Deji Elumoye in Abuja
Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, has described the intervention of the House of Representatives in the crisis rocking Edo state House of Assembly as unconstitutional.
Clark, in a six-page open letter dated July 21 addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that the House of Representatives alone has no power or authority to interfere in the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly as it did last week.
He added that the call by the House of Representatives on the Inspector-General of Police to shut down the Edo Assembly within one week was unconstitutional and of no effect.
“I understand and you are aware that the Edo State House of Assembly has taken the other members yet to be sworn in to court, and get court injunction, preventing the IG and the Director of DSS not to interfere with the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly. Yet, you are directing the IG to seal up the Edo State House of Assembly in contravention of the court order”.
The former Federal Information Commissioner
added that the speed with which the House of Representatives waded into the disagreement of members in Edo House of Assembly has escalated the crisis in the Edo Assembly and the state.
“Mr. Speaker I strongly advise you to retract your decision to shut down the Edo State House of Assembly, asking the governor to rescind his proclamation and to issue a new one. Your action is definitely against the provision of the Constitution under which you took an illegal and wrong decision, and is now creating more crisis in Edo State. It is now already creating disagreement between the House and the Senate. It is also affecting the relationship between the Edo State Governor and the APC National leader, and is still spreading.”
Clark also made reference to the Senate which unlike the House did not rush into conclusion on the Edo crisis.
“The Senate acting on the same subject stated that it has not completed its findings in the disagreement between the members of the Edo State House of Assembly, and it will soon come to the resolution of the matter which is at variance with the position already taken by your House”.
He posited that it is the two chambers of the National Assembly that have the constitutional power to act in any crisis rocking any state House of Assembly.
“Simply put, it is only the Senate and the House of Representatives which form the National Assembly that have the power or authority to interfere in the matter of the Edo State House of Assembly. The Senate cannot do it alone, and the House of Representatives cannot also do it alone. The two must act together”.
Commenting on the inauguration of the 24-man Edo Assembly by nine members upon the proclamation of the Assembly by the state governor, Clark explained that the Constitution is explicit about this as the House can perform its functions when one-third of the members are present.
He added that “in the case of Edo State House of Assembly, eight members form the quorum, therefore free and legally covered to perform their duties, including the election of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, and to confirm Commissioners”.
According to him, “Edo State House of Assembly at present is functioning properly, and in fact, has gone to court to challenge the action of the 16 elected members who were not present at the inauguration, who in fact, were not yet members of the Edo State House of Assembly, because, they have not been sworn in by the elected Speaker of the House”.
Citing constitutional provisions to back his claim, Clark further emphasised that the power the House of Representatives has over states Houses of Assembly, is constitutional but must be exercised with due process.
“Part 2, section 1 of the 1999 Constitution as amended states clearly that, ‘the legislative power of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in the National Assembly for the Federation which consist of a Senate and the House of Representative”.
“Sub-section 2 of the Constitution states that ‘the National Assembly shall have powers to make law for the peace, order and good government of the federation, or any part thereof for any matter included in the exclusive legislative list set out in part 1 of the second schedule to this Constitution”.
Sub-section 3 further states as follows that; “the power of the National Assembly to make law for the peace, order and good Government of the federation with respect to any matter included in exclusive legislative list shall safe as otherwise provided in this Constitution to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States”. Section 1 1 of the Constitution provide that; “the National Assembly shall take over the affairs of a State House of Assembly only if there is crisis in the House, and the House is unable to function
“Section 1 1 (4) states that “at any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reasons of the situation prevailing in that state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order peace, order and good government of that State with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the State:
Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the National Assembly power to remove the Governor or the Deputy Governor of the State from office”.
Also, section 1 1 (5) states that; “For the purposes of sub-section (4) of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business”.