Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, Chairman Cross River Basin Development Authority and former Spokesman House of Representatives defends the actions of the five expelled lawmakers of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly
How should one view the continuing crisis in the Akwa ibom state House of Assembly?
As a former parliamentarian, I am a member of legislature for life and whoever loves democracy should like the legislature because the different between dictatorship and democracy is the presence of the legislature. Section 4 Sub 1 of the Nigeria Constitution states that the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall rest in the National Assembly, the senate and the House of Representative and at the level of the sub national, the legislative powers of the states lies in the states houses of assembly. To that extent without the states house of assembly, we will be living under anarchy. The rule of law is very important when you talk of dividends of democracy people talk of roads, boreholes, buying of cars and tricycles for them but I disagree, dividends of democracy is the attendant rule of law and its consequences like the right to liberty, free speech, free association, those basic guarantees are the dividends of democracy because it’s only in democracy that you have the environment of human rights, civil liberty and individual rights and obligations that is the major dividends of democracy. Any man who stands against democracy stands against the flow of the existence of humanity. To that extent it has to be condemned. Recently there was an act of breach of democracy in the State House of Assembly and it is a serious cause for concern.
This delinquency arose from the poor perception of the constitutional provisions of the separation of powers. In separation of powers, the executive, the legislature and off course the judiciary have well spelt our rules, responsibilities and functions and the same law have made provision that under the rule of law no man should be unjustly treated. Our constitution underpins that the Nigeria federation should be governed by democracy and social justice. Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people not the abetment of the tyranny of few which is what we see in Akwa Ibom today. Here we have tyrants who have diminished the constitutional provisions which they swore to protect and defend. The rule of law as envisioned by principles of democracy is one practised within the ambit of the law and it can’t be same when fair hearing have been breached. Last year one Hon. Asuquo Archibong representing Urue Offong/Oruko State constituency defected from APC to PDP and he is still there in the State House of Assembly and the provisions of the constitution as canvassed by the Speaker of the Assembly on the matter was wrong. That provision has sub sections which he refused to mention. Defection must be at the instance of crisis in the party at the national level but there was none in APC when Hon. Archibong defected to PDP. Today in an event of a merger which is an outcome of a process, PDP went into memorandum of understanding with other political parties which called themselves CUPP. That MOU is a process which will lead to a merger so if a member of PDP feels that his party has compromised its principles and those that attracted him to the party then he is obliged to defect to a party of his choice. In this case those gentlemen decided to defect in principle. They defected because PDP is in the process of merging with other parties with a name called CUPP which we all know.
The speaker therefore has no moral standing or constitutional backing to now rely on section 109 of the constitution as the basis for the delinquent act. It must also be noted that the actions took place when lawyers of the plaintiff and defendant are all arguing a motion for a stay of execution in the court, meaning that he was aware of the pendency of the motion for a stay of execution which he was served and shouldn’t have feigned ignorance of it. His actions are unbecoming of the position of the speaker or an institution like the legislature in a democracy as reformed as ours. The decision may have be taken for personal aggrandizement or to please the pay masters. In Akwa Ibom State it is difficult to know the difference between the executive and the legislature. What happened to the autonomy as recognized by the 1999 constitution as amended from being implemented here? If not so, can we say there is separation of powers here?. The federal high court gave a judgment and the expelled lawmaker Hon. Idongesit Ituen has a right to appeal. The basis of that right is what Governor Udom Emmanuel exercised when court of Appeal removed him as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2016 but APC as a responsible party obliged him the opportunity to go to the Apex Court to exhaust his constitutional right which he went. For Senator Bassey Albert, the federal high court removed him from the senate but the man Bassey Etim which was declared winner was not sworn into office because of constitutitutional provisions and application of the rule of law. Both Governor Emmanuel and Senator Albert went through the process of Appeal to the Apex court and got their victories.
