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As Court Stops NASS’ Takeover Of Edo Assembly

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In this piece, MUYIWA OYINLOLA writes that following the Thursday court judgement in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, there is hope in sight for the resolution of the hitherto lingering crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly

After weeks of anxiety and uncertainty, members of the Edo State House of Assembly and stakeholders in the politics of the state, especially those loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki, can now heave a sigh of relief.

This is following the pronouncement of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which ruled in their favour over the threat of the National Assembly to take over its proceedings.

In their opposition to the stand of the National Assembly, the Deputy Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Yekini Idiaye, and a member of the House, Henry Okhuarobo,  approached the court to challenge the moves by the National Assembly.

Joined in the suit were the Clerk of the National Assembly, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services and the Edo State Governor.

In his judgement on Thursday, Justice Kolawole Omotosho, declared that it was only the court of law that could direct the National Assembly to take over or seal the Edo State House of Assembly.

Omotosho said, “There is nothing before the court showing that the Edo State House of Assembly is unable to sit. Some elected members have been inaugurated. The House has been carrying out its legislative duties.

“The National Assembly lacks the power to take over the Edo State House of Assembly. It amounts to taking over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly.

“The National Assembly lacks the power to seal-up or direct anybody to seal-up the Edo State House of Assembly. The Nigerian Constitution is a federal constitution and National Assembly cannot unilaterally decide that Edo State House of Assembly is in crisis and seal-up same.

“It is only a court of law that has the power to make findings, particularly after listening to parties, to decide the National Assembly can take over a House of Assembly.

“I hold that it is the court that has the power to define and hold that Edo State House of Assembly cannot function and the National Assembly can take over.

“As far as the law is concerned, the governor of Edo State has given a proclamation. The National Assembly has no power to direct the governor to issue a fresh proclamation. The governor is the Chief Executive of the state and cannot be controlled by the National Assembly.

“The court will be extending the tenure of members of the Edo State House of Assembly if it holds that the governor should issue fresh proclamation. Nigeria is a federal state and state governments are autonomous. Our political actors must see it like that and treat as such.”

The State Assembly had since June 17 been embroiled in crisis over its inauguration when only nine of the 24 members of the Assembly showed up for inauguration following a proclamation issued by the governor. Two more members were sworn in on June 22 totalling 11.

The National Assembly had in July this year, threatened to take over the functions of the State House of Assembly should Obaseki and members of the 7th Edo House not meet three conditions.

The lawmakers also said that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, and the Director-General Department of State Services, Yusuf Magaji Bichi should shut down the State Assembly, and provide adequate security to allay further fear of intimidation and threat as alleged by members.

This was part of the recommendation of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Edo crisis, headed by Abdulrasak Namdas which was adopted during the consideration of its findings.

The members had recommended that “the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in the interest of peaceful coexistence of the state, should issue a fresh proclamation within one week in line with section 105(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, stating the date, and venue and publish in any national daily and television station.

Secondly, that all actions taken by the 7th Assembly members should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration.

Thirdly, “that members of the Edo State House of Assembly, both that have been inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the House, with the view of moving the state forward.

The 13-member ad-hoc committee led by Hon. Namdas had in July visited Benin City, the Edo state capital,  to investigate the crisis in the state. But the senate committee on its part, following previous court  orders restraining the National Assembly from taking over the house, deferred action on the State assembly pending when it would resume from its annual vacation on September 24.

However, lawmakers loyal to the immediate past governor of the state and National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole have continued to insist that the way out of the present crisis at the assembly is for Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation letter to those loyal to him and insist that the inauguration of the house was done in line with the provision of the law. But the governor’s loyalists insist that proclamation letter cannot be issued twice or thrice based on the position of the law.

LEADERSHIP WEEKEND recalled that while speaking on the call on Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation to the House, a former national chairman of the APC and first civilian governor of the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, noted that the resolution of the National Assembly to a sitting governor makes a mockery of a state’s sovereignty as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.

He made this disclosure during a press interview at his private residence in Benin City, preparatory to his 80th birthday anniversary celebration, last month.

“What is happening is a mystery to me and for funny reasons; we have been unable to get the story behind the story. All I know is that we have a government and the voice of the people says Obaseki deserves all the support that he can get.

“If anyone wants to remove him and destabilise the state, it’s wrong. The governor is delivering good governance to the people. They should wait until the party primary. I call on everyone to continue to support the governor.”

Meanwhile, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Frank Okiye, has accused Oshiomhole of manipulating the National Assembly to engage in practices that are beyond their power.

Okiye said Oshiomhole was using the National Assembly to get at the governor. He called on the federal legislators to make themselves agents of peace and not merchants of crisis.

“What I believe is that he is the one manipulating them to engage in practices they don’t have power to engage in, and it is against the law,” he said, adding that the Assembly was not the target of Oshiomhole, but that he was only using the Assembly crisis as a smokescreen to deny the governor  a second term ticket.

He said, “I have said it before on several occasions that we know who is beating the drum for them in the National Assembly. They have found themselves in the position of a stooge to make it look like they cannot think outside the box. It’s unfortunate.

“The truth is that the Edo State Assembly and my office as the Speaker are not the real target of this crisis. In fact, I can’t find myself anywhere in the whole scheme. The plot is actually aimed at Governor Obaseki and stopping him from getting a return ticket as governor next year.

“Comrade Oshiomhole is actually after Obaseki; the state Assembly was only a smokescreen for his plans. The idea now is to take over the house, destabilise the state and possibly impeach the governor.”

He further stated that the members of the Edo Peoples Movement, whom he claimed were loyalists of Oshiomhole, had boasted that they would ensure that Obaseki does not return for a second tenure.

“But I said to the people that it is not a decision for them to make for our state. We don’t know what Oshiomhole wants. Oshiomhole is the one behind Edo Assembly crisis and he is simply after Obaseki.”

However, while speaking on the allegation that he is against the governor, Oshiomhole disclosed that: “If there is one man that wants governor Obaseki to succeed so that everything I said on his behalf comes to pass, I think it will be me. I have absolutely nothing to gain if someone I told the people will do well ends up not doing well or I make statement that contradicts my earlier position because all I have that I brought to this job called politics is integrity.

“And integrity is about being consistent and sometimes being predictable. So, Godwin knows that I have no quarrel whatsoever with him, but I do not think that it is right to inaugurate the House of Assembly at night.”

He also noted that, “Okiye is not the Speaker, he is member-elect. I watched the governor say those things but the truth of the matter is that he knows better than that. The question I will put to you is, is it within the discretion of a governor to decide who becomes the Speaker? The only option for him is to lobby and if he lobbies and in the end he is unable to get everybody to toe his line, he has to concede that these are not his commissioners or special assistants for which he has absolute monopoly to appoint.

“But even at that, if they are commissioners, they must be screened by the House of Assembly, that is the law. So, if he chooses to put it in the manner that he has unfortunately put it, giving the impression that as the governor he can do everything, is there anything in the constitution that you know, that empowers a governor to decide who becomes a Speaker?

“Number two, Okiye being the beneficiary of the purported inauguration, and he says the agenda is to impeach Obaseki, did he tell you what offence Obaseki has committed, is he known to have committed any impeachable offence. Is it true that somebody who has just been elected, he has not even been inaugurated his first agenda is to disturb the system by seeking to impeach a governor who is not known to have committed any offence”.

However, while the court has quashed the attempt of the National Assembly to take over proceedings of the State Assembly, pundits are of the opinion that it is high time stakeholders in the state sheathed their swords and work for the progress and development of the state rather than continue to engage in unnecessary and unhealthy bickering.

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