Senate, Obaseki On Collision Course Over Edo Assembly

Following the growing crisis pursuant to the controversy surrounding the recent inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly, TOPE FAYEHUN writes on the ultimatum the Senate, Tuesday, handed down on Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation letter for the Assembly within one week

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the Senate maybe heading for a showdown with the recent order given to the governor to issue a fresh proclamation letter for the Edo State House of Assembly within one week and formally inform all the 24 members-elect of the new proclamation via print and electronic media platforms over the simmering crisis in the Assembly.

Pointedly, the Senate warned that failure to do so, it would invoke Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution, which allows it take over the functions of the state assembly.

The amended section of the constitution which the Senate is relying on stipulates that “at any time when any House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that State, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that State with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions.

“And any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the State: Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the National Assembly power to remove the Governor or the Deputy Governor of the State from office.”

The evolving drama in the Assembly is as a result of the cold war between the camps of the governor and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The war between the two giants led to factions in the Assembly. One faction is loyal to Obaseki and the other to Oshiomhole.

The supremacy battle between the duo is no doubt taking a toll on the State House of Assembly.

LEADERSHIP learned that the Obaseki and Oshiomhole factions decided to toe two parallel lines due to the latter’s determination to stop the governor’s second term bid at all cost.

This development was said to have destroyed the once sweet relationship between the godfather and his godson.

To now show that he is firmly in charge of the state and not Oshiomhole anymore, the governor ensured that his supporters who are elected to the state Assembly during last general elections fenced out other lawmakers that are supposedly loyal to his predecessor during the recent inauguration of the Assembly and the election of a new speaker.

Despite the fact that all the 24 members of the state assembly belong to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), they are, however, divided in loyalty like two different nations.

It was learned that nine members, allegedly prompted by the state governor, hurriedly met at night to inaugurate the House and also elect a speaker without informing others who belong to other faction loyal to Oshiomhole.

It was also gathered that the other lawmakers-elect were excluded in order to prevent Oshiomhole’s loyalists from taking control of the legislature and thereby move against the governor during the next year governorship election in the state.

Although, in public, both Obaseki and Oshiomhole pretend there is no rift even though evolving events around their loyalists in the state chapter of the party portray a cold war, tilting towards internal rebellion and supremacy battle ahead the of Edo 2020 governor primary and the main election.

Prior to this latest order, however, the Senate had earlier set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the cause of the crisis in the Assembly and report back.

When the report of the committee was presented by the chairman of the Senate committee and Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, at the plenary on Tuesday, some senators, disagreed with the recommendations and expressed their disappointment.

To fire the first shot was the former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who described the recommendations as “an insult” on the state governor.

Okorocha, who said the crisis in the Edo State Assembly is a family matter as it involves members of the APC said it is for the leadership of the party to resolve, not the National Assembly.

Contrary to Okorocha, former Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu, who pointedly said what the state government did was wrong, noted that “Being a governor doesn’t mean you should do the wrong thing. Something done at night is a secret meeting. For me, the governor did the wrong thing”.

On his part, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, cautioned the lawmakers who opposed the recommendations, saying they could not change them as the matter had been “laid to rest.”

While noting that the resolutions were in conformity with that of the House of Representatives, he directed that the message be sent out immediately “so that one week is not reduced.”

He also said the National Assembly should be able to query undemocratic acts no matter who was involved.

Meanwhile, before the intervention of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives had on July 17, given a one-week ultimatum to Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the state State House of Assembly, 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 of the proposed inauguration in a national daily or television station  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 Edo State House of 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).

While replying the Senate, the Edo State Government, however, described as unconstitutional and a flagrant disregard for the Principle of Separation of Powers, the resolution of the Senate directing the governor to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the state Assembly.

The government, in a statement issued and signed by Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, on Tuesday, declared that “this illegality will not stand” and advised, “powerful persons not be allowed to set our State ablaze merely to satisfy their thirst for power and control.”

According to the statement: “The Edo State Government watched with alarm today as the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a step that was not totally unexpected, purported to pass a resolution in the following terms: Directing the Governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly, and Ordering a fresh inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly within one (1) week from the date of the said Resolution.

“As earlier mentioned, this move was not unexpected in the light of the enormous political pressure which had been brought to bear on the Officers and Members of the distinguished Senate by the highly placed and powerful persons who are intent on foisting their will and choices on the good people of Edo State.

