FRESH TENSION IN REPS…150 First-time Members Move Against House Leadership

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A fresh showdown is imminent in the House of Representatives as over 150 aggrieved first-time members are up in arms against the House leadership over alleged marginalisation and exclusion from legislative business.

Already, the embittered federal lawmakers have formed a pressure group, codenamed “Novelty Group,” as a veritable platform for realising their mission and vision.

The group’s inaugural meeting, initially scheduled for Abuja yesterday evening, was abruptly cancelled following the death of a House member, Hon Olaide Adewale Akinremi.

Until his passage, Hon Akinremi represented Ibadan North Federal Constituency of Oyo State on the platform of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

A member of the group told LEADERSHIP last night that a new date for the inaugural meeting would be made public after the mourning period for the departed lawmaker.

An influential APC House member from one of the six states in the country’s South/South geopolitical zone (name withheld) is coordinating the group’s activities.

LEADERSHIP learnt that membership of the dissenting group was growing as of Wednesday night. First-time members constitute about 75 percent of the 360-member House of Representatives.

Findings by LEADERSHIP further revealed that membership of the group cut across eight political parties with membership in the House, and six geopolitical zones of the country.

Information available to LEADERSHIP revealed that members of the splinter group were particularly angered that the House had become an appendage of the Presidency.

One of the lawmakers told LEADERSHIP that his colleagues were aggrieved by the way the House leadership easily buckled to the whims and caprices of the Presidency in passing executive bills and other sundry correspondences from the Presidency.

He said his colleagues were concerned that the leadership had sacrificed their interests, well-being, and welfare due to its romance with the executive arm of government.

Speaker Tajudeen Abbas was accused of not acting decisively and assertively enough to guarantee the House’s independence.

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LEADERSHIP gathered that members of the group were plotting the impeachment of Abbas, Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu, House Leader Julius Ihonvbere and Minority Leader Kingsley Chinda.
Reliable sources in the House revealed that the protesting lawmakers were uncomfortable with Kalu’s authoritarian tendencies and arrogant postures, especially when he was chosen to preside in Abbas’ absence.

The first-term lawmakers were reported to be after Ihonvbere and Chinda for alleged failure to protect and sacrifice their interests due to pecuniary gains.
Similarly, chairmen of the various House committees also incurred the wrath of the lawmakers for excluding them from the activities of the committees.

They added that the chairmen willfully sidelined their deputies and other members of their committees in carrying out oversight functions and sharing of accruing benefits.

They vowed to ensure a rejig of the House committees to weed out the uncooperative chairmen.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the forum also resolved “to deal with their oppressive first-time colleagues, who were fortunate to be made committee chairmen.”

One of the lawmakers said, “We have passed executive bills in very unusual ways within hours without serious legislative industry, because we are a mere rubber-stamp of the Presidency. That is the way the House leadership, headed by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas presented us to the Presidency.

“Most of the new members are suffering even though we all contested the same election, spending millions. We are treated with disdain as outcasts in the House by the so-called ranking members and our first-time colleagues who are fortunate to be made chairmen of the various committees.

“Nigerians see us all as unmindful of their plight when, in fact, only a few in the leadership cadre benefit from whatever they accuse us of amassing.”

“The executive, especially some ministers, have cornered the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and the CEOs of federal agencies give no damn about us (federal lawmakers),” he stated in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP.

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“Chairmen of committees are now behaving like demi- gods, relegating their deputies and first-timers to the background. And most of these so-called privileged first time and ranking members hardly come to plenary. Some of them supervise and administer as well as confiscate benefits from the federal agencies and parastatals we are supposed to handle together from abroad.

“A particular lady, who is a first-time member and chairperson of House committees of a juicy commission, has been resident in London, from where she solely performs and administers the oversight functions of a committee since our inauguration.

“No member. including her deputy, knows what is happening in the committee and the commission. She occasionally dishes out instructions and gives out nauseating hand-outs from the commission to members of the committee, whom she treats like her aides. We can no longer tolerate this rubbish.

“We now go cap in hand begging colleagues for jobs meant to be allocated to our federal constituencies. We want to show the nation that all is not well and that not all lawmakers are insensitive to their plight.

“The near uprising in the chambers against the retroactive approval of the extension of the 2023 Appropriation Act to December 2024 is a tip of the iceberg.

“We sent back the permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance when the minister did not honour our invitation to interact with us on the 2024 budget implementation to tell the executive arm of government that we cannot continue to be taken for granted.”

“More decisive actions are to follow because the leadership has shortchanged us. Novelty Group is formed to correct all these.”

“We are 150 members now and counting. We are not at peace with the Speaker (Abbas), who has sold us to the Presidency,” he said, adding that both the deputy speaker and the majority leader and minority leader were on their firing line.

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“And a rejig of the committees is another mission of our group,” said the House member who craved that his name be not mentioned in print.

When contacted, the House spokesman and chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Akin Rotimi Jr., claimed ignorance about the formation and existence of the splinter group.
Rotimi, however, added that if such group was ever founded by House members, it would be part of the legislative processes.

“As a member of several first-time parliamentarian groups myself, I can assure you that these groups are formed to advance common interests and facilitate collaboration on legislative issues.

“They are a normal and healthy aspect of our parliamentary process, providing a platform for members to express their views and work together on matters of mutual concern.”

“I must emphasise that I am not aware of any organised effort to “gang up against the House leadership” as you mentioned.

“It’s important to note that approximately 75 percent of the 10th Assembly House of Representatives members are first-time lawmakers, and the Assembly includes representation from eight different political parties.

“The diversity within the House underscores the need for various groups to form and address specific interests and issues collaboratively.

“The House leadership remains committed to inclusive and transparent governance, ensuring that all members, including first-time representatives, are adequately represented and have their voices heard,” Rotimi said in a WhatsApp message to LEADERSHIP.

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