Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Ahmed Muktar Mohammed
By Tokunbo Adedoja and Shola Oyeyipo
As divergent views continue to trail the directive of the House of Representatives to suspend activities on the floor of Kogi State Assembly, the lower chamber has hinged its order on the need to prevent a total breakdown of law and order in the state’s assembly.
Twelve out of the 25- member Kogi State House of Assembly had recently impeached the Speaker, Hon. Abdullahi Bello, and all the principal officers, a development that raised questions about the constitutional stipulation of two-third majority of members’ votes for such impeachment and also gave birth to two factions of lawmakers with both sides laying claim to the leadership of the Assembly.
A fact-finding committee of the House of Representatives set up to wade into the crisis had last Monday suspended the Assembly’s activities.
The House mediation committee led by the Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Ahmed Muktar Mohammed, after a visit to the Assembly had announced that it had directed the Inspector-General of Police (IG) not to allow any sitting on the floor of the Assembly until the conclusion of its fact finding mission.
But the directive of the committee has continued to generate controversy bordering on its constitutionality and the fact that it has put the Assembly under lock and key with security operatives deployed to secure the complex.
A member of the fact-finding committee that visited the state, Hon. Adams Jagaba, however told THISDAY that the committee acted within its powers and its decision was informed by the fact that the Assembly had become severely factionalised.
“The two factions insisted on sitting in the chamber, and looking at the situation in the country and Kogi State, in particular, we can’t afford to have that kind of crisis,” Jagaba said, adding, “you know what could have happened if both factions had clashed in the chamber.”
Justifying the action of the House committee, Jagaba said: “What we did, we did it for the security of the state, we did it for the security of the nation, and we did it for the survival of democracy.”
When told that there may not be a constitutional basis for suspending the activities of a state legislature, Jagaba insisted that the House acted in line with the law.
He argued that the House committee could be likened to the way the National Assembly intervened in the leadership crisis that plagued the nation when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sought medical treatment abroad without handing over to the then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Is there a law that says that you must love your neighbour? Is there a law that says that you must visit your neighbour? These are just the natural things to do. Just like the doctrine of necessity that we came up with during Yar’Adua, I think our action is in order,” he said.
On the effectiveness of the directive to suspend the Assembly’s activities, Jagaba said: “To the best of my knowledge, the IG has complied with it and the lawmakers have complied with it.”
While noting that the committee was looking into the legality of the impeachment, the he said it was initiating a stakeholders’ meeting to save the state from the crisis.
The 36 states’ Speakers under the canopy of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria (CSSLN) had also set up a six-man committee to resolve the leadership crisis plaguing the Kogi Assembly.
The six-man committee, chaired by Kwara State Speaker, Abdul Rasak Atunwa, and with membership made up of Zamfara State Speaker Sanusi Garba Rikiyi, Abia State Speaker Ude Oko Chukwu, Ogun State Speaker Ishola Suraj Adekubi, Akwa Ibom Speaker Sam Ikon, and Taraba State Speaker Haruan Istifanus Gbana, is currently exploring ways of resolving the crisis.
Meanwhile, the recent impeachment of the Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, has been described as capable of sparking another round of crisis in the area, if not properly managed.
In a reaction to the impeachment, an association based in the district, Ebira Ozoza Association (EOA), in a statement signed at the weekend, by the Patron and Secretary, Abdulmalik Ateiza and Ahmed Tijani Sadiq respectively, said: “The recent impeachment of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, was dishonourable, ill advised and capable of stirring crisis that would once again throw the state into confusion and retarding socio-economic development.”
The group lamented that the Ebira people have suffered untold hardship in the past - as a result of “unhealthy political manoeuvring.” He cautioned two Assembly men whom he said are from the area and who are part of the impeachment to “restraint in the interest of their people.”