By Michael Egbejule
The supremacy battle between Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and former governor and national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is taking a toll on Edo State House of Assembly.
The ad-hoc committee investigating issues surrounding the inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly has given Obaseki one week to issue a fresh proclamation for the reconstitution of the House in deference to Section 105 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In addition, the ad-hoc committee wants Obaseki to publish the date, time and venue in a national daily or television station for the fresh inauguration, and urged all members to dissolve their factions to enable peace and stability reign in the state.
Consequently, the federal legislature declared as null and void all decisions taken by the seventh Assembly, pending its “proper inauguration” by the Governor. With this new development, political observers are saying Obaseki will have to tread with caution to avoid the wrath of the National Assembly, the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
The ad-hoc committee was mandated by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila to investigate Edo Assembly’s crisis and report back within one week. The committee also recommended the sealing of Edo Assembly complex, if Obaseki failed to send a fresh letter of proclamation for proper inauguration of the House. Peeved by this recommendation, both Governor Obaseki and Edo State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Frank Okiye expressed dissatisfaction with the ad-hoc committee’s recommendation.
According to Okiye, Edo House of Assembly was duly inaugurated on June 17, 2019 and since then, the business of law-making has been going on without hindrance. Okiye, who had earlier expressed optimism with the House of Representatives’ decision to investigate all the issues surrounding the inauguration of the Edo Assembly, advised the committee members to be guided and not get involved in petty politics to massage the ego of Abuja politicians. At a rally in the state, Governor Obaseki had also talked about ‘Abuja politicians.’
Okiye said: “May I state that aside the fact that Edo Assembly complied with the Constitution in the inauguration of the House, there also exists a court order with suit number FHC/B/CS/70/2019, FHC/B/M/285/2019, ordering APC’s National Working Committee, the Inspector General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Edo State, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, all defendants, their servants and agents, not to interfere, disrupt or obstruct the constitutional duties of Edo House of Assembly members.
“We welcome the House of Representatives’ decision to investigate all the issues surrounding inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly. We are confident that they would not find anything contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.”But the Speaker’s hope and prayers for a favourable recommendation was dashed, with a call on the IGP and DSS to seal up the Assembly, which Okiye described as a surprise. He alleged that Oshiomhole and his proxies had been holding meetings with committee members and other actors in the issue in Abuja, to ensure things go in their favour. Okiye has been working hard to win more lawmakers to Obaseki’s camp.
The efforts were beginning to yield results, as the numbers of lawmakers earlier sworn in during the controversial June 17th inauguration has grown from nine to 12. Okiye restated his commitment to a rancour-free House, when he received the Chairman, House of Representatives committee, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) and other members.
Clerk of the House, Yahaya Audu Omogbai, while responding to questions from committee members, said he received a letter of proclamation from Governor Obaseki on June 14 and immediately contacted all 24 members-elect via telephone to ensure they come for inauguration on June 17. He added that the nine members present were inaugurated at exactly 3.30pm. Omogbai explained that the absent members-elect claimed they were in Abuja and Sapele, and could therefore not be available for the inauguration.
Explaining the constitutional requirement for members-elect to be inaugurated, Omogbai told the committee that all members-elect must present a certificate of return issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), certificate of Code of Conduct and certificate of Asset Declaration, which according to him only the inaugurated 12 members have met, while others were yet to present theirs.
Some House of Assembly members, who corroborated the Clerk’s position, said they received communication for their inauguration through telephone calls for June 17th and were inaugurated at 3.30pm, as against the midnight inauguration widely reported.
After the inauguration on June 17, the House had adjourned to July 17, 2019 to enable other members complete necessary documentations, but the House of representatives committee’s recommendation came the same day the House was to reconvene, thereby disrupting its activities.
The House of Reps’ intervention followed a unanimous adoption of a motion under matters of urgent national importance brought by Julius Ihonvbere (APC, Edo), over what he described as the improper inauguration of the 7th Edo Assembly. Ihonvbere had alleged that four members-elect of Edo Assembly were abducted by state operatives and also claimed that the Clerk secretly inaugurated nine members at about 9.30 p.m., which he said was outside the time of legislative business.
The Senate also sent a seven-man ad-hoc committee, led by Senator Aliu Sabi Abdullahi, to meet with the lawmakers and other stakeholders in the state, including Obaseki and the Benin monarch. That was when news filtered in that the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly had recommended that a fresh inauguration of all 24 members-elect be held or the IGP and DSS should seal up the Assembly, if the Governor failed to send another letter of proclamation.
The Senator Aliu Sabi Abdullahi-led committee had to depart the state in a hurry. Reacting to the tension created by the crisis, a pro-democracy group, Joint Action for the Advancement of Democracy (JAADE) in a statement in Benin signed by its leader, Comrade Aiyamenkhue Edokpolor, said the House of Representatives’ resolution for proper inauguration reaffirms the sanctity of democracy and the rule of law.
Edokpolor, who faulted the minority rule in Edo Assembly, commended the National Assembly, particularly the House of Reps for its resolution, which sought a proper inauguration in conformity with best practices. Lamenting the unending political crisis tearing the Edo Assembly apart and the poor state of affairs, Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on Edo to vote out APC government in the state.
Chairman of Edo PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, said: “This unnecessary power show is not in the interest of the state. The Assembly, which ought to be a House of honourable men will now be occupied by uniformed armed men…” Orbih called on all concerned in the Assembly crisis to stop what he described as ego trip and blame game, and face the serious business of good governance in the people’s interest. He added that Edo State is too sophisticated to be used as a political guinea pig.
While some youths in the state have protested against the decision of the House committee led by Mr. Olu Martins, a one-time Students Union President of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, others, including APC leaders in the state, under the umbrella of Edo People’s Movement (EPM) have commended the National Assembly’s efforts towards finding lasting solution to the crisis rocking the state Assembly.
The EPM leaders, in a statement signed by a former Edo State Attorney General and Co-convener of EPM, Barr. Henry Idahagbon, former Minority Whip, House of Representatives and Co-convener, Hon Samson Osagie, former Speaker and Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Thomas Okosun, and former Edo APC Deputy Chairman, Chief Charlton Magaji, called on Edo people to be resolute in the face of tyranny. While commending the people for standing by truth and justice, they warned Governor Obaseki-led administration that “no amount of blackmail, propaganda, falsehood and procured protests and endorsement can suppress the truth in the matter at hand.”