All hell was let loose on Monday April 5, 2016, when members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly engaged one another in a free-for-all over the appointment of Sole administration for 11 local government councils by Governor Tanko Al-Makura.
The free-for-all fight, which involved mostly members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), occurred on the floor of the legislature barely two hours after the governor inaugurated the 11 sole administrators.
Caution was thrown to the winds as men who invariably were somebody’s fathers and husbands shattered glasses, broke and upturned tables and chairs in a tout-like violence that exemplifies a show of shame in the House. While some legislators sustained injuries during the fight some had their clothes severely torn.
A faction that described the governor’s action as illegal was opposed by another faction that supported the action of the governor. Funnily enough, the factions were mostly across party lines.
While briefing newsmen at the legislative complex after the fight, a member, House Committee on Information, who participated fully in the violence in the House, Mr. Makpa Malla, admitted the carnage that was perpetrated in the Assembly, but justified their reaction for the Governor’s ‘illegal’ act.
He mentioned that the Assembly could not continue to watch the governor perpetrate illegalities in the state.
“As you can see, this is the executive room of the state House of Assembly, where we sit down every morning to discuss matters which would bring development to the state and the country at large.
“Categorically, I want to state here that the division which caused this chaos was as result of the appointment of the sole administrators by the governor. As a responsible legislature with some of us as lawyers, we insisted that the right thing must be done.
“The Section 7 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – as amended – guarantees a democratic system of governance at the local government level. The provision of the constitution is explicit on how the local government structure should be run.
“That is why we are kicking against the appointment of the sole administrators. Sole administrators only existed during the military era, and as respecters of the rule of law, we must ensure that the executive must also respect the rule of law.”
Also speaking during the press conference, Mr. Abubakar Kana, an All Progressives Congress member representing Kokona-West, said there was no provision for the position of sole administrator in the laws of Nasarawa State.
“Where would the sole administrators derive their powers from? Who determines the tenure and salaries of the sole administrators? Sole administrators are not known to Nigerian and Nasarawa laws. If the sole administrators commit any offence, under what law would they be tried?” Kana queried.
It is basically unfortunate when it is considered that the Governor, Tanko Al-Makura, is from the APC, and those that came against him are also from the APC. The scenario seems to have created a situation where it is said that a house is divided against itself.
In the midst of the imbroglio, the six members, who were alleged to have fought on the floor of the House, have been suspended indefinitely for their involvement in the brouhaha.
The suspended lawmakers had alleged that Governor Tanko Al-Makura bribed some lawmakers to support the appointment of sole administrators for 11 local government areas.
Majority Leader of the house, Tanko Tunga, who moved a motion for their suspension cited ‘misconduct and misbehavior’ as the reason.
“The action of the six members had caused a confusion which resulted into chaos among members, and it is in view of this that I want to move a motion for their suspension so as to serve as deterrent to other lawmakers.”
Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim-Alkali of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Lafia North, who is also the Minority Leader of the House supported the motion.
Consequently, Deputy Speaker of the House, Godiya Akwashiki of the PDP, who had earlier condemned the attack, announced the suspension of the lawmakers.
He said: “13 lawmakers and I have voted in support of a motion moved for the suspension of the six lawmakers who misbehaved during our sitting on Monday.” “They are Kassim Mohammed-Kassim (APC-Akwanga South), Murtala Sodangi (APC-Nasarawa Central), Mohammed Okpoku (APC-Udege/ Loko, Musa Ali (APC-Keffi East), Makpa Malla (APC Wamba) and Abubakar Kana (APC-Kokona West).”
“These lawmakers are suspended from the house indefinitely without salary and allowances over their misconduct.” He explained that the 24-member House would not be cowed by a few members who had gone on a campaign of calumny against the state.
Akwashiki said: “They accused some of us of receiving N50 million bribe each from the Governor. I want them to come out with proof. They should show the world the video to back up their allegations. “Although there is the principle of separation of powers, we still meet with the Governor when necessary. The meeting could be on his request or on our request. While explaining the genesis of the crisis, the Deputy Speaker said: “Last week Friday, the Speaker of the House wrote a letter to the Governor, requesting that the House wanted to see him. The governor granted our demand by honouring our invitation. The governor invited all of us but only 17 of us attended the meeting in Abuja while others stayed back.” Akwashiki said the false allegation of bribery was one of the reasons why a few members of the legislature opposed the action of the governor.
The deputy speaker said the lawmakers met with the governor over a court judgment which ordered that the tenure of the 11 council chairmen must not exceed two years. He said the governor had to inaugurate the 11 sole administrators because of the security situation in the state, adding that on account of this, it would be wrong to fault the governor’s dicision. “We cannot afford to leave the councils without heads. The tenure of the former local government chairmen expired on March 24, 2016,” he said.
However, sympathizers of the those in the opposition has questioned the rationale behind the Governor’s meeting with 17 members of the House in far away Abuja, instead of Lafia, or any other city within the state.
“The Governor created room for suspicion, otherwise why would he take the selected few to Abuja for an invitational talk. The Assembly members invited him for a session. Why was he now the one to decide where the session will hold? And if he must decide, why Abuja? We can’t completely blame those that suspect foul play,” Mr. Lekan Ojelabi, a political commentator said.
On the hand, other political analysts see the trend as the visible cracks that have continually appeared on the APC walls long before now. They believed that the Nasarawa imbroglio is a replica of what is happening in the National Assembly where it is the opposition that is supporting the leadership of the Houses while the governing party members had become the antagonists. They reasoned that they governing party is creating opportunities for the PDP to develop in roads again, and reclaim a mandate they once lost.
“Everything points to the fact that the APC is a House divided against itself, and there is every likelihood that it cannot stand. It is unheard that while the opposition PDP is the ones supporting the actions of the Governor, the members of the APC, which produced the Governor are not supporting him and his policies. Don’t be surprised that if the Governor cannot, in the long run draw them to the APC, he may join them in the PDP. The APC is playing with fire if they cannot put their House in order,” Chika Madu, another political analyst said.
Mr. Paul Musa is a lawyer, who also comments on social and political events in the country. He told The Boss in a phone chat that the maiden fight in the Nasarawa House of Assembly is a clear writing on the wall that does not portend any good for the governing party. He noted that when the Governor begins to frolick with members of other political party against his own party, trouble is bound to occur.
“What we are looking at is the beginning of the end for some people or a whole group in Nasarawa State. The cordial relationship between the Governor and his own party members is gradually weaning, and that is dangerous because it would soon result to the case of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. It is just a matter of time before we know who joins who?” He said.
He noted that if it is even obvious that the Governor was giving bribes, his first port of call should be his immediate constituency, the APC, adding that something went wrong somewhere.
Mr. Musa also observed that it is difficult to fault the Governor’s action as the tenure of the removed LG chairmen has expired, adding that leaving them on seat will mean supporting illegality.
“Sometimes, this bribe thing is exposed when one is not happy with the lot. Something must have happened along the line to warrant the noise we now hear. More so, given the reasons the spoke persons of the governor gave, it is obvious that the former administration should be dissolved. What I can’t tell now is why a fresh election was not immediately conducted,” Musa said.
While the aggrieved suspended lawmakers have gone to Court to register their grievances, an action which is supposed to have been their first reaction before the fight, the political world looks on to see where the imbroglio ends.