The Nation – By Yusuf Alli and Victor Oluwasegun and Dele AnofiHouse of Representatives leaders summoned an executive session yesterday.
The unusual meeting came 24 hours after their resumption from recess.
It was all to stop a plot to remove Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from office.
The plot, being co-ordinated by a lawmaker from Niger State, Mohammed Sani Idris Kutigi, the House leadership believes, is being sponsored by some forces in government, who allegedly felt embarrassed by the recent budget implementation row with the Executive.
According to sources, most members of the House got yesterday a text message inviting them to “Operation Clean” in the chamber.
The text reads in part: “This is inviting all first term members of the House of Representatives to an urgent meeting and launching of the project, “OPERATION CLEAN. Date, 20 September, 2012. Venue-Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. Time: 11am prompt. Hon. Mohammed Sani Idris Kutigi, Coordinator.”
Some first term members alerted the leadership of the House. They planned to boycott the said meeting.
It was learnt that most of the first term members had queried the rationale behind the Kutigi meeting.
It was also gathered that there was tension in the House when old members got wind of the proposed meeting. The leadership then called for an Executive Session.
The uncovering of the plot by the House rattled the coordinator of the “Operation Clean” and his team.
Some sources, who spoke in confidence, confirmed that at the Executive Session, most members condemned attempts to divide them by the new group.
One of the sources said: “We challenged Kutigi and those in the so-called new group to tell us their mission because we got wind of the fact that those forces trying to use them have been calculating on the numerical strength of first term Representatives to cause a crisis in the House.
“Some of us observed that the slogan of the group, ‘Operation Clean’, is mischievous and pointed to a move to ‘deal’ with the leadership of the House.”
Another source said: “We learnt that some of these forces were not happy about how we raised issues on budget implementation and the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“Virtually everyone stood up to denounce the mission of this group. We thought we were building a new chapter with the Executive arm but some forces are not going along with the reconciliatory agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
A high ranking member said: “When we confronted Kutigi at the Executive Session, he said: ‘My intention is not malicious, I am not plotting against the House. I have no plan to destabilise the House.’
“At the end of the day, Kutigi backpedaled on the plan. He said it openly that ‘the meeting has been canceled’.”
The source added: “What we did on Wednesday has overshadowed what they had initially planned. So far, we have told them that the unity of the House is not negotiable.
“But we have chosen to watch our back because these forces might regroup soon against the House.”
According to a source, the leader of the a group of about five lawmakers, mainly from the North took the floor accusing the Speaker of starving the lawmakers of funds with which to run their constituencies.
The source said the leader of the group, who chairs a committee and also a major beneficiary of the House leadership’s goodwill, informed the session that they were made to believe that the funding challenge members were facing was the handiwork of the Speaker.
The source said: “He did not mince words that it was the Executive that informed them that the financial crisis was caused by the Speaker. The group leader told the House that some of them (the lawmakers) have been hugely indebted as a result of lack of the fund.
“He added that some of them have to tactically run away from their constituencies just because they didn’t have enough money to service their hangers-on and others that might need financial assistance.
“So, they felt that if not for the Speaker, the situation could not have been that bad. They agitated for an increment of their quarterly allowances from N25m to N35m.
“The Speaker explained that it was a delicate issue, citing previous attempts to cause disharmony in the House and where it ended.
“At this point, the Speaker said it was a deliberate attempt to cause crisis in the ranks of the lawmakers. He reminded them of what happened in the 6th House over a similar increment.”
The source added that rather than take over his own defence, the Speaker asked the Clerk of the House to clarify the issue with the official financial standing of the House.
“The Clerk brought financial documents with which he explained the state of the House’s finances and the aggrieved members apologised for being misguided. What I can only say about this is that the Speaker was able to manage the crisis very well, otherwise this could easily have degenerated into a serious issue. Already, some member were hinting at impeachment.”
Another source however told our correspondents that the crisis might not be over yet as the aggrieved group might meet again today.
“The group started working on their moves during the recess and with the development of today (yesterday), they have to appraise the result and deliberate on what next to do.
“You know they were even sending messages to members to garner support for their move, apparently, the Speaker was able to manage it well.
When our correspondent called one of the supposed actors on the telephone, he vehemently denied involvement. “There’s no project like operation clean up project. Is that what you were told? He queried our reporter and promptly cut his line.