• Like House, Senate threatens to take over state legislature
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Adibe Emeoyonu in Benin City
The crisis triggered by the controversial inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly degenerated yesterday as the Senate threatened a takeover of the state legislature if the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, failed to issue a fresh proclamation to convoke the lawmakers by next week.
The Senate’s decision, which the governor has described as unconstitutional and pointedly said he would ignore, concurred with the earlier verdict of the House of Representatives on the crisis in the state legislature, which is a fallout of the factionalisation of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Senate, which had set up a committee to investigate allegations that the governor did not properly proclaim the House of Assembly, leading to the non-inauguration of some 12 lawmakers-elect till date, while considering the report of the ad hoc panel yesterday, warned the governor to issue the fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the seventh Edo Assembly or the National Assembly would take over the legislative duties of the Assembly.
The House of Representatives had made the same demand on July 17 while debating the report of the ad hoc committee it set up on the crisis.
The Senate said it would not hesitate to take over the legislative functions of the Assembly after the expiration of the ultimatum next Tuesday.
The Senate’s decision was sequel to the recommendations of its Ad hoc Committee, headed by the Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, which was set up to investigate the crisis.
The committee, in its report, had recommended that Obaseki should issue fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Seventh Edo Assembly and which must be clearly communicated to the 24 members-elect.
According to the Senate, “In the event that a new proclamation was not issued by the governor for proper inauguration of the Seventh Assembly of the state within a week, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, should invoke the provisions of section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.”
Prior to the adoption of the committee’s recommendations, divergent opinions were expressed on the report by senators across party lines.
While Senators Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) and Sam Egwu (PDP Ebonyi North), supported the recommendations, Senators Rochas Okorocha (APC Imo West) and Emmanuel Oker-Jev (PDP Benue North West) kicked against them.
Aliero and Egwu described the purported earlier proclamation and inauguration of the assembly as sham, illegal and unconstitutional.
Egwu said: “For a governor to issue proclamation for inauguration of State Assembly on 17th June 2019 by 11a.m. and the Clerk in carrying out the proclamation as stated in the report of the state police commissioner, did it 9p.m. without the knowledge of majority of the members-elect, clearly shows illegality of the exercise.
“Besides, anything done in the night indicates cultism which any parliament must not associate with. The purported inauguration of the Seventh Assembly of Edo State on the 17th of June by 9p.m. as against 11a.m. stated in the proclamation, should not be allowed to stand. It is illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic. The Senate should adopt recommendations of the committee and do the needful, if need be.”
But Okorocha countered that the matter should be treated as a family affair among all the APC stakeholders in the state.
He frowned on the committee’s recommendation for ultimatum to be issued to the governor to issue a fresh proclamation.
“Issuing ultimatum for issuance of fresh proclamation to the governor is provocative and portraying the Senate as hurriedly dabbling into a matter I feel it has no constitutional power over.
“This is clearly a family affair that all stakeholders within the ruling APC both in the state and at the national level should be allowed to handle.
“I was a governor and I strongly believed that no governor will like the step the Senate is about to take,” he stated.
But Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the period for the matter to be treated as family affair had lapsed, having given all the parties concerned three weeks to allow for political solution without any result.
According to him, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, cannot afford to shy away from doing the needful on the Edo State Assembly crisis as constitutionally empowered.
He, however, stated that the expected political solution to the problem could still be achieved before the expiration of the one-week ultimatum.
Edo Govt: Senate Resolution, Unconstitutional
However, the state government, in a swift reaction to the Senate decision, said the governor would not issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the state House of Assembly.
It also described the resolution as unconstitutional and a flagrant disregard for the principle of separation of powers.
Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said in a statement he personally signed yesterday that “this illegality will not stand” and urged “powerful persons not be allowed to set our state ablaze merely to satisfy their thirst for power and control.”
“The Edo State Government watched with alarm today(yesterday) as the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a step that was not totally unexpected, purported to pass a resolution in the following terms: – Directing the Governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly, and ordering a fresh inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly within one week from the date of the said resolution.
“As earlier mentioned, this move was not unexpected in the light of the enormous political pressure which had been brought to bear on the officers and members of the distinguished Senate by the highly placed and powerful persons who are intent on foisting their will and choices on the good people of Edo State.
“The Government of Edo State wishes to observe that the chairman and members of Ad-Hoc Committee of the Senate which visited Edo State were made aware of the existence of at least three suits pending before various courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration have been submitted to the Courts by both contending parties for resolution.
“The Ad hoc Committee also failed to inform the Senate of the existence of a valid injunction in Suit No FHC/B/OS/70/2019 wherein the Federal High Court restrained various parties from interfering in any manner with the activities of the Edo State House of Assembly which said order had been brought to their attention in the course of their visit to Edo State.
“In point of fact in suit No. FHC/PH/CS/159/2019 the National Assembly, the Clerk of National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives, amongst others, were specifically ordered by the Federal High Court to maintain the status quo as at July 25, 2019.
“The Edo State Government is further aware that in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/815/2019, wherein the Clerk and the National Assembly are defendants before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the National Assembly and the clerk have not only been duly served with the processes but have entered appearance in the matter.
“It is unfortunate that the distinguished Senate would act in flagrant breach of these various court orders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the courts and therefore subjudice.
“We are also concerned that the members of the distinguished Senate appear to have very scant regard for the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in our constitution which is manifested by their taking over the functions of the judiciary in dispute resolution and giving directives to a governor of a state who is certainly not subject to the supervision of the National Assembly.
“The Edo State Government maintains that there is nowhere in the Constitution, particularly Section 11(4), which enables the National Assembly to “take over” any House of Assembly or in this respect, the Edo State House of Assembly,” the state read in part.
According to the state government, the governor, having complied with Section 105(3) of the 1999 Constitution on the issuance of a proclamation letter, lacks the power to recall it and issue another one.
“It is the duty of the Clerk of the House of Assembly to inaugurate the House of Assembly and he has since performed that task. He has further approached a court of law to seek a validation of his actions. The pronouncements of the distinguished Senate on the subject (with respect) is clearly misconceived and would amount to interference in the role of the courts, which may in fact constitute contempt with which the governor would not wish to be associated,” it added.