“This is borne out by the recorded statements made by one Seid Oshiomhole (a Member-elect and younger brother of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Comrade Adams Oshiomhole) wherein he boasted that both the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has been instructed on what to do in this matter.”

The statement added: “The Government of Edo State wishes to observe that the Chairman and Members of Ad-Hoc Committee of the Senate which visited Edo State were made aware of the existence of at least three (3) suits pending before various Courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration have been submitted to the Courts by both contending parties for resolution.”

Ogie added that “The Ad-Hoc Committee also failed to inform the Senate of the existence of a valid injunction in Suit No FHC/B/OS/70/2019 wherein the Federal High Court restrained various parties from interfering in any manner with the activities of the Edo State House of Assembly which said order had been brought to their attention in the course of their visit to Edo State.

He maintained that: “In point of fact in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/159/2019 the National Assembly, the Clerk of National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives amongst others were specifically ordered by the Federal High Court to maintain the Status Quo as at 25th July 2019.

“The Edo State Government is further aware that in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/815/2019, wherein the Clerk and the National Assembly are defendants before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the National Assembly and the Clerk have not only been duly served with the processes but have entered an appearance in the matter.

“It is unfortunate that the Distinguished Senate would act in flagrant breach of these various Court Orders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the Courts and therefore subjudice.

“We are also concerned that the Members of the Distinguished Senate appear to have very scant regard for the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in our Constitution which is manifested by their taking over the functions of the Judiciary in dispute resolution and giving directives to a Governor of a State who is certainly not subject to the supervision of the National Assembly.

“The Edo State Government maintains that there is nowhere in the Constitution particularly Section 11(4) which enables the National Assembly to “take over” any House of Assembly or in this respect, the Edo State House of Assembly.”

The SSG added that “It must be further observed that it has always been the contention of the Edo State Government that the power to issue a proclamation for the inauguration of a House of Assembly as set out in Section 105(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was duly and completely complied with and it is not within the power of the Governor to recall same once issued or to perform the same act multiple times. Once the Governor issues a proclamation letter, his job is done.

“It is the duty of the Clerk of the House of Assembly to inaugurate the House of Assembly and he has since performed that task. He has further approached a Court of law to seek validation of his actions. The pronouncements of the Distinguished Senate on the subject (with respect) is clearly misconceived and would amount to interference in the role of the Courts which may, in fact, constitute contempt with which the Governor would not wish to be associated.

“The Government of Edo State firmly believes that our State is not a colony or a vassal of any person or persons exercising power in Abuja and we shall take all necessary steps within the ambit of the law to defend and validate our position and actions on this matter.

“We call on all persons of goodwill to call the powerful wielders of “power and authority” in Abuja and elsewhere to refrain from acts which are clearly unconstitutional, undemocratic and flagrant disrespect for the principle of due process and separation of powers.

“These powerful persons should not be allowed to set our State ablaze merely to satisfy their thirst for power and control. As we have always maintained on this subject: This illegality will not stand!!!”

Expectedly, while commenting on the development, the former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said; “ I am ashamed to talk about it but there is nothing to hide.”

Oshiomhole said, “We have a similar situation in Edo wherein our own case we have 24/24 all of the APC but somebody wants a particular person as a Speaker, 19 out of 24 are opposed to this person.”

However, it seems the governor is fighting the political battle of his life now. No serious politician would fold his arms to allow the kind of treatment meted out to the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, who was denied of his constitutional right of the second term in office as governor, to befall him before guiding against such.

Nevertheless, no matter the eventual outcome of the crisis, political observers opined that the alleged rift between the Obaseki and Oshiomhole had again brought to the fore the dangers of political godfatherism in the country’s polity.

As it stands now, according to analysts, both camps who are yet to give up the battle, should be warned about the dangers of not appeasing each other that the crisis could open the state to the forays of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).

It is now clear that Governor Obaseki may not obey the directive of the Senate and this portends that the resolution of Edo state House of Assembly crisis is still far from sight. Pundits, however, prescribed political solution to the crisis. They also advocated that the president should wade into the growing political conundrum in the state.

Whether it is the Senate or the governor that holds the ace, the whole nation is waiting anxiously for the next move.

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