Reps to begin mid-plenary break Tuesday
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, brought the idea on Thursday that members should have a short rest during plenary.
He said, “There should be 15 minutes break during sitting to allow members who want to go to the mosque to pray rather than us filing in and out; to allow members to refresh their minds and their legs.
“Hopefully, there will be coffee and tea outside at the lobby for members. A 10 to 15 minutes break, going forward from Tuesday.”
Gbajabiamila asked the Deputy Majority Leader, Peter Akpatason, to move the motion for the House to have the mid-plenary break.
Akpatason said, “Based on the order of personal explanation, I want to state that – as the Speaker has said – it has been observed that on several occasions on the floor of the House, people have had reasons to go out and come in from time to time, as staying in the chamber for a lot of time without leg rest and all of that constitute a major safety and health hazards.
“A lot of health-related reports have actually warned that people should not sit for more than 12 hours without a stretch. In respect of that, I wish to move that we adopt a break of 15 minutes on a daily basis during the sitting hours, between 1 pm to 1.15 pm as our official time for leg stretch in this chamber.”
Ruling on the motion, Gbajabiamila said, “Coming under personal explanation, Mr Akpatason has moved a motion that the House, from Tuesday, should take a break from 1 pm.”
The Speaker then called on the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, to second the motion, who, while doing so, said it was “very germane and timely for this motion to have come at this time.”
Thereafter, the Speaker put the motion to a voice vote and it was unanimously adopted.
Meanwhile, this is coming even though plenary sessions often start not less than one hour late. While plenary is adjourned to 10 am on the next legislative days, the session sometimes commences at almost noon.
Before the break was introduced, members usually walk in and out as the session progresses while, sometimes, less than half of those who participated in the opening witness the adjournment, even though they receive a sitting allowance.
The Speaker had in not less than two instances blocked the points of order raised by members due to the absence of many members to form a quorum.
A quorum is formed by one-third of members of a legislative chamber.
The House has 360 members, making its quorum to be formed by 120 members.
For instance, on October 3, 2019, a mild drama played out during plenary over when and how a quorum was formed to allow a continuation of proceedings.
The lawmakers were divided over whether the attendance was by those who appeared on the attendance register or those who were physically present in the chamber.
A member, Isa Dederi, had raised a point of order at almost 2.30 pm to call the attention of the Speaker to the fact that several lawmakers had left the chamber and that the session should be discontinued due to lack of quorum.
As of the time Dederi raised the issue, those in the chamber were less than 50.
Gbajabiamila, who noted that the lawmaker could not be sure until he confirmed the attendance on the register, however, ruled that a motion be moved to suspend the rules of the House to allow a continuation of the session.
Elumelu, while saying that several members must have left the chamber for committee sittings, said quorum could only be determined by the number of attendees on the register.
The Speaker, however, ruled Elumelu out of order on the position that the register was the only determinant, noting that it could also mean that lawmakers could register and leave the chamber without sitting, while those on seat, no matter how less in number, could go ahead to make serious decisions that affect the House and the country.
Gbajabiamila, however, upheld the argument by the Minority Leader that lawmakers who leave plenary for committee sitting could also be considered as being on legislative duty.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has issued queries to the factional leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the chamber, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered on Friday that the factional leaders, namely Kingsley Chinda, Chukwuka Onyema, Umar Barde and Muraina Ajibola, who had been grilled by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, were asked to return this week with their defences.