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General News of Wednesday, 9 June 2021


Twitter Ban: PDP Reps staged walk out on plenary

Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives

A mild drama occurred at the resumed plenary of the House of Representatives on Tuesday when some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus staged a walk out from the Chamber.

This was after the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila ruled their Leader, Kingsley Chinda out of order on the debate about Twitter Ban by the Federal Government.

Speaker, Gbajabiamila earlier in an address of welcome to members who had been away for zonal hearing on constitutional review, mandated the Committees on Communication, Information, Justice and National Security to investigate the suspension of Twitter and report back to the House within 10 days.

PDP leader in the House, Chinda (PDP, Rivers) objected that waiting for 10 days for the Committee to report back to the House would be tantamount to Twitter remaining banned for the period with attendant consequences.

Chinda said: "I stand on sections 39 and 19 of the Nigerian Constitution of the Universal Declaration on Human and Peoples Rights and article 9 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.

“My concern is that, as a Nigerian and several other Nigerians out there, the implication is that, for the ten days you have given that committee to work, this breach will continue. We don’t even know for how long our interaction with the Executive arm will last.

“As a representative of the people, I have a source of communication with my constituents; I have a source of interaction with my leaders. But in moving this, I must, with all sense of responsibility commend the steps you took this morning concerning this issue of ban of Twitter. It was very proactive, very timely.

“While I agree with the submission of the leadership of this House completely, I will only want to add that for the breach of our fundamental human rights, particularly the rights to fair hearing, freedom of speech and expression, we should urge the Executive arm in the interim to reverse the ban pending our interaction with the Executive."

The Speaker however, ruled the opposition leader out of order, insisting that since the matter had been referred to a Committee, it was wrong for it to be revived.

“Let me quickly refer you to order 9, rule 1 sub rule 6 of our rules which states that; 'it shall be out of order to reconsider any specific question upon which the House has come to a conclusion during the current session except upon a substantive motion for rescission'.

“This matter has already been sent to the committees to look at the issues you are talking about and will report to us within ten days. Even if you had brought a motion here, it would have been referred to a committee. We are not sure if your motion would not have been killed. This day, we have saved the day. So you are ruled out of order,” Gbajabiamila stated.

At this point, all efforts by Chinda to be heard proved abortive as the House Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa and Chief Whip, Mohammed Mongunu asked him to be guided, which prompted him and other members of the Caucus to walk out of plenary.

Chinda told journalists after walking out that he and other members of the Caucus will continue to tweet and if the Federal Government wants to jail them as it had threatened, it should go ahead.

"The speaker presented a speech to us this morning. There was no debate on that issue, in essence, what happened this morning was the decision of the leadership, we are not angels, our leaders are not angels, there was no debate and no vote was taken on those issues, so it’s not sacrosanct," he stated.

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