Tension over Bayelsa Assembly’s Refusal to Swear in Opposition Members

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Tension is building in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, over the alleged refusal of the leadership of the state House of Assembly to swear in members-elect of opposition political parties, supposedly on the orders of the state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson.

Two months after they were declared winners of the assembly election and certificates of return duly presented to them, the Speaker, Mr. Kombowei Benson, it was learnt, has allegedly refused to inaugurate the three members.

Those affected are Watson Belemote of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), representing Brass Constituency II; Gibson Munalayefa of the Labour Party (LP), Ogbia constituency II and Gabriel Ogbara of African Democratic Congress (ADC), who won the election for Ogbia constituency III.

But in a reaction yesterday, an aide to the governor who preferred to remain anonymous, told THISDAY that the governor had no hand in the business of the assembly, noting that those dragging Dickson’s name into the issue were cheap attention seekers.
The governor’s aide argued that having been a lawmaker before becoming a governor, Dickson would not interfere in the workings of the legislative arm of government.

“Do you think that a governor who has been a parliamentarian will do that? It is the House of Assembly’s business and not the governor’s job to swear in members. The governor has more pressing issues to attend to rather than responding to faceless groups.

‘’They know that once they mention the governor’s name, it will get the desired attention, but we will not officially respond to these people who are looking for attention,’’ the aide said.
But the Bayelsa First Initiative (BFI) a group of former elected and appointed political office holders in the state, however told journalists in Yenagoa yesterday that Dickson allegedly conspired with the leadership of the assembly to stop the swearing-in of the three elected members.

The BFI, led by Chief Nathan Egba, wondered why two months after the Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, gave the order, the state assembly has continuously flouted it.
Strangely, the group said the leadership of the assembly dominated by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had rushed to swear- n their party members who won their rerun elections just last month.

While condemning the quagmire created by the refusal, Egba noted that the purported Dickson’s order was not only anti-democratic, but smacks of deliberate disobedience to a court order.
He warned that the continuous alleged refusal by Dickson to allow the leadership of the PDP-controlled assembly to swear in the three minority party members-elect signalling a great danger for the future of the state.

“Do the governor and House of Assembly leadership think that the people of constituencies II in Brass Local Government Area as well as II and III in Ogbia Local Government Area will be happy with the Dickson administration for shutting them out of the legislative process in the state?’’ Egba queried.

He added: “We therefore call on traditional rulers, NGOs and civil society organisations, legal practitioners, particularly the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and that of Bayelsa State as well as the leadership of the National Assembly, to prevail on Dickson and the leadership of the state House of Assembly to obey the constitution and do the right thing.”

The three aggrieved members-elect, had in a pro­test letter addressed to the Senate President the Speaker of the House of Representatives, AGF, and the Inspector General of Police, warned that they should not be held responsible if there was a breakdown of order in the affected constituencies.

In the letter written by their solicitor, Jude Rex- Ogbuku, the three politicians said when they received the certificate of return, they wrote the Clerk of the state House of Assembly, but were not replied.