CRISES IN THE ASSEMBLIES

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Lawmakers should work within the law

The tension rocking Edo and Bauchi States over the emergence of the principal officers of their respective houses of assembly is needless and should not be allowed to boil over. In Edo State, the house is already factionalised and divided, even though majority of the members belong to the same political party that controls the executive arm. In Bauchi, the rift is between the opposition – the All Progressives Congress (APC) that controls the legislature and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that controls the executive arm of government in the state. In both states, those stoking the embers of lawlessness and division are not lawmakers.

Sadly, this sort of recklessness is now very prevalent at the state level where there is little transparency and accountability. In both Edo and Bauchi States, the crisis ensued after some minority members of the two assemblies picked the position of speakers and deputy speakers at the expense of the majority. This had led to the emergence of two principal presiding officers in each state in addition to creating room for the matter to be made a subject of litigation by some of the aggrieved stakeholders.

What is unfolding in these two states is a shame. We urge that the rule of law be allowed to prevail and the crisis, a replication of what had happened in the past in some other states, be resolved.

Meanwhile, at the centre of this sordid drama are Governors Godwin Obaseki and Bala Mohammed. Although they both issued separate proclamations for the inauguration of their respective houses of assembly, the underhand tactics employed paved way for the minority groups to gather at an unusual hour of the day to perfect their scheme. The Nigerian constitution has clearly prescribed the rules governing how the principal officials of the houses of assembly should emerge. Under no condition should the enabling provisions of the constitution, particularly Section 92(1), Chapter V and Section 98 (1 and 2) of the 1999 Constitution, be violated for the purpose of massaging some individual ego. Besides, there is a general business rule regulating how the principal officers of a state house of assembly are to be elected. And one cardinal template is that voting must be by a simple majority. We therefore cannot fathom the logic by which nine members, as was the case of Edo State, would elect the principal officers in a 24-member house and how 11 out of the 31 members in Bauchi State would perfect a similar stunt.

Behind most of the crises we have had in various houses of assembly in recent years is the overbearing disposition of the executive in these states where the governors lord themselves over the legislative arm of government which they seek to emasculate. This has led to a high turn-over of speakers even in states where majority of the members belong to one political party. Unfortunately, the immediate consequence of this interminable bickering is its toll on the quality of debate and legislation for good governance. Yet the ultimate victims of this unfortunate state of affairs are people of their states who are denied quality and effective representation.

It is heartening that several critical stakeholders are wading in with a view to restore sanity in both states. On Wednesday, the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II was in Abuja, where he pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the political tussle between Governor Obaseki and his predecessor, the current APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. While we deplore the sleight of hand that helped to foist on the lawmakers in both Bauchi and Edo States minority speakers, we urge all the actors to give peace a chance.