*Impeached Benue speaker, two others to face contempt charge
*Police evict assembly staff from complex explain partisanship
Omololu Ogunmade, James Emejo, Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi
More knocks have come the way of the eight of 30 members of the Benue State House of Assembly over their moves to impeach Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom as the presidency Tuesday distanced President Muhammadu Buhari from the Monday occurrence in Makurdi, the state capital, saying the president should not be associated with what it called an infamy.
“President Buhari will always stand by all that is noble and fair, and will reject attempts to drag him into infamy,” a statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said.
The veiled presidential upbraiding of what many legal luminaries have dismissed as unconstitutionality without moment, also got put down by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who Tuesday at a press conference in Abuja said the process utilised by the eight Benue lawmakers could not pass the test of smell of the constitution.
Meanwhile, the police, which told THISDAY on Monday that it was still studying the situation on the role of its personnel, Tuesday told the newspaper the outcome of its study and said its men intervened to prevent touts from hijacking the tense political situation in the state.
The court is also being called upon to put the touts at bay as it has been asked to rein in the impeached Speaker of the state assembly, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange, and his co-travellers, former Deputy Speaker, Hon. James Okefe, and former Majority Leader, Hon. Benjamin Adanyi.
The 22 members of the House who are loyal to Ortom Tuesday served them with notices to commit them for contempt of court.
In the statement released in Abuja, Adesina rejected any attempt to link Buhari with what he described as the inglorious past when lawmakers in their minority removed sitting governors in breach of the constitution.
According to him, attempts to drag the president, whom he said was attending a joint summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States in Lome, Togo, into the charade in Benue, were unacceptable.
Adesina, who said the president would not interfere in the current shenanigans in Benue, argued that those making the insinuations were the same persons who had been advocating strict compliance with the principle of separation of powers, insisting that the president would rather uphold the provisions of the constitution than to allow himself to be dragged into the “infamy”.
Further arguing that the president would stand by what is noble, he insisted that his principal would be guided by the constitution as he deplored the actions of those he said had set up fire and then call on the president to put it off.
The statement read: “Even while attending the ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit in Togo, strident attempts were being made to drag President Buhari into the unfolding drama between the executive and the legislature in Benue State.
“Statements have been issued by different interest groups, insinuating that the president may have a hand in the development in Benue. This is paranoia at its worst, coming from people who have wittingly positioned themselves against the clean-up of the country, and the way we do things. They prefer business as usual.
“President Buhari will never be part of any unconstitutional act, and any attempt to link him with the inglorious past, when minority number of lawmakers impeached governors, will not stick. It will simply be like water off the duck’s back. Those with open minds know this, but those who cavil would rather source everything untoward to the president. It is murky ground in which they are now marooned, as fallout of their resistance to change in the country.
“When it suits them, they preach separation of powers and true federalism, and in another breath, they call on the president to interfere brazenly in affairs at state level.
President Buhari will always stand by all that is noble and fair, and will reject attempts to drag him into infamy.
“People who stoke fires by deliberate acts of omission or commission, and then summon the president to come and put it out will find that this president will be guided by the constitution at all times, no matter the attempt to entangle him in unwarranted controversies.”
Impeached Benue speaker, two others to face contempt charge
In Makurdi, the 22 members of the Benue State House of Assembly loyal to Ortom Tuesday turned the fight against the embattled Ikyange as they served him, Okefe and Adanyi contempt proceedings.
The order to serve the lawmakers, who are currently on suspension, the contempt proceedings was given by the state Chief Judge, Justice Adam Onum.
The trio would appear in court to explain why an order for committal to prison should not be made against them for disobeying the injunction earlier issued by the court.
The lawmakers and five others had Monday taken control of the assembly with the aid of the police to commence impeachment proceedings against the governor.
The former speaker, deputy speaker and majority leader were last Friday restrained by the Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Onum from parading themselves in the capacities they previously operated pending the determination of the substantive suit filed against them.
Also included in the injunction were the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who are by the court injunction order advised to steer clear from the assembly complex and desist from barricading the state assembly complex to prevent members from carrying out their legitimate function.
Justice Onum had issued an interim injunction restraining Ikyange from parading himself as the speaker of the House.
The interim injunction order was issued following an application brought before the court by the 22 members of the House.
Justice Onum also warned Ikyange to desist from parading himself as the speaker pending the determination of the substantive suit.
He also warned the security agencies to steer clear from the assembly complex and desist from barricading the state assembly complex to prevent members from carrying out their legitimate function.
Tuesday morning, however, heavily armed security operatives comprising the police and DSS ordered the Clerk of the House, Dr. Toryese Angenor, and other staff out of their offices.
The clerk disclosed that shortly after he resumed work with other staff, the security operatives asked them to move out of their offices while the assembly was sealed off.
According to Angenor, the security men told them that the order was from the state Commissioner of Police.
He said: “As I talk to you now, the police officers are still there and you can’t see any staff at the assembly complex because I was chased out of my office. They told us that the commissioner of police has ordered them to let us leave the complex. No reason was given and no definite time was given to us to come back.
“The implication of this is that we were not allowed to do our job and that is going to impede the work of the legislature and is going to affect the people of the state.”
Also, the Security Adviser to the state governor, Colonel Paul Hemba (rtd), confirmed that the police actually went to the assembly and chased away workers.
Police Explain Role, Evict Assembly Staff from Complex
Explaining the role of its personnel in the crisis in the state, the police said it intervened to stop hoodlums from hijacking the tensed political situation.
In its response to THISDAY inquiries Tuesday, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Benue State Command, Joel Moses Yamu, said their action was to safeguard lives and property in the state.
According to Yamu, the police personnel intervened in order to douse the tensed political situation.
“The police as far as I know, only played its role of safeguarding lives and property and further ensure that hoodlums did not highjack and take advantage of the rather tensed political situation in the state,” he said.
When repeatedly asked why the other 22 state House of Assembly members were prevented from gaining access to the legislative chambers, he insisted that the police acted “to stop hoodlums not to hijack the situation”.
“I have told you all that transpired and needed to be said,” he stated, promising to get further information from the personnel in operation at the venue.
Gbajabiamila Faults Process
Also reacting to the Benue crisis, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila, Tuesday said the purported impeachment of Ortom by eight members of the state House of Assembly “cannot pass the smell test under the constitution”.
Nevertheless, he expressed disappointment that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House Caucus would link Buhari to the impeachment saga.
At a press briefing on Monday, the House Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, alongside other members of the caucus, warned that it would frustrate ongoing efforts by the executive to reconvene the lower chamber with a view to considering some urgent budget matters including passage of virement among others if the federal government does not stop its show of impunity in the unfolding developments in Benue.
The National Assembly is currently on its long recess and is expected to resume on September 26.
However, Gbajabiamila, in a statement he issued Tuesday said he found it “strange and hyperbolic that the PDP caucus in the House in a knee jerk reaction will try to tie the President to same”.
He said: “In tandem with our party, PDP has been screaming restructuring and federalism to high heavens and one wonders why the same party will now blame the activities of an independent state assembly on Mr. President.
“As for the police the matter is serious enough and one would expect the PDP members to immediately push for the reconvening of the House so as to probe the exact role played by the police. In legislative work there are procedures to be followed.”