The Crisis of Confidence in Edo State House of Assembly


Adibe Emenyonu writes on the impeachment of the Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly and his deputy

There was pandemonium at the Edo State House of Assembly on Tuesday. The fracas was not expected because of the public holiday declared by the federal government to mark the May Day celebration, which fell on a Sunday. Workers in the Assembly looked forward to a new week. More so with the promise of N25, 000 minimum wage to workers beginning from this month, which Governor Adams Oshiomhole made at the May Day rally.

But not long after the Assembly workers settled town for the day’s job, they started hearing sporadic gunshots. To many who did not know what the gunshots were about, it was ignored. But when the shots began to look like an invasion of the entire complex by a foreign army, the workers became worried. They did not know that the shooting was coming from hallowed chambers of the Assembly. Many ran for cover and sustained serious injuries in the process.
Victor Tiger Edoror wanted to save his job as speaker.

Trouble started for Edoror according to THISDAY investigation, when Hon. Folly Ogedegbe, the majority leader and member representing Owan West constituency, moved a motion for his impeachment along with the Deputy Speaker, Bright Osayande. The motion, which was seconded by the Esan North East constituency 1 member, Mr Patrick Iluobe, read in part, “We the underlisted and undersigned Honourable Members representing the various constituencies in the Edo State House of Assembly have on this day, 3rd of May 2016, resolved to impeach our speaker, Hon. Chief Victor Edoror Tiger, and the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Osayande, for acts of gross misconduct.”

A temporary Speaker was appointed, in the person of Patrick Iluobe, to preside over the business of the day, where a new speaker, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie, representing Uhumwonde, was elected. Dr. Joseph Okonobo, representing Iguebe was elected as Deputy Speaker.
Ativie became the first female to be elected Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly.

Immediately the new speaker was sworn in, the impeached speaker and his deputy walked into the chamber with thugs, who shot sporadically to scare other legislators out of the chamber. This prompted staff of the Assembly to scamper for safety as the fracas, which began in the chamber spread to the premises and even outside the Assembly compound.

Corruption Allegation
Addressing journalists after the fracas, the new speaker, Ativie, said the members could no longer tolerate the greedy nature of the former speaker. She said the impeached speaker had up to six different financial cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the members could not continue to allow such person to lead the Assembly.

She said a five-member committee headed by Kabiru Adjoto, representing Akoko-Edo 1, will investigate the alleged financial recklessness of the impeached speaker and his deputy from June 2015 till May 3 this year. According to her, if found wanting at the end of the three months within which the committee is expected to submit its report, they will be handed over to the appropriate authorities.

Also speaking, Adjoto said the impeached speaker was violently corrupt. He stated, “As it is today, Edoror has a lot of EFCC cases hanging on his neck. You can go and verify this. We cannot afford to have a speaker that is being investigated by the EFCC because of his corrupt nature. As earlier mentioned by our new speaker, Edoror has a corrupt tendency. Enough is enough. That is why 16 members of the house today signed impeachment notice against him. As we speak today, both APC and PDP members in the house signed impeachment notice against him.”

Fighting Back
The impeached speaker is, however, fighting back. He insists he is still the Speaker. Addressing journalists after his removal, Edoror, who was flanked by seven other legislators who did not sign the impeachment notice, said he regretted the rowdy session that characterised the plenary. He said a committee would be set up to look into the matter.

Edoror said, “They have a paper duly signed by 11 members. That is not a quorum to remove a Speaker. We do not want to suspend any member now. They have learnt their lessons and ran away from the chamber.”

While faulting the sitting that removed him, Edoror argued that the impeachment was done in his absence, noting that only the speaker can convoke a sitting and the signatories on the impeachment papers are fictitious.

He said, “They don’t have the numbers. We are carrying out our jobs for the benefit of the state in support of the Comrade Governor. There is no allegation of corruption before me. Those allegations are frivolous.”

However, 24 hours after his removal, the number of lawmakers on his side has continued to deplete. At a party organised by the new speaker, Ativie, one of the lawmakers, Osaigbovo Iyoha (Oredo East), who did not sign the impeachment notice, was seen quaffing a glass of wine with other 16 members. At the party, which took place at the legislative quarter, the new Speaker reassured members of the Assembly that she would run an open -door policy.

Ativie said, “We have given you the opportunity to see all the members that have taken part in this impeachment and we have been able to clear the air. You should not have any doubt in your mind. And, in fact, from 16 members we are now 17 members. And by our rules, two-third of the 24 is 16 and all the statutory things that we are supposed to do, we have done. As we speak now, we have started doing the work of the house and you are going to see a very robust house. You are going to see a house that will be an envy that other states are going to emulate.

“Edo State House of Assembly will run a very inclusive and transparent house and we will not allow cheating anymore.”
Ativie said being the first female speaker of the house, she felt challenged to work hard to surpass the men who had been speakers of the house.

Speaking earlier, Chris Okabean (Oredo West) said they trusted the leadership of the new speaker and that they would give her the necessary support to succeed.
“We are here this afternoon to reaffirm our united commitment that the impeached speaker stands impeached and that the Edo State House of Assembly stands united under the leadership of Hon. Ative,” he said.

There was a strong rumour that Oshipmhole had during a meeting with the lawmakers after the impeachment of Edoror offered them SUVs to bring him back.
Unlike other impeachments of speakers in the past, the impeachment of Edoror was said to be purely based on his alleged corruption. But some have linked the impeachment to the rift between Oshiomhole and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, over succession.

THISDAY, however, gathers that Edoror was forced out because of his failure to carry other members along, especially in relation to financial matters. For instance, it was alleged that funds meant for other members had on many occasions ended up in Edoror’s pocket without the knowledge of other members.
This situation caused many members of the Assembly to bear ill will towards him.

Apart from general funds, it was also alleged that even money meant for individual members was not speared so long as it passed through Edoror. “It cannot reach the owner intact. The former speaker must tamper with some of it,” a source close to the Assembly alleged. The source who craved anonymity, narrated how one member who had a kidney problem approached the governor for help to travel abroad and he gave the sum of N5 million through the former speaker.

According to him, “That member ended up getting N3 million while the former speaker pocketed N2 million. The bubble, however, burst when the member, in a bid to thank the governor, now learnt that what actually was given to him was N5 million and not the N3 million he got through the erstwhile speaker.”

The last straw that broke the camel’s back, THISDAY learnt, came at the expiration of the tenure of local government chairmen after their statutory three years. The council chairmen were alleged to have passed the sum of N20 million through the former speaker to lobby the lawmakers to extend their tenure and the money was not distributed to other lawmakers. This prompted the rebellion against him and his eventual removal as speaker.