kalu mentioned “evacuates”, the members responded with a chorus “no” and burst into fits of laughter.
Not even attempts by the speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who made frantic efforts to make them see reason for an amendment of the prayers instead of outright rejection, could change the minds of the lawmakers who were obviously unmindful of the implication of their rejection.
“Hon Kalu’s motion already takes care of your worries. Hon Kalu’s motion is to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Republic of China back to Nigeria, but trust me –yes trust me, but honestly trust me, I had a little glance at the motion. And I believe the necessary things have been done. But if it has not, let us hear him, if it has not, we will know what to do with the motion at the end of the day, we will put the question, I am sure it has already been taken care of,” Gbajabiamila appealed to his colleagues.
However, when he put the question: “Those in support, please say aye and those against, say nay, the echo of nays vibrated across the chamber and was followed with robust laughter.
Giving them a second chance to think their decision through, the speaker stated, “The first instinct of any human being is self-preservation, so you no longer want your brothers back in Nigeria? I believe that motion has been taken care of. Hon Ben, it is a good thing we have not hit the gavel, can you take that motion again based on the title? What is the title of the motion, I want to hear the title, let the members hear the title of the motion.”
Kalu, attempting again, said, “Urgent need to quarantine and evacuate” but was cut short by screams of “noooooooo”. The drama continued till the speaker called the deputy majority leader, Peter Akpatason, to put his weight behind the motion by persuading members to listen to its intent.
“We are taking it again, and the co-sponsor is the deputy leader of the House, deputy leader, you have a point of order,” he said.
Interestingly, rather than endorse it or convince his colleagues to be give it a chance, Akpatason and the minority leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, both co-sponsors of the motion, further plunged it to its death.
Akpatason responded to the speaker, “Mr. Speaker and my distinguished colleagues –the noise is too much, this is too much noise….Mr. Speaker, based on leadership consultation and what appears like an overwhelming misunderstanding of the intendment of this motion, we wish to seek the leave of the House to step down (interruption of applause by the House).”
On his part, Elumelu refused to second the motion when the speaker called him after yet another failed attempt to persuade the House to hear Kalu out.
The speaker said, “Hon Kalu, can you take that motion again based on the title? I think we can kill two birds with one stone, there are many members here and I can point to the chairman, Foreign Affairs, (Yusuf Buba, APC, Adamawa) has children in China. Nobody wants to bring people here to come and infect the larger populace. I think we should have a candid opinion, hear his motion. Do not make your mind up based on title, hear what the motion is, hear the argument, and then we can kill it if we are not satisfied. At that point we can kill it if we are not satisfied.”
“Hon Elumelu, you want to second this motion? You are the co-sponsor. Hon Elumelu! Hon Elumelu is the co-sponsor but he says his mic is not working.”
Another co-sponsor of the motion, Nicholas Ossai attempted to save the motion by prevailing on the member to allow the bill to be gazetted and listed for another legislative day but unfortunately, his comment that Nigeria is not equipped to take care of Coronavirus infected patients appeared to draw more anger of the members.
Ossai said, “Let us put it on notice, so that everyone can read through. If it is a motion that reads through the minds of everybody, we will be able to discuss the motion, it is not too urgent like that…because one, China has a better facility than Nigeria.”
Kalu later said after plenary that he will move for the House to rescind the decision and reconsider the motion. Read full motion here: CORONAVIRUS ver 3