By Ogar Monday; House of Assembly Correspondent
There was a mild drama in the Cross River House of Assembly on Monday as members voted for the alterations in the constitutional amendment.
The incident which involved the quoting of the constitution, references to the house rules led to a member even going as far as to search the meaning of the word involved on search engine; Google during the voting for alteration 14 which covers section 7, 65,106,131,177 and 288 of the constitution and dwells on the issue of independent candidacy.
The speaker of the House, Mr. John Lebo (PDP Abi) had called for a voice vote among the 25 man assembly with Mr. Mathew Olory (PDP Akamkpa 1), Mr. Idagu Agaji (PDP Bekwarra), Mr. Itam Abam (PDP Boki 1), Mr. Efa Esua (PDP Calabar Municipal), Mr. Christian Achor (PDP Etung), Mr. Gabriel Okpechi (PDP, Obubra 1), Mr. Stephen Ukpukpen (PDP Obudu), Mr. Ofem Nelson and Mr. Eteng Williams (PDP Yakurr 1 and 2 respectively), Mrs. Regina Anyogo and Mr. Ugana Lukpata (PDP Yala 1 and 2 respectively) all voted against independent candidacy, with the remaining members, including the speaker voting in support and one member absent.
The controversy started when the result was a tie with 12 members voting against the bill and 12 voting for the bill.
In a bid to settle the deadlock, the Speaker threw the door open for debate and Mr. Lukpata said that going by the provisions of the constitution and the rules of the house, the speaker was not suppose to vote in the first instance, as his vote is usually the “cast vote,” which comes as a result of a tie.
He added that if the house was to take away the vote of the speaker, which was not supposed to have been in the first instance, the votes would have been 11-12 in favor of the “Nays,” which according to him was “appropriate.”
But, Mr. Hilary Bisong (PDP, Boki 2) argued that since the vote has been recorded as a tie, and the speaker had earlier voted, the proper thing to do was to send the bill to the National Assembly as undecided or have the vote done all over again, as some members might have had a change of heart.
Also, Mr. Esua argued that the speaker would be voting twice if he was allowed to exercise the powers of the “casting vote” and what will be recorded amounts to an attempt to rig the process if that was done.
Lending his voice to the debate, Mr. Olory brought out his phone and read the meaning of “casting vote” from the internet and said that the “casting vote” was an extra vote bestowed on the speaker to break a tie, and that the Cross River State speaker was free to use it as he wishes.
And, putting the debate to rest, Mr. Lebo said the assumption that he is not supposed to vote is flawed, as he is representing a constituency, and as far as the constitutional amendment was concerned his constituency must be heard.
The speaker went ahead to add that the “casting vote” bestowed on him by the law of the house is a privilege and has nothing to do with his constituency.
He then went ahead to vote “NO” burying the Independence Candidate bill in the Cross River State House of Assembly.
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