- State speaker kicks as federal lawmakers declare all legislative actions illegal, threaten takeover of legislative functions
Omololu Ogunmade, Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has led to the factionalisation of the state House of Assembly, festered Wednesday as the House of Representatives declared illegal the June 17 proclamation of the state legislature by the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
The House, while considering the report of the ad hoc committee it set up to probe the division in the state legislature, asked Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Assembly.
But THISDAY learnt that the governor would ignore the directive of the House of Representatives because his hands have been tied by the constitution.
The House of Representatives gave him one week to do so or have security agencies shut down the state legislature or the federal lawmakers would take over the Assembly’s legislative functions.
But a top government official confided in THISDAY wednesday, shortly after the House adopted the report of the ad hoc committee that the resolution was illegal.
The source said the governor had discharged his constitutional responsibility on the issuance of a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the legislature and his hands are tied by Section 105(3) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended), from re-issuing another one.
Section 105(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which empowers a governor to issue proclamation for a state legislature, reads: “subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the person elected as Governor of a State shall have power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the House of Assembly of the state concerned immediately after his being sworn in, or for its dissolution as provided in this section.”
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Frank Okiye, also faulted the resolutions of the federal lawmakers and urged security agencies to respect subsisting court order that the legislature should not be disturbed from performing its lawful duties.
The House had set up the ad hoc committee, chaired by Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, to probe the crisis triggered by the controversial inauguration of the state legislature on June 17 during which nine out of the 24 lawmakers-elect then were sworn in and elected Okiye as Speaker.
Two additional members-elect were sworn in a week later by the Clerk of the House, Yahaya Audu Omogbai, bringing the total number of lawmakers that had taken their oath of office to 11.
At Wednesday’s plenary, the House considered the report of the committee, set up on July 9, and called on Obaseki to issue fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House Assembly.
The House declared all actions taken by the 7th Assembly members null and void, pending proper inauguration.
It threatened that where the governor refuses to comply with the recommendations, the National Assembly would invoke the provisions of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to take over the functions of the state House of Assembly until the situation normalises.
Part of the recommendation reads, “The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in the interest of peaceful co-existence of the state, should issue a fresh Proclamation within One (1) week in line with Section 105(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), stating the date, time and venue and publish in any national daily and television station.
That all actions taken by the 7th Assembly members should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration.
“All members of the Edo State House of Assembly, both those who have been inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated, should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the House with the view to moving the state forward.
“The Inspector General of Police (IG) and the Director General (DG), Department of State Service should shut down the Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect.
“Where recommendations (i) (ii) and (iii) above fail, the National Assembly should invoke the Provisions of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to take over the State House of Assembly until the situation normalises.”
However, THISDAY checks revealed yesterday that the House of Representatives recommendations might worsen the war of attrition in the state chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The governor, who THISDAY learnt yesterday had left for Abuja for consultations on the raging crisis that has pitted him against his predecessor and current APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, would not comply with the House recommendations.
The remaining 13 lawmakers-elect who have relocated to Abuja since the onset of the crisis belong to the Oshiomhole faction of the APC while the 11 lawmakers who have been sworn in are supporting the governor.
Edo: No Fresh Proclamation
Giving an insight into the crisis, a top government official in the state told THISDAY that there was no way the governor would comply with the decisions of the House.
The source said: “The governor will not issue any proclamation again. The constitution says the governor shall issue a proclamation letter. That is how it has been done. Not proclamation letters. The constitution is very clear on this. The constitution says the governor shall issue a proclamation letter. That is where the function of the governor begins and ends with respect to the inauguration of the House.
“So from then on, it is the business of the House to do their inauguration. The governor has done his part once and for all. No matter what anybody says, nobody would issue another proclamation.”
On the order by the House of Representatives to security agencies to stop the state legislature from discharging its responsibilities and the threat to take over the functions of the state House of Assembly if the security agencies failed to comply, the source described the decisions as illegal.
According to the source, there is a subsisting court order that forbids the security agencies and others from interfering or disrupting the activities of the state House of Assembly.
“There is a subsisting court order which restrains the DSS, the police, the military and everybody from interfering with the House of Assembly. That court order exists, which prevents the police from legally coming to take over the House. So, if the police are coming here, it means they are on an illegal assignment and they would be resisted. Since the National Assembly cannot take over the state House of Assembly on its own but can only order the police to do so, that would still amount to an illegality,” the source added.
