Nigeria’s House of Representative is poised to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker today. This follows the resignation of former Speaker Patricia Etteh, who was found guilty by an internal House investigation of financial malfeasance in a five million dollar contract scandal. Some political observers say Etteh’s resignation is a first step towards restoring order in the House of Representatives, which has yet to debate a single piece of legislation since convening in June because all parliamentary business reportedly has been overshadowed by the contracts scandal.
Meanwhile President Umaru Yar’Adua has welcomed the resignations of Speaker Etteh and her deputy, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, as another triumph for efforts to entrench democratic norms and principles in the country. He has also urged House members to put recent events behind them and rise to the challenge of performing the legislative duties for which they were elected.
From the capital, Abuja, the chairman of the House Committee on Information and National Orientation Dino Melaye tells reporter Peter Clottey that the new speaker would be expected to redeem the House’s battered image.
“I can speak on very good authority as the Chairman of the House Committee on Information that we would be electing a new speaker and deputy speaker any moment from now,” Melaye said.
He explains the procedure that underlines the vote.
“Basically, we have a house rule that is responsible for guidelines and the proceedings of electing speaker and deputy speaker and that is the fact that the clerk of the national assembly will come and call for nominations, and nominations would be taken, and nominations would be seconded. If there are no more nominations, they would close nominations and from there we would divide the house and vote,” he explained.
Melaye said Nigerians would expect the new speaker and deputy to unify the legislative body, which reportedly has been polarized after the contracts scandal that forced Speaker Etteh’s resignation.
“The expectation of the new speaker and deputy speaker is to unify the House and make sure that there is no polarization in the House. He is to make sure that he redeems the image of the House that is already battered due to a lot of misinformation and false allegations that has bedeviled the former leadership of the House,” Melaye pointed out.
He said the new leadership already has their work cut out for them.
“So he got a lot of job to do because for the last few months we’ve not actually carried out any legislative responsibilities. We’ve not passed any bills. We’ve not passed any motions, and we would have to definitely double our effort because there is a stipulated number of sitting days, stipulated in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So he would be expected to make sure that we perform the very job for which we have been voted for and to make sure that we give Nigerians the best legislative practice as to ameliorate and alleviate their lifestyle, economically, politically, and otherwise,” he said.