-Court throws out ex-parte application
Proponents of zoning in the House of Representatives yesterday suffered a major setback as a Federal High Court in Abuja refused their ex-parte application asking it to suspend the recently amended Standing Order of the House, for the purpose of electing its principal officers on Monday.
In a landmark verdict in the suit filed by two pro-zoning lawmakers, Hon. Jerry Manwe and Hon. Bitrus Kaze, Justice Gabriel Kolawole wondered why the plaintiffs did not file their action since May 17, when the votes and proceedings were adopted by the House. According to the judge, the request for ex-parte order on grounds of urgency is “self-induced”.
The judge further dashed the hope of the pro-zoning lawmakers when he threw out their request for the suspension of Order II, Rule 3 (f) (i) and (ii) of the Standing Orders of the House.
With this development, the coast is now clear for the House to use the open-secret ballot for the purpose of electing presiding officers of the 7th House of Representatives.
Manwe and Kaze had filed the ex-parte application in a last-minute attempt to truncate the election.
The plaintiffs also named the House, the speaker, clerk to the National Assembly, clerk to the House and the deputy speaker of the House as co-defendants to the suit.
But Justice Kolawole insisted in his ruling that rather than granting the prayers of the plaintiffs, they should put the defendants on notice.
He said: “Prayer 1 in the motion ex-parte dated May 31 is refused for all the reasons I had given in the course of this ruling.”
The judge further directed that the order of the court should be served on the defendants through substituted means in two national newspapers – ThisDay and Daily Trust.
The court added that the originating summons and motion on notice already filed by the plaintiffs should be served on the defendants just as he directed the defendants to file their response within five days. The case has been adjourned to June 13.
The pro-zoning lawmakers had resorted to the legal action, following failure of several attempts to reverse the voting procedure on the floor of the House.
The House had, on May 17, amended its Standing Orders and Rules relating to the election of new speaker and deputy speaker. With the new rule, the House will conduct its elections by open-secret ballot, as against the electronic voting system stipulated in the former Standing Orders of the House.
The House had, in a motion by the chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Hon. Cyril Maduabum, entitled “Amendment of the Standing of the House of Representatives Order II, Rule 3, (f) (i) and (ii),” unanimously adopted the voting procedure at the plenary session.
But pro-zoning members of the House were said to have been uncomfortable with the new voting procedure on the grounds that the system would allow members to vote against the zoning policy of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The House has never made use of the electronic voting machine since the 1999 date of its first inauguration, as voting during plenaries are usually conducted by voice votes.
It was only during the constitution amendment that the system was refurbished for voting by members.
The House had adopted voice voting in enthroning the first speaker, Salisu Buhari; his successor, Ghali Umar Na’Abba; Patricia Etteh and Dimeji Bankole.
At the moment, three members , Hon Muraina Ajibola, Hon. Mulikat Akande–Adeola and Hon. Aminu Tambuwal are in the race for the speakership, which the PDP had reportedly zoned to the South-West.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has said if the nation is to achieve its goal of transforming the polity, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must subject itself to reforms that would enable it position itself for the task ahead.
The president made the declaration yesterday while addressing the PDP governors and National Assembly members–elect at the beginning of a two-day retreat in Abuja. The retreat is organised by the Peoples Democratic Institute with the theme: “Legislative And Executive Branch Collaboration: A New Synergy For National Transformation”.
Jonathan said the only way to build and strengthen political parties and institutions of democracy was to ensure a high level of discipline among members of the party, saying that the reform and transformation of the polity, which was one of the pillars of campaign promises, must begin with the ruling party.
He said: “We must democratise our decision-making process so that party decisions will be easier to enforce. We must consult more, build consensus and take decisions that is in the best interest of our country and our party. I charge you all to not only support the reforms but to ensure their implementation”
The president also declared that it was imperative that members of the PDP must strive to subject themselves to the guidance of its leadership.
“The message is that despite the free-handedness of democracy, there are basic rules of conduct and behaviour that regulates the actions of members of every political party to ensure cohesion and achieving a common purpose for the good of all. We will reform to enable us achieve our objective.
“Therefore, the reforms to transform the polity must begin at home. We must all work together to subject our party to the much-needed reform so that it can position itself for the great task ahead.
“We must consult more, build consensus and take decisions that are in the best interest of our country and our party. I charge you all not only to support the reforms but to ensure their implementation at all levels,’’ Jonathan stated.
The president reminded elected governors and lawmakers of the high expectations from Nigerians, admonishing them to act in the best interest of their people and not betray the mandate given to them.
He commended the sixth National Assembly that wound up yesterday for the harmonious relationship between it and the executive arm of government and stressed that the “the executive-legislature symbiosis is particularly important because of the oversight functions of the legislature”.
He said the purpose of his meeting with leaders of key political parties three days ago was to build a common understanding that places the interest of the nation above that of the party or partisan interest.
“An important outcome of the meeting is that the leaders of political parties are now to meet every quarter so as to deepen the gains of togetherness as we strengthen the pillars of our union”.
In his keynote address, the PDP Acting National Chairman, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, said the imperative of unity and co-operation in the delivery of the party electoral promises id the essence of the two-day retreat.
“The retreat is a timely opportunity to remind ourselves of the need for co-operation between the executive and the legislature, on the one hand, and the party on the other hand, in order to attain the goals of good governance and sustainable development, ’’the acting chairman stated.
Mohammed regretted that PDP had for too long been bedeviled with indiscipline and attributed the failure of the party to win some states and seats in the general elections to failure of some of their members to play according to the rules.
“Surely, we cannot continue to allow individuals and groups to do what they like and undermine our unity, cohesion and effectiveness. From henceforth, we shall no longer condone acts of for growth than a large and amorphous one with unruly members,” Bello sai