MEMBERS of Nigeria’s House of Representatives had to conduct part of today’s sitting in camera after disagreements over how to handle the ongoing furore involving the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) caused an uproar on the floor.
Over recent weeks, the IMN has intensified its protests in Abuja, demanding the release of its leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015. As the clamour for his release grows, their protests have got more fierce and there have been increasing bloody clashes with the security forces.
Yesterday, the IMN staged another protest in Abuja and in the ensuing clash with police, numerous lives were lost on both sides. Looking to find a solution to the crisis, the House of Representatives met today and agreed to invite security and service to the National Assembly to explain their roles in the saga.
Hon Haman Hembe from Benue State had moved a motion calling on the federal government to obey the order by various courts demanding the release of Sheikh El-Zakzaky but it was voted down. Another lawmaker, Linda Ikpeazu, from Anambra State moved a similar motion directing the Kaduna State government to obey similar court orders but it too was rejected.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, had put the two motions to a voice vote and the nays had it, killing both motions. As soon as this happened, however, supporters of the prayers protested, forcing the presiding officer to call for a division of the House.
This division, which is usually called when those for and against a matter cannot be clearly determined through voice vote, means that lawmakers would be asked to relocate to either sides of the aisle based on their votes. Shortly after calling for a division and the lawmakers had started taking positions in the chamber, the speaker asked that the process be done behind closed doors, asking the sergeants-at-arms to usher non-members out of the chamber and gallery.