• PDP warns Gbajabiamila to steer clear of bloc

Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Indications have emerged that the Minority Caucus leader in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, and other members of his group may be suspend indefinitely by the leadership of the House. THISDAY learnt that the planned suspension might not be unconnected with the conclusion of an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Other members of the caucus of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) likely to be suspended alongside Chinda are Hon. Chukwuma Onyeama, Hon. Ajibola Muraino, and Hon. Yakubu Barde.

But PDP yesterday cautioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to stop meddling in the internal affairs of the party in the House. The warning, contained in a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, followed Gbajabiamila’s alleged interference in the choice of the party’s caucus leaders in the lower chamber. The intervention was said to have resulted in intimidation and threats of sanction against the party’s caucus leadership, headed by Chinda.

The House had mandated the committee led by Hon. Kolawole Lawal to investigate the circumstances under which the lawmakers paraded themselves as leaders of PDP caucus in the green chamber. The decision to probe the matter was consequent upon the adoption of a motion by Hon. Ben Igbakpa, who alleged that the quartet were falsely parading themselves as leaders of his party, thus, violating the standing rules and orders of the chamber.

Chinda and members of his group had also co-signed three press statements as PDP’s caucus leaders in the House prior to the investigation.

Though, the report is expected to be laid before the House in the coming weeks by the committee, investigation reveals that the decision to suspend the lawmakers stems from pressure on the Speaker by interested parties, which allegedly include some governors. It is gathered that the stage is set for the suspension, as the committee has put together its report, with the recommendation of suspending the legislators.

A lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, lamented that the development could heat up the polity. According to him, “This ugly development, if allowed to sail through, will heat up the polity and create the impression that there’s more than meets the eye on this issue. The situation is getting uglier.

“I heard that they are seeking their suspension and I don’t understand why. The party in question has come out to state that it gave the authority to head its caucus in the House, why does the Speaker or anyone for that matter have a problem with that?

“The suspension simply shows there’s probably more to the whole issue than meets the eye.”
Another lawmaker, who also didn’t want his name mentioned, explained that the report of the committee had already been predicted from the day the matter was brought to the floor.

He stated, “The committee on ethics has already come up with its report and, as most of us predicted from the day Hon. Igbakpa brought that motion calling for an investigation. We knew the aim was to suspend Chinda and that is exactly what the committee is recommending. All that is left to be done is for the committee chairman to lay the report and for the House to consider and adopt it.”

Recall that the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and National Secretary, Senator Umar Tsauri, wrote a letter dated June 21, 2019 to the Speaker of the House of Representatives appointing Chinda, Onyeama, Muraino, and Barde as leaders of the minority caucus. However, in a joint letter to the Speaker dated July 2, 2019, over 100 of the 147 opposition members averred that they had elected Ndudi Elumelu, Toby Okechukwu, Gideon Gwani, and Adesegun Adekoya as Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip, and Deputy Minority Whip, respectively, pursuant to Order 7 Rule 8 of the House.

In response, the House ordered an investigation to know why Chinda and other members of his group had been functioning as the leaders of the caucus in the House. But PDP issued a statement through its National Publicity Secretary, Ologbondiyan, insisting that Chinda and the three others remained the Caucus Leaders of the party, pending the resolution of the issues. The statement also said Elumelu and five others remained suspended.

According to the statement, “The suspension placed on some PDP members who connived with others to supplant the party decision with regards to the party’s position in the House is subsisting and has not been lifted. The suspended members of the party cannot therefore conduct any business of the party at whatever level until disciplinary measures have been concluded.

“The National Working Committee (NWC) in its wisdom, and consistent with its position on the matter, which has not changed, directed that the affairs of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives be organised and managed by: Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Hon. Yakubu Barde, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema and Hon. Muraina Ajibola.”

In its statement yesterday, PDP told Gbajabiamila that as a party, it reserved the right to form a parliamentary caucus as well as choose the leaders of the group.

PDP said whereas members from minority parties decided on the minority leadership, a party and its members had the right to form a caucus and select leaders of such caucus without interference from the leadership of the House or members of other political parties in the legislature. The party reiterated that it had directed that the affairs of the PDP caucus should be organised and managed by Chinda, Barde, Onyema, and Ajibola, stating that this position has not changed.
“Our party, therefore, calls on the Speaker to respect our choice of leadership for the PDP Caucus in the House of Representatives,” the statement said. It added, “Our choice has not in any way contravened any rules or pose any threats to the statutory running of the House of Representatives.

“Mr. Speaker should, therefore, steer clear and bury the thoughts of punishing the loyal members of our party just because they are obedient to the decisions of the PDP.”

The statement also said the Speaker of the House of Representatives should rather focus on giving the House of Representatives the much-needed direction to proffer solutions to the myriads of economic and security challenges confronting Nigeria.

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