The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has explained his reason for not not honouring a letter from the leadership of All Progressives Congress in respect of the principal offices of the House.
Mr. Dogara cited Federal Character and legal factors for his refusal.
In a statement by his media aide, Turaki Hassan, Mr. Dogara was said to have made offered the explanation last Thursday, while hosting the Forum of Former House of Representatives Members.
Mr. Dogara received the APC letter on Tuesday. His refusal to read or adhere to the directive led to the fracas that ensued in the House on Thursday.
“He said in as much as he had wanted to act on the party`s letter nominating some persons as principal officers of the House, as a law abiding citizen he was compelled to do otherwise as a result of a pending court case instituted by about 36 APC lawmakers from the North Central zone who alleged that the party had schemed them out in violation of constitutional provision on Federal character principle,” Mr. Hassan quoted Mr. Dogara as saying.
“He said the tradition has been that the six principal positions are shared evenly among the six geo-political zones of the country in accordance with the federal character principle.
“He said federal character “is so important to our dear country that we have to establish a commission to enforce that particular position of the federal character.
“Even before I saw the later, there was court process served to the leadership of the House. What they are alleging is very simple: whether it is in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria and the House rules that a political party has the right to chose the principal officers of the House.
“The second question is: assuming the political party has the right, whether it is in tandem with the constitution to exclude their zone,l (North Central) and whether that meet the requirement of the provision of the federal character.
“It is not that we don’t want to announce the position of the party. But there are issues of law, issues relating to court, issues relating to the provisions of the constitution.”
Mr. Dogara reportedly continued, “Let me just explain: assuming we go ahead to announce the party’s position, which did not recognise members of the north central as principal officers and most of the members from the southwest as principal officers and then the north central members made a very strong allegation against APC.
“Assuming they win the case and the court now rules that that the directive of the party breaches the provision of the constitution relating to the federal character, so do we now begin to see somebody vacating his office as principal so that we can accommodate the court’s ruling?
“When we got the letter, we raised this issue with the party. We said the best thing is in order to avoid this, let’s circulate the six positions among the six zones in the House.
“There has never been a time in the House where a zone got more than two leadership positions and we all know the provision of the constitution which did say that all positions must be guided by the standing orders
“But in a situation where the standing order is not explicit does not provide for, then we provide that the use of precedent, customs, the tradition. So that therefore means even though the law does not say distribute the position to six zones, but the tradition has been that it should go to six zones in line with the constitutional provision relating to the federal character.
“So this is the bone of contention. But as leaders, we are bound by the constitution and when we got that directive from the party, we said that we must defend the constitution, we must enforce our rules .
“That is where we are and that is what we are discussing. It was the ongoing discussion relating to this that certain section of our members felt ‘well whatever it is let the House know, that the party is supreme’ and so that was what led to the near fracas which we witnessed on the floor of the House,” he said.
The Speaker said he called for the House to go into close-door session on that day to enable him inform his colleagues about the pending court case against the party`s position and chart the way forward.
He said he requested the chairman of ad hoc committee on media to apologise to Nigerians, having accepted responsibility for all that transpired.