By Tom Amakri, Port Harcourt
A surprising drama played out on the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA) as a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Akuku-Toru Constituency II, Hon Benibo Frederick Anabraba was elected the Minority Leader of the House.
PDP controls majority of the seats in the parliament while the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has few seats.
The drama started when the APC member representing Port Harcourt 1 constituency who is the only female member, Victoria Nyeche nominated her party member, representing Eleme Constituency, Hon Josiah Olu for the position.
But Hon Sam Ogeh, a PDP member representing Emohua Constituency, rose up and nominated Anabraba.
Ogeh’s nomination was seconded by Hon Edison Ehie, another PDP Lawmaker from Ahoada East II constituency.
Efforts by Nyeche to stop the move using Order 10 Rule 1 of the House Rules did not scale through as Amaewhule, also citing the same order as well as Order 5 Rule 1 and Order 6 Rule 1, countered the female lawmaker.
The Order, Amaewhule explained says at all times the Speaker shall interpret the Standing Order of the House, arguing that the Order 10 Rule 1 did not specify who to nominate, rather, it only states that Minority and Deputy Minority Leaders must come from the opposition party.
Efforts by Hon Olu to raise further Order did not scale through as the Speaker, Rt Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, said Order 10 Rule 1 is not ambiguous.
When the matter was put to vote, Anabraba polled 15 votes, against Olu, who polled 8 votes.
Further calls by the Speaker for the nomination of Deputy Minority Leader did not get any response as the APC members present at the sitting all walked out.
The Speaker later congratulated Anabraba on his emergence, reiterating that he will continue to be fair to all and uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as earlier promised.
He also stated that the Order was couched in 1999 under the Speakership of the former governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi and has not been amended since then.
Speaking to reporters later, Anabraba said, in exercising his functions as embedded in Sections 4, and 128 of the 1999 Constitution, he will do so in the interest of Rivers State.
He said being a minority leader is not a heritage for punishment but a tool to operate with other lawmakers to make good laws for the state.
The new minority leader also thanked his fellow contestant, Olu as well as those who voted for him for the confidence they had in him.
Meanwhile the Bill to repeal the Rivers State Reserve Fund Law 2008 has scaled second reading as lawmakers commenced debate on it that yesterday.