The Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress caucuses in the House of Representatives are set for another showdown when the House resumes on October 14 .
The issue that will spark off the row is the latest seizure by the South African authorities of $5.7m meant for arms purchase on behalf of the Federal Government by a private company .
Investigations by The PUNCH on Tuesday revealed that the APC lawmakers were determined to ensure that the latest botched arms deal and that of September 5, 2014 were debated to determine those behind them.
But a source close to the House leadership said that the PDP caucus would ensure that the arms deals were not listed for discussion by members.
He said, “ We are very much aware that the opposition lawmakers will raise the issues when we resume on October 14. I can assure you that the issues may not enter the order paper but if they do, there would be a serious row. But of course, the majority will still carry the day. What you need to understand is that we know how to handle the opposition lawmakers.”
The Deputy House Majority Leader, Leo Ogor and the Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, in separate interviews on Tuesday, also hinted that a stormy session was imminent.
Ogor told one of our correspondents in Abuja that the PDP caucus in the House had given President Goodluck Jonathan full backing to procure arms through any means to enable the military to end the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the country.
He said, “If smuggling arms into the country is the only alternative to defeat the insurgents, we owe no apology to anyone.
“President Jonathan can go the extra mile to import arms and ammunition.
“We will support him all the way if we must stop the slaughtering of our citizens like animals.”
Ogor claimed that the Federal Government was under pressure to get arms to combat terrorism, adding that it (government) would take all measures possible to bring arms into the country.
He argued that since the primary essence of government was to protect the lives of its citizenry, it would not use the lack of arms as an excuse not to play its roles.
The lawmaker said, “As a people, we have to look at the challenges that procuring arms through normal routes pose to the country.
“We are determined, as a government, to protect Nigerians no matter how much it will cost.
“Following the legal routes or due process has become a problem. Some of the arms and ammunition are not available at our disposal even when we paid for them.
“Therefore, we will do whatever it takes to fight the insurgents. How we get our arms and ammunition is not the subject matter here.
“What is important is that we must defeat Boko Haram, which is not getting its arms through conventional routes.”
On calls that the controversial arms deals should be investigated, he said, “Investigation can go on, but that will not stop us from buying arms.”
But the APC caucus which had demanded an investigation into the first $9.3m arms scandal , said the latest one had vindicated its call for a probe.
Gbajabiamila stated that, but for the current Sallah break, the APC caucus had planned to revisit the motion for a debate of the $9.3m arms deal by way of a substantive motion.
Gbajabiamila added, “We wanted to move a motion for the rescission of the decision of the House.
“However, the latest development has given us an added slant to the whole episode. It calls for urgent investigation. We will bring up another motion and let us see how they will reject it again.”
The APC lawmaker deplored the “worsening situation of things in the country,” warning that Nigerians would have themselves to blame in the future if they continue to keep silent.
“We cannot continue to fold our arms and allow things to get worse. Investigation is it; we have to investigate these strange happenings,” he said.
Hours after Gbajabiamila spoke with one of our correspondents, the APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged the Jonathan -led Federal Government to stop embarrassing Nigeria in the comity of nations.
The party asked the President to urgently address Nigerians on the embarrassments to which his administration was causing the country.
A statement by the APC read, ‘’Again, Mr. President, Nigerians are urging you to please come clean over these cash-for-arms scandals. They want you to answer critical questions on the legality of your administration’s repeated conduct.
“They want to know the identities of the two Nigerians who were arrested with an Israeli in South Africa over the first illegal deal, especially since the Israeli has been named.
“Nigerians want to know why the purported arms procurement for the government is done illegally between private companies that are neither known nor registered for dealing in arms? And why is the movement of mony not transparently documented for what they really are, if they are truly for legitimate purposes?
“They want to know whether indeed the weapons which the government is seeking so furiously to procure are for the battle against Boko Haram or for a sinister motive, considering the desperation of your administration to continue to rule at all costs and by any means possible.
“They want to know whether every Nigerian should begin to fear what will happen in the days and weeks leading to the forthcoming general elections, against the backdrop of your administration and party’s do-or-die politics.
“Mr. President, if the funds involved in the latest seizure were sent through bank transfer, can the government explain why (Ayo) Oritsejafor’s plane was stuffed with cash and transported to South Africa? Can your administration’s embarrassing explanation that it is customary for other country’s security agencies, including with MOSSAD, KGB and CIA, to cart plane loads of cash across the world to purchase black market weapons hold any more water now? These are some of the questions Nigerians are asking, not an untenable spin by untruthful government officials.’’
The PDP however fired back at the APC, saying its comments amounted to a show of shame.
The party said it remained solidly behind Jonathan in the steps he had taken to ensure the safety of Nigerians in spite of APC’s connivance with foreign interests to embarrass his government.
It said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, that “any responsible opposition which has the interest and welfare of the people at heart would concentrate on proffering solution to the problems of the nation instead of seeking political capital at all times.”
The statement read in part, said, “We state categorically that the actions preferred by some foreign nations against our dear country as we seek solution to our security challenges are unacceptable and totally uncalled for, especially given our cordial relationship with them and the roles Nigeria and Nigerians citizens played in assisting them in their internal struggles.
“Given the rush with which the APC attacked the Presidency, it is clear that they are working hand in glove with foreign interests in a concerted effort to tarnish the image of our dear nation, ridicule our government and frustrate genuine efforts towards ending the insecurity challenges we face as a nation.
“We have an opposition that has been conniving with foreign interests to destroy the image and unity of our country as a means to achieve political control.’’