The House of Representatives, yesterday bickered over the motion by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, calling for the resignation or sack of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, for his past comments backing activities of terrorists.

The Minority Caucus of the House, had countered the statement by the House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu that the call on the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Pantami by the Minority Leader, Elumelu, to resign was not properly presented at the floor of the House.

Elumelu had at the plenary on Wednesday, relying on matters of privilege, asked the House to cause a debate on the issue, particularly demanding Pantami’s exit from office. His call was faulted by the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who said the motion was not presented according to the rules and proceedings of the House.

The House Spokesman in a statement on Thursday said the lawmakers would hear Elumelu’s call for Pantami’s resignation when it was properly presented before it.

But, the caucus, in a statement yesterday signed by its spokesman Hon. Francis Ottah Agbo, said the order was properly cited by Elumelu, stressing that the matter was also debatable.

The lawmakers said Kalu’s claim that the Minority Leader did not properly present his motion, under an appropriate rule was completely dumb, frivolous and exposes his poor knowledge of the legislative procedures.

The caucus described the claim as a deliberate scheme to jeopardise the nation’s fight against terrorism.

The caucus while calling on the House Spokesman to apologise to Elumelu, also reiterated its call for the minister’s resignation.

The caucus therefore demands that Hon. Kalu should withdraw his statement and tender an unreserved apology to the Minority Leader and Nigerians for misrepresenting the rules of the House.

The statement reads, ‘’We find it shocking that instead of standing with Nigerians at this critical moment, Hon. Kalu chose to engage in personal attack on the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, for pointing to the dangers of retaining in office, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, after reports of the minister’s support for terrorists came to the fore.

‘’This is especially after the minister himself admitted to the facts of his sympathy for violent, extremist and terrorist groups, including, the al-Qaida and Taliban. It is instructive to state that the motion by the Minority Leader calling for the resignation or sack of the Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari was properly presented under the House rules as provided in Order 6: 1,2&3 (Privileges), contrary to claims by Hon. Kalu. Order 6:1,2,3 clearly and generously provide for full debate on the issue brought pursuant to it.

‘’Furthermore, we take a strong exception to Hon. Kalu’s vain posturing of trying to tutor the Minority Leader, a well-respected seasoned legislator, on the House Standing Rules and parliamentary convention. Moreover, it is clear that the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, conceded to the appropriateness of the Order, under which the Minority Leader presented his motion, and for that, did not rule him out of order, regarding the presentation of the motion and its consequential prayers.

‘’Furthermore, the Hon. Speaker, in accepting the motion, announced that the issues raised had been noted. It is therefore completely irresponsible for anybody, let alone the spokesperson of the House, who should be abreast of the Rules, to state that the Minority Leader ought to have known better than coming under Order 6. His statement is therefore in bad faith and should be disregarded and withdrawn by him immediately.

Reacting, the House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said that the green chamber had zero tolerance for terrorism in any kind.

Kalu reiterated that the House stood ready to give audience to Hon. Elumelu or any other member of the House on this issue, provided that such audience was sought through the proper channels and brought under the relevant rules of the House, adding that House won’t withdraw statement it issued earlier.

According to him, ‘’Our attention has been drawn to the press release by one Hon Francis Agbo, who claimed to be the spokesman of the minority caucus, alleging that the speaker was wrong in not allowing the debate on the issue raised by the minority leader. My office will not join personal issues with him or go to the content of the yet to be presented lead debate but will not fail to insist, as follows; That the press release in reference, was not directed at the minority leader or to disparage his person in any form, truth be said, raising such issues on behalf of Nigerians defines the value of our representation and we commend him. However, there are rules for such a presentation that must be followed in line with parliamentary practice.

‘’That the press release in reference, was not directed at the minority leader or to disparage his person in any form, truth be said, raising such issues on behalf of Nigerians defines the value of our representation and we commend him. However, there are rules for such a presentation that must be followed in line with parliamentary practice. The House acknowledges the severity of the issue and its nature as a matter of public concern.

‘’That the minority leader has allowed Hon Francis Agbo to defeat the integrity of the content of his call, by opting to play politics on such a serious matter with his sentimental appeal to the public rather than do the right thing by representing the matter to the house as being guided. After all, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker at one time or the other were guided and they retraced their procedural steps on important issues ( Eg. Disease control bill and the Diaspora Petition) The minority leader and his mouthpiece are advised to show humility in leadership and service to Nigerians on this issue like the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have shown severally. It is therefore pertinent to inform Nigerians that the House has not acted in error, but in line with the provisions of its rules. All insinuations that the House did not allow democratic debate to take place on the important issue of Pantami’s resignation are simply untrue.’’

Source: THISDAY LIVE