James Sowole in Akure
Confusion ensued in the Ondo State House of Assembly yesterday as two factions of members of the legislative arm of government at separate news conferences laid claim to the leadership of the House.
A faction had late Friday announced the impeachment of the Speaker, Hon. Jumoke Akindele, her Deputy, Hon Fatai Olotu, and the Majority Leader, Hon Dayo Akinsoyinu, alleging that the leadership of the House conspired to illegally approve the withdrawal of a sum of N15 million with intention of embezzling it.
The faction said a new leadership had emerged with Hon. Malachi Coker from Ilaje Constituency 1 for the position of new speaker; Hon. Ayo Arowele as the Deputy Speaker and Hon. Olamide George of Akure North as the Majority Leader.
Addressing journalists at one of the news conferences, a legislator on the side of the new leadership, Hon. Ogundeji Iroju representing Odigbo Constituency, said there would be no going back on the impeachment of the affected officers.
Though, 10 members were present at the news conference, Iroju said 14 out of 26 members in the Assembly were at the sitting where the three principal officers were removed while 20 members of the House actually signed their impeachment notice.
Iroju said the former leadership of the House conspired and approved the withdrawal of a sum of N15 million from the treasury of the Assembly without following due process laid down by the rules of the House.
He said when they heard that the money was about to be withdrawn, they objected but the removed speaker denied.
“After the denial, we began to watch the situation until we caught them. We intercepted the money and the Clerk of the House Mr Bode Adeyelu, who is the Chief Accounting Officer confirmed that the money was withdrawn with the approval of the speaker.
“The withdrawal of the money ought to be in line with the Parliamentary approval, but this did not happen in case of this money. We have recovered the money and it is in the custody of the Clerk. We shall use the money to pay salaries of workers in the Assembly.”
“It was sheer wickedness for the former leadership of the House to siphon the state money for their selfish interest when salaries and allowances of the workers in the state had not been paid for months. We are representatives of our people and we cannot allow these kind of things to continue” Iroju said.
The lawmaker said the new leadership of the House had therefore set up a fact finding committee to look into the illegal withdrawal. The probe committee, he said would be headed by Hon. Oloyelogun of Ifedore Constituency while Hon. Olugbenga Araoyinbo of Akoko North West would be the secretary.
The lawmaker said this action was different from the one carried out last year and which was resolved due to intervention of the people in the government and the state. He said there would be no going back on their action as the affected officers had ceased to function.
He therefore urged the Executive Arm of the government, the security agencies and other stakeholders to recognise the new leadership that was sworn in by the Clerk of the House that was authorised by law to do so.
Iroju called on the security agencies to withdraw all men and officers attached to the former leadership because they had ceased to be officers of the Assembly.
However, the other faction led by the embattled Speaker at another news conference condemned strongly what was described as action of a few ambitious minority members of the House.
Addressing journalists, the Chairman House Committee on Information, Hon Siji Akindiose representing Ondo East Constituency described the action of the other factions as unlawful and contrary to the House rule.
“It is a plot hatched and executed by some elements in the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the conspiracy of some ultra-ambitious and unscrupulous members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) who are desperate to become speaker and deputy speaker”, Akindiose stated.
He said the purported sitting of the 10 members was illegal because it was unusual for the parliamentary meeting to take place on Friday and if there are urgent matters to warrant Friday sitting, there would have been announcement for such at previous meeting. For them to sit on Friday, Akindiose said a motion would be moved and passed with reason.
He said only 10 members participate at the illegal sitting, and expressed worry at how 10 members can laud their decision over 26 others. He said there are 14 legislators on the side of the new leadership as at yesterday whereas the rule stipulated that the speaker and the deputy speaker can only be removed by the two- third of members of the Assembly.
“Let them circulate the names and constituency of lawmakers that signed the impeachment notice and if they have one, it must be the attendance of one of the earlier meetings held by members”, he added.
The lawmaker alleged that in order to carry out their illegal assignment, a senior public officer was manhandled, tortured and subjected to dehumanising treatment, urging the commissioner of police to investigate the matter.
The lawmaker said there was no iota of truth on the allegation of fraud against the leadership of the House, describing it as part of a leaked attempt to taint the leadership of the house as well as to arrest the speaker and some members to pave way for the illegal change in leadership.
“We reiterate that the funds are meant for a project which was properly approved by the approving authority and contrary to their mischievous assertion. The purported suspension of the leadership of the House, we maintain that it is not known to the rules of the House and even it were to be done, it will not be done by mere 10 members out of 26 members after the close of work.
“We submit that it is mischievous, unwarranted, illegal, and can therefore not stand. We affirm our confidence in the leadership of the House and which to place it on record that we support them and demand that they continue to discharge the duties of their respective offices”, Akindiose said.