The crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly heightened yesterday as lawmakers on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced Hon. Victor Edoror (Esan Central) as the new Speaker.
The APC lawmakers who are loyalists of former national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, took the decision at an emergency plenary in an undisclosed location where they also impeached Hon. Frank Okiye as speaker and Roland Asoro as deputy speaker. They also nullified all previous actions taken by the 7th Assembly.
These moves came less than 24 hours after former deputy speaker, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, who declared his support for the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was impeached at a plenary presided over by Okiye.
The factional speaker emerged after Hon. Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South West) moved a motion which was signed by other members, calling for Okiye’s removal. The motion was said to have being seconded by Hon. Ohio Ezomo (Owan West).
Also, the motion nominating Edoror as speaker was moved by Hon. Washington Osifo (Uhunmwonde constituency) and was seconded by Hon. Eric Okaka (Owan East constituency). In the absence of further nominations, he was elected as speaker.
Hon Chris Okaeben (Oredo West constituency) moved the motion that got Hon Emma Agbaje (Akoko-Edo II) who acted as Speaker ex tempore, elected as deputy speaker.
Before the emergence of the factional speaker, 12 of the 14 members who were not sworn in last year took their oath of office which was administered by the deputy clerk, Mr. Tom Efezokhae. The oath taking effectively made the 12 legislators of the state.
Seventeen members attended the plenary at the end of which Hon. Ohio moved for adjournment as the speaker announced that plenary will resume today.
Edoror’s emergence came months after Okiye was inaugurated as the speaker by Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Okiye’s emergence had sparked outrage in some sections of the state as Obaseki failed to inaugurate some duly-elected members of the assembly.
Ize-Iyamu Congratulates Factional Speaker
Meanwhile, Ize-Iyamu has congratulated Edoror as speaker, describing his emergence as the end of a deformed and lopsided democracy.
In a congratulatory message signed by the chairman of the APC state Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, Ize-Iyamu said that Edoror’s emergence as speaker is a victory for Edo State and all constituencies previously denied representation.
“I am happy to receive the news of the emergence of Rt. Hon. Victor Edoror as the speaker of the Edo State House Assembly.
“His emergence marks an end to a lopsided and deformed democracy, ushering in a new and reformed era of inclusive governance and non-discriminatory politics. Rt. Hon. Victor Edoror’s emergence is also a victory for the people of Edo State, for the constituencies previously sidelined, and for the House members-elect who had been unfairly denied their elective right to represent their constituencies in government,” he said.
Failed Assembly Takeover, Commitment To Constituted Authority – PDP
But in a swift reaction, the state chapter of the PDP said that the failed attempt to take over the state House of Assembly was a display of total commitment and loyalty to constituted authority, the rule of law and democracy.
In a statement issued by its publicity secretary, Chris Nehikhare, the party stated that “Edo people today spoke with one voice. They displayed total commitment and loyalty to constituted authority, the rule of law and democracy as they answered the call to ‘Ocuupy the Assembly Complex’.
“Their action has bloodied the nose of Adams Oshiomhole, APC and their marauding gang who with such impetuousness, attempted to subvert the will of Edo people. We congratulate and thank Edo people for their show of love and support for Governor Obaseki and our party.
“We call on all well-meaning Edo people to continue to reject the APC and their evil plans as was demonstrated today. Edo is indeed resetting!
From this moment, united and determined, we will go forward together, dedicated to the ultimate and undeniable greatness of Edo State,” the party said.
Security Operatives Barricade Assembly
Earlier, tension heightened as a team of security agents drafted from various commands in Edo State laid siege on the Assembly Complex popularly called Anthony Enahoro Legislature at the Kings Square (Ring Road) in Benin City, the state capital.
The security operatives were at the complex to protect the area from any invasion following speculation of alleged plot by APC members to deploy special force from the headquarters of the Nigeria Police in Abuja to take over the legislature.