So why are they in a hurry in this particular case. The hurry simply is that by the spirit and conscience of men, APC has the majority of men in the State Assembly. They only want to intimidate and stampede those who want to defect to where democracy is flourishing because the APC content and programme remains the best till date. The action was to forestall further defection to APC by these gentlemen with good conscience. They came with their usual siege mentality. The speaker knows as a lawyer that his actions in the law was ultra vires. It was also good to note that if the action of last Monday was precipited by the ignorance of law, then the one that followed was a well rehearsed drama which one expected exists in the theater of the absurd. The truth is that the statutory responsibility of security of the state rests with the police, the civil defense and other security agencies who are statutorily empowered to provide such services. All the governor needed to do was to call the state security council meeting so that they will have a brain storming session based on intelligence. The state governor should never act by the prompt of his instincts or allow his motive to over flow to cause him to take laws into his hands which he did recently. Outside being a chieftain of APC, what I am telling you is completely outside the cubicle of political partisanship.
We must commit ourselves to protect our constitution, and our people and allow our democracy to remain the government of the people by the people and for the people and not the general abetment of the tyranny of the few which is why the state is boiling and there are general poor perception about the state now.
You are aware we have two factions in the State Assembly just like we have three truths, the one by the person who alleges, the one by the person who is defending and the truth by itself and the truth by itself in this circumstance is the constitution. The PDP led House of Assembly went all out to strangulate the constitution because if what is good for the goose was to be good for the gander, I don’t think we will be in this situation today, if the speaker has shown respect for the rule of law, obedience to the court processes and the judiciary as an arm of government, we won’t have been where we are today. Again it is noteworthy to state that out of the five members who defected, the judgment is for one person Hon. Idongesit Ituen so why will the speaker apply the judgment of an individual to others. That is to say that if the father is sentenced to death, the children and their mother will all have to die by hanging? Where can that be done except in the jungle.
What is the way forward?
I have said clearly that the governor should respect the separation of powers and Mr. speaker should separate activism from legislative responsibilities. He should be guided by the procedures in the legislative activities. In any case any legislature anywhere in the world, 70% of its activities are guided by traditions and conventions. Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has never sat on a Monday from 1999 till date and why will they sit on that Monday. Again what was in the Order Paper for that day? Was it not appropriation issues and commomerative sitting for Ex-Governor Obong Victor Attah’s 80th birthday to honour him? So why declare the five lawmakers vacant on that day, was it by instinct? A serious matter like that should have been on the Order Paper, we should separate politics from governance. The politics of it is playing the PDP card and the governance is not abiding by the principles of law so the speaker should act within the constitution while the state chief executive should respect the separation of powers. What the speaker should do is to reverse himself since his actions are ultra vires. I have said about conventions and precedence if he does reverse himself people will take that to be the correct thing but it was not the right thing in this case. If he could do all that even with the pendency of the matter in court then the other group has the right to elect a speaker too.
The police is alleged to be aiding the APC to ensure they have their way is this true?
The PDP is playing up federal might sentiment because they know APC is wining this state. Those who reside in this state know that APC has the population, strength, capacity and strategy and indeed they are wining. On the fifth month of 2019, the fifth governor of this state will be Obong Nsima Ekere who is going to elected on the plat form of APC. So the federal might song is misapplied. The true federal mighty is the allocation to the state freely given, and we are the highest beneficiary. That is the federal might and we should be asking what the monies have been used for.
Do you agree with your party that if the crisis persists the federal government should declare a state of emergency in the state?
APC believe, in the rule of law and the constitution. The provisions are very clear where they are killings and other forms of mayhem, the rule of law will take its place. It happened in Plateau State, Kogi and some other states. So Akwa Ibom State may not be an exception. What APC is saying in effect is that if these people are unable to show restrain by allowing the rule of law to prevail, allow separation of power to take place then there will be no option than to do that.
What do you think will happen now that the Speakerhas obtained an injunction restraining the factional speaker from further parading as speaker?
You don’t need a lawyer on this one to know the correct thing if you don’t obey the court orders why going to the same court to obtain an injunction. A court gave injunctive orders telling you what not to do pending the outcome of the matter and you are going to the same court to gen an injunction to be obeyed by your opponent. A man who is on oxygen cannot leave to seek a medical advise from a doctor when he has abused a clinical diagnosis which led him into the state of coma.