17 January 2013

Nigeria: House Divided On Centenary Celebrations

The House of Representatives Wednesday sang discordant tunes over the correspondence from President Goodluck Jonathan informing them of the proposed celebration of Nigeria's centenary celebrations.

The celebration, which is billed for next year, is to mark 100 years of the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates of Nigeria on January 1, 1914.

The action which was taken by the British colonial masters marked the establishment of modern day Nigeria.

Jonathan had in his letter informed the legislators that he had constituted a 19-member planning committee for the celebration and requested for "a convenient date for the House of Representatives to receive a full briefing on the proposed programme" so that the lawmakers could also make their inputs towards the ceremony.

According to the letter, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, was to brief on the lawmakers on the preparations for the celebration.

Instantly, this request generated mixed reactions among the lawmakers with some refusing to allow the briefing and others saying Jonathan was in order.

Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Samaila Kawu (ANPP/Kano) led the pack of dissenting voices on the issue.

Kawu, who claimed that the letter was in breach of his privilege and that of the House recalled that the President had refused to honour an invitation extended to him by the House last year and was therefore not welcome in the House.

"Mr. President had refused to honour our invitation in the past, so we cannot honour his own too," Kawu said.

Similarly, the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN/Lagos), joined the voices of dissent.

The opposition lawmaker argued that there was no reason for the House to support the proposed centenary celebration because it would lead to waste of economic resources.

"Respect should be reciprocal. If the president could ignore our invitation last year, I think we should do the same to him by rejecting this letter. The celebration is going to make us to spend more money at a time we are even saying that we lack money to fund the budget," Gbajabiamila said.

However, another lawmaker Hon. Linus Okorie (PDP/Ebonyi), cautioned his colleagues against opposing the proposed celebration.

Okorie said the position of the earlier speakers on the matter was wrong and could send the wrong signals to Nigerians.

He said the House should be seen as working in harmony with the executive arm of government and not opposing the position of the president all the times.

The matter was later resolved in a voice vote as the overwhelming majority endorsed the plan by the executive to brief the parliament on the issue.

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