Edo Assembly Urges APC, Police, DSS to Respect Court Order
In a swift reaction to the House of Representatives decisions, the Edo State House of Assembly rejected the resolutions and called on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, head of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Working Committee of the APC to respect a subsisting court order restraining them from interfering in the activities of the Assembly.
Okiye, in a statement in Benin City, said: “It has come to our knowledge that the Ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating issues surrounding the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly has recommended that the Inspector General of Police (IG) and Department of State Services (DSS) should seal up the Edo Assembly.
“Considering what we came to know in the course of this process, the recommendation of the Ad-hoc Committee does not come to us as a surprise.”
He accused Oshiomhole and his proxies of meeting with the committee members and other actors so as to influence the report.
“With all these, it was clear that the ad-hoc committee was up to no good. Their report was always going to be biased.
“Moreover, we want to draw the attention of the general public and the police to a subsisting court order restraining the police, headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Department of State Services (DSS) and their agents, from interfering in the affairs of the Assembly, as the House has been going about its activities peacefully and without rancour.”
He urged the National Assembly to note that it was expected to act as agents of peace and not merchants of crisis and warned that any attempt to carry out the order would disrupt the peace in the state.
Namdas: House Not Working for Oshiohmole
In an interview with THISDAY after wednesday plenary, Namdas denied allegations that his committee was doing the bidding of Oshiomhole.
Reacting to the argument that the Edo State House of Assembly issue is already before a court, reason why some have argued that the House of Representatives should not have intervened in the matter, he said: “The committee has given options one, two and three and that “It is when the options are not met that we can invoke that section. It is clear.
“The point is that we have listed among those items that we have collected. You know we are doing an investigation. It will not stop us from doing our investigation and the rule of the House that they quoted is at the discretion of the Speaker. It cannot stop us from doing our job.
“Go and read Chapter 91 of the constitution. It says ‘no House in Nigeria can be more than 40 and less than 24.’ Even as big as Lagos is, they cannot have more than 40 members and as small as Bayelsa is with eight local governments, they cannot have less than 24 members. If they do then it is not a House!
“If it is less than 24, can nine-ten people continue to seat sine dine?
“We have this argument that Section 94 says if you have a quorum you can be inaugurated; assuming it is even true that you can be inaugurated if you formed the quorum; but there are certain decisions that you cannot take by nine people, you need two-third, so what happens when the issue of two-thirds comes in?
“Are we going to leave the House to remain like this because they have formed quorum to seat? So when comes the issue of two-thirds where are they going to borrow people to come and make up the two-thirds?
In our own case, we have done this thing in the best interest of the parliament because once you issue a proclamation you are supposed to state the time of the proclamation and even if the constitution did not say indicate time,’ in parliamentary practices you follow conventions, and all over the world, if you do a proclamation there must be a time in it!”
Gbajabiamila: N’Assembly May Take over Edo Assembly in One Week
Later yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, told State House reporters that the National Assembly might be left with no option than to take over the legislative functions of the state House of Assembly if the state fails to resolve the crisis plaguing the House in the next one week.
Gbajabiamila, who met with President Muhammadu Buhari along with Senate President Ahmad Lawan, said following the constitution of an ad-hoc committee by the House to intervene in Edo House of Assembly crisis, it resolved that Obaseki should make a proper proclamation for the resumption of the Assembly.
According to him, if this is not done within the next one week, the House of Representatives or the National Assembly will apply Section 11 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) , which empowers it to take over the functions of any state legislature that can no longer perform its functions.
“As you know, we set up an ad hoc committee. They went to Edo State. The report was laid and considered today (yesterday) and the content of the report is very clear. I think what we did was to stick strictly by the rule or by the law that guides the Assembly and us as lawmakers.
“So, one of the recommendations, which I believed was approved by the House, was for us to have a proper proclamation with date, venue and time which was missing in the first proclamation. They (Edo State House of Assembly) have about a week to come up with the proper election of the principal officers.
“If in a week, nothing changes, perhaps the House and the National Assembly as a whole would look at invoking Section 11 of the constitution,” he said.
However, he said the governor should not be pre-empted that he would not re-issue a new proclamation, saying Obaseki is a personality that he knows very well and he believes that he will comply with the provisions of the law and the instruction of the federal legislature.