Emerging from an extended four-week vacation on Tuesday, the House of Representatives swiftly passed an Electoral Act amendment yesterday before announcing a fresh 14-day break “to mobilise constituents for voters’ registration.”
The lawmakers brushed aside critical deliberations which include: the 2011 budget bill, Anti-corruption bill, Petroleum Industry bill (PIB) and the Freedom of Information bill, to announce more two-week holiday on their first day of resumption after the primary elections that denied many of them returning tickets.
“The committees will be working, but there will be no plenary to allow members take advantage of the amendment and go back and mobilise their constituents for the registration,” the speaker, Dimeji Bankole, said after the passage that will allow the extension of the voters’ registration.
The House will now reopen for sitting on February 8, 2011. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have shown interest in seeing through the PIB, Anti-corruption bill which have already missed deadlines, and the long-standing FOI bill, which has been turned down severally by the lawmakers.
Yesterday, the Senate President, David Mark, said the bills will be accelerated while Ita Enang, the chairman House committee on Business and Rules, said Monday that he Is “optimistic’ that the bills will pass early.
But while senate has listed its programmes for the week including meeting with the chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega, and considering the Appropriation Act, the House said its members need more time to drum up the interest of their constituents in the ongoing voter registration.
The Speaker pushed aside any delay including a protest by Dino Melaye, the leader of the group that asked for the removal of Mr Bankole, that their entitlements were not paid.
Mr Melaye’s appeal
Relying on Order 5 of the House Rules which bothers on privilege, Mr Melaye took a swipe at the House leadership, appealing to his colleagues to prevail on Mr Bankole to pay up the accumulated entitlements with effect from June 22, 2010.
“While the Speaker has been paid, our own entitlements have not been paid. I see no reason why we should be serving on credit even when we have been making contributions as part of our legislative responsibilities. Please I appeal to the Dimeji Bankole-led leadership to restore our entitlements in the interest of peace, unity and brotherliness”, he said.
But Mr Bankole said the case is still pending in court following an appeal by the House leadership, and therefore could not comment on it.
He said while he was aware of the court judgment that called for the entitlements to be paid, he asked Mr Melaye, and other members to be aware of the appeal on the case which, he said was yet to be decided by the court.
“If the court decides in your favour, you can then appeal for your entitlements. For now, that is my ruling”, Mr Bankole declared.