Governor Godwin Obaseki who went to the complex said that there was no cause for alarm over the alleged plan by the opposition groups, assuring that he would deploy the instrument of power and law of the state and nation to protect the state and people of Edo.
Obaseki had made a quick return to Benin City from Edo North where he had been since Monday this week for his ongoing re-election campaign across the 18 local government areas of the state.
He was accompanied to the Assembly complex by his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu. Thousands of youths and members of the ruling PDP also stormed the complex in solidarity with the governor.
The battle ready youths with placards chanted solidarity songs even as they took over the area.
Teams of the anti-riot police, State Security Services (SSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and plain clothe operatives were on ground with hundreds of patrol vehicles.
Investigations however showed the presence of strange looking policemen with “DRAGON” tags within the Assembly complex.
Heaps of sand were used to block the entrance gate of the Assembly. The Anthony Enahoro legislature is currently undergoing renovation.
Addressing newsmen outside the legislative complex, Okiye said: “It is our responsibility to defend the State House of Assembly and that is exactly what we have demonstrated. For the records, I am happy His Excellency is here. We were inundated with various rumours and all kinds of threat calls last night. If you recall yesterday (Wednesday) in our sitting we acted on a very reliable intelligent report that these people from Abuja were coming to invade the House to take over the sovereignty of the house and sacred nature of the house and we made it clear to the public.”
“Unfortunately, the former deputy speaker was the one of the cohorts to be used and members were not comfortable with that. I don’t have the control; members raised a motion that his office must be changed,” Okiye stated.
However, APC Media Campaign Council for the Edo Governorship election has rubbished claims by the Edo State government that its leadership “ferried police from Abuja” to block the Assembly complex, stating that the APC, as a political party, does not control the Police.
In a statement released by the chairman of the State Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, APC accused the state government of carrying out several onslaughts against the constitutional independence of the legislative arm of government by attacking its members-elect and denying them representation.
He said: “It is a known fact that the outgoing Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has treated the House of Assembly, an independent and co-equal branch of government, as a mere extension of his office through the brutalization of members-elect and the denial of representation to the majority of members.
“In Gestapo style, the outgoing Governor hijacked a tiny minority and purportedly inaugurated them in the dead of the night. The sham inauguration was condemned and set aside by both arms of the National Assembly after their separate investigations revealed that the members, and indeed the Clerk, were forced to participate in the illegality under threat to life.”
“With these criminal antecedents, we believe if there is any unwholesome activity ongoing at the Assembly Complex, it is Mr. Godwin Obaseki who is in the best position to explain to the world what is going on and why.”
But the national leadership of PDP yesterday described the presence of the security operative at the House of Assembly as illegal, alleging that it is a plot by APC to take over the Assembly.
The PDP therefore charged the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to “immediately stop the invasion and attempt to forceful takeover the Edo State House of Assembly by security operativesalleging that they were illegally deployed from Abuja by the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
The party in a statement signed by the national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, posited that the “invasion and illegal occupation of the state legislature by security agents allegedly deployed by sacked national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is a direct coup against the democratic order of Edo state and a recipe for anarchy, chaos and bloodletting.”
The statement added: “We urge the inspector-general to act with dispatch to curb this nefarious situation, which has heightened tension in the state, and if not halted, may results in a bloody clash as the citizens are already charged to defend their symbol of democracy from a forceful takeover.
“The police hierarchy is urged to note that this provocative and lawless act by the APC is part of its plans to overheat the polity and create a security situation with the view to unleash violence on the people, derail the democratic order in the state and blame it on security agencies,“ the party said.
Reacting also the PDP presidential candidate in 2019, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar called for caution over the unfolding events in the state.
He said: “What is happening in Edo State is a threat to constitutional order nationwide, and I strongly urge belligerent forces to reign in their proxies, and abide by the rule of law. As I have previously said, without the rule of law, there will be no rule at all. The current goings-on portend grave danger, not only to law and order in that state, but to the coming Edo elections.”
