OrderPaperToday – Fresh from annual recess, members of the House of Representatives engaged in a shouting match over the controversial Water Resources bill.
However the presiding officer and speaker, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, in his wisdom decided to douse the tension by ruling that the bill be taken de novo, saying it failed to meet House procedures and will be regazetted for reconsideration.
The row broke out when a lawmaker from Benue State (PDP), Mr. Bem Nzondo, raised a point of order on a matter of his privileges being breached.
The lawmaker complained that his privilege as contained in the House Rules was breached as he was denied the opportunity to make inputs to the bill because the legislation was not gazetted and copies distributed to members as stipulated in the rules.
Mzondu, in his point of order, alleged that the rules were breached in the consideration and passage of the bill which was recommitted and reconsidered by the House on July 23 2020.
He argued that when the bill was considered by the House, he was denied the opportunity of contributing to its debate because the bill was not gazetted and distributed to House members as required by Orders 12, 16, 17 and 18 of the House rules.
“I don’t know what’s contained in the bill and my constituents have been asking to know what is contained in the bill, but Mr. Speaker, as l am speaking now, l haven’t seen a copy of the bill and don’t know what it contains.
“That bill has no life and was rejected by the Senate and as such should start a new journey de novo. My rights as a member has been breached and as such the bill should be expunged,” the lawmaker averred.
Another member, Mr. Nkem Abonta (Abia, PDP) who supported Nzondo, raised a constitutional point of order, asserting that the House had no basis to consider the bill, as the House can’t amend the constitution through a bill.
But the chairman of the House committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa), disclosed that the Bill was passed in the 8th Assembly on the 19th of December 2017 adding the issue of commencing fresh deliberation on it was out of it.
He was supported by Mr Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) who chairs the House committee on Water Resources. Soli insisted that deliberation on the bill was in tandem with laid down procedure of the House just as he reminded Abonta that he was on the floor of the House when the Bill sailed through before the end of the 8th Assembly.
Soli however failed to convince the House on the propriety of deliberating on the bill by way of substantive motion amidst chants of “no, no, no !!” by antagonist of the bill like Buma Goodhead (PDP, Rivers) whose voice could be clearly heard.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila in ruling on the matter ordered that the bill be regazetted and reintroduced for consideration and passage.
The speaker stated that fundamental issues have been raised regarding the manner in which the bill was passed, declaring that ordinarily “a matter of privilege is not debated, but l allowed contributions by members because of the importance of the matter.”
According to him, the House will not be party to offending it’s own rules and procedures, therefore the bill would have to be regazetted and reintroduced for consideration in accordance with House rules.