The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Monday Igbuya, on Wednesday, engaged a staff of the Assembly in a public brawl. The speaker’s involvement in the fight came as some members said they were considering removing Mr. Igbuya as head of the state legislature.
Last Monday, the state assembly workers, who are members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), had locked out Mr. Igbuya and other principal officers as well as other legislators over the speaker’s refusal to address their demands.
The workers’ protest, which entered its third day on Wednesday, took a violent turn as the Speaker allegedly brawled with one of the protesters identified as Buchi (alias Nehemiah) at the entrance of the Assembly Complex.
An eyewitness who serves as an aide to one of the principal officers told SaharaReporters that the speaker ignored pleas to calm down, going ahead to exchange blows with the staff.
“Since Monday, the Association had barricaded the [state] assembly complex, locked it, and prevented the speaker, principal officers, and other House members from gaining entry. On Wednesday, a member of the House attempted to access the complex but was refused by the protesting workers. Later, the Speaker drove in a furious commando-like manner trying to scare the protesters, but the protesting staff refused to yield,” said one source.
The source said that, when the protesters would not relent, the Speaker came down from his Lexus SUV and angrily told Buchi to get out of the way or risk being manhandled. When Buchi refused, Mr. Igbuya reportedly slapped him. Our source added that Buchi retaliated, and a brawl ensued.
Another legislative staff revealed that it took the intervention of Daniel Mayoku, representing Warri Southwest constituency in the state legislature, Timi Tonye, representing Patani constituency, to break up the fight.
Our sources said Mike Okeme, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s special adviser on labor relations, rushed to the scene on learning about the brawl and helped to restore normalcy to the charged atmosphere. Mr. Okeme reportedly appealed to the workers to call off their strike and allow the lawmakers access to the Assembly complex.
SaharaReporters learned that the workers heeded the adviser’s appeal and opened the gate to enable the Speaker and other lawmakers to enter the complex. Our correspondent reported that the workers went into a brief meeting, and came up with a circular suspending the strike.
The workers’ demands include the appointment of a deputy clerk, the payment of outfit and special duty allowances, the provision of drugs at the Assembly clinic, and the recruitment of adequate medical personnel.
Our correspondent reported that the speaker appealed to some reporters who witnessed the fight not to file reports about it. In an apparent move to ensure that the brawl went unreported, the speaker’s media aide, Henry Ebireri, told journalists that the speaker had agreed to increase their monthly “stipends” of N5, 000 to N10, 000. He promised that senior reporters who were already receiving N10, 000 would be now be paid N20, 000.
Meanwhile, a plot to impeach the Speaker appears to be proceeding. Some state legislators have accused Mr. Igbuya of betrayal, corruption, inexperience, high-headedness and inability to lead the House among others.
An assembly member from the Delta south senatorial district said the speaker’s actions continued to bring the house into disrepute and ridicule. “We are shopping for a more experienced, capable and refined person who can fit into the shoes of the former speaker, Honorable Victor Ochei,” said the lawmaker.
The source described Mr. Ochei as “one lawmaker and speaker who brought respect, dignity, zeal, vision and mission into the exalted position which Honorable Igbuya has not been able to replicate.”
Speaker Igbuya did not answer telephone calls from our correspondent. Mr. Ebireri also declined to comment, stating that the issues were above him. He requested that a text message be sent to him, adding that he would respond after consulting with the speaker.