Many Voters Will Be Disenfranchised In Sept 19 Poll – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the COVID-19 pandemic might disenfranchise many voters in the Sept. 19 governorship election in Edo.
Mr Timidi Wariowei, INEC head of Voters Education and Publicity, expressed this concern on Thursday in Benin.
He said that the commission had not been able to carry out the continuous voters registrar exercise as well as the distribution of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ahead of the election.
He spoke at a roundtable on the 2020 Edo governorship election organised by Centre for Democracy and Development in Benin.
The theme of the roundtable is “Issue at stake and their implications on the conduct of credible election”.
He, however, assured the electorate that INEC was fully ready to conduct a credible poll.
Also,INEC has decried the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
The electoral body said that these actions included the destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language.
A statement made available to LEADERSHIP Friday yesterday in Abuja, signed by the national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, stressed the need for political parties, candidates and their supporters to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns.
INEC said that political parties must realise that Edo and Ondo governorship elections are taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the commission is working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the Commission and health authorities.
The statement reads in part: “The commission will continue to engage stakeholders in the two states on the need for free, fair, safe and peaceful elections, given that it has committed enormous public resources in preparing for the elections. Therefore, the commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors.
NBC Warns Broadcasters Against Promoting Chaos
Also, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has urged all broadcast stations to desist from using or allowing its platforms to be used as a medium to breakdown law and order.
A statement signed by the acting director-general of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, and made available to LEADERSHIP Friday in Abuja yesterday ahead of the Edo governorship elections, said the commission has monitored and noted with concern, the inflammatory, inciting, and divisive comments, especially, by politicians in the state, who, in recent times, have threatened violence and counter-violence. Idachaba said it is, therefore, expedient to remind all broadcasters covering the Election Campaign in Edo State to take note of the provisions of the extant Electoral Law(s), the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, and other relevant regulations guiding the broadcast of political content in Nigeria.
He said: ‘’The NBC ACT CAP N11, Laws of the Federation 2004, prescribes, in the third schedule 12(6) that a licensee shall be responsible for the content of the stations broadcast.
Wike Queries APC Support For Ize-Iyamu
In another development, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has said it is difficult to contemplate why the APC leadership still stands by its governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, despite weighty allegations against him.
Wike, who disclosed this when he appeared as a guest on a live national television programme in Port Harcourt, wondered why the APC is still canvassing for votes for Ize-Iyamu.
The governor said anybody with conscience and truly loves democracy cannot be proud to support a man who is facing corruption charges of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s came to fight corruption. But the APC candidate is facing corruption charges. Except they are saying he was charged before because he was of the PDP then.”
Alleged Car Gifts Tear PDP Leaders Apart
Meanwhile, another crisis is brewing in Edo PDP ahead of the governorship election as party stalwarts demand an explanation from their leaders following allegations that they collected SUVs and huge sums of money from Governor Obaseki before he joined the party.
The discontent it was learnt gathered momentum during last week’s Sallah holiday when members of the party alleged that some notable leaders had been spotted in brand new SUVs believed to be the ones given to them by the governor, which they earlier denied.
Efe Eribo, a PDP stalwart in Oredo local government area, who confirmed the revelation, noted that no fewer than six PDP leaders had been spotted at different locations across the state during the Sallah holidays in their various new SUVs, a situation he warned was capable of tearing the party apart.
According to him, members have also confirmed that some leaders have parked brand new SUVs in their compounds, raising the suspicion that the report of SUVs’ gifts from Governor Obaseki was true. “It cannot be a coincidence that all of them bought the same kind of vehicles at the same time, when the rumour was everywhere that they collected vehicles from Obaseki.
“Governor Wike said it before and the truth is coming out gradually. Our members are confirming it one by one. They collected money but it did not trickle down to those at the grassroots. We will expose them soon,” Eribo stated.