By Deji Elumoye, Alex Enumah, Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday ordered parties in the crisis arising from the proclamation of the Edo State House of Assembly to halt hostilities and maintain status quo, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit before it.
The suit, filed by Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Frank
Okiye, and a faction of the state legislature, is challenging the powers of the National Assembly to take over the state’s legislative duties.
The National Assembly, before going on recess, had resolved to take over the
legislative functions of the state legislature if the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin
Obaseki, did not issue a fresh proclamation letter.
It also directed the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to shut down the state House of Assembly. However, as the deadline for the governor to issue the fresh proclamation letter expired on Tuesday, the Nigeria Police High Command said it would not seal the Assembly as directed by the National Assembly or interfere in the crisis rocking the state legislature.
The Senate has also deferred further actions on the crisis in the state Assembly till it resumes from its annual vacation on September 24.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in his ruling yesterday ordered all the parties to maintain status quo ante bellum. The judge also declined to entertain an interlocutory application brought before the court seeking to halt the National Assembly from taking over the state’s legislative functions.
The plaintiffs had on July 23, through an originating summons marked: FHC/ ABJ/CS/815/2019, asked the court to restrain the National Assembly from going ahead with its takeover plans pending the hearing on the matter.
Respondents in the suit include the Clerk of the National Assembly and the National Assembly.
The matter, which was brought before Justice Nkeonye Maha of the same Federal High Court, Abuja, was adjourned till July 31 for hearing since the parties were yet to be served.
However, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Ola Olanipekun (SAN), told the court that after the defendants had been properly served as ordered by the court, the Senate on July 30 passed a resolution for the takeover of the Assembly if the governor fails to comply with its resolution to issue a fresh proclamation.
But in a short ruling, Justice Taiwo ordered parties to halt all actions relating to the Edo State House of Assembly crisis.
The judge held that the order was intended to prevent parties, particularly the respondents, from foisting on the court a fait accompli.
“The order was informed by the apprehension expressed by lawyer to the plaintiffs, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), who said there were threats by the respondents to tamper with the subject of the dispute” he said.
Justice Taiwo, while refusing to entertain the interlocutory applications seeking to restrain the National Assembly from taking over the legislative duties of the Edo State House of Assembly, chose to hear the substantive suit and granted accelerated hearing.
He ordered the respondents to file their responses to the main suit within seven days and for the plaintiffs to file their reply within five days.
The inauguration of the state Assembly has been enmeshed in controversy since June 17 when nine out of the 24 members-elect during inauguration elected Okiye as
Following the development, the House of Representatives threatened to take over the Assembly should Obaseki fail to issue a fresh proclamation for the Assembly’s inauguration within one week.
After the police and the DSS failed to seal the Assembly, it later extended the ultimatum issued to Obaseki to one month.
The Senate also passed a similar resolution giving the governor one week to issue the proclamation letter or risk the takeover of the state’s legislature.
Police: We Won’t Interfere in Edo Assembly Crisis
Despite the directive of the National Assembly, the police said yesterday they would not interfere in the crisis rocking the state Assembly.
They said the decision not to interfere was in line with the order of the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, that restrained the police from complying with the National Assembly directive.
Before yesterday’s court order, the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, had restrained Obaseki from issuing a fresh proclamation letter as directed by the Senate.
The court also stopped the Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives or their agents, officers or privies from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of the state House of Assembly.
Reacting to the court order, police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said they would not seal off the Edo Assembly in accordance with the court order.
He told THISDAY that as a responsible organisation, the police would obey the court order.
Mba said even when the police were directed to interfere, they did not do so.
“Have we interfered? We have not interfered. Even when some people said we should interfere, have we?
My official reaction is that we are a very responsible and responsive organisation and we will do what is right at all time,” he said.
Senate: Edo Assembly Issue to Wait till September 24
The Senate yesterday also said all issues associated with the state House of Assembly would have to wait till its resumption on September 24.
Reacting to yesterday’s court order restraining the National Assembly from interfering in the affairs of the House of Assembly, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, told THISDAY that “all matters and decisions regarding the Edo Assembly crisis will wait until the Senate reconvenes on September 24, 2019.”
He said the Senate was on vacation and would not cut short its recess. “So, the issue of Edo Assembly will wait till we are back next month,” he said.
According to him, the one-week ultimatum given to Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the convening of the Edo Assembly, which expired on Tuesday, was based on the recommendations of the Senator Sabi Abdullahiled ad-hoc committee on Edo Assembly crisis, which the upper chamber upheld last week.
Also, the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives’ Pensions Committee and member, ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Bamidele Salam, representing Ede North, Ede South, Egbedore and Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State, said there were several court decisions that the court could not stop the National Assembly from carrying out its constitutional functions.
He said: “I am aware that there have been various decisions of the courts, which say that a court cannot stop the National Assembly from performing its statutory functions.
“So, if there is a statutory function that has been empowered by the constitution for the National Assembly, I don’t think the court can stop the House from performing that function. There are several decisions of courts on that.
“As far as I am concerned that is an exercise in futility because it is the constitution that gives that power to the House and it is one of the responsibilities which the House has to exercise wherever a state Assembly is not able to perform its functions as enshrined in the constitution.”
Obaseki: We Campaigned for Supportive Parliament to Serve Edo People
Obaseki yesterday expressed regrets over the crisis, saying his administration campaigned to have a strong and supportive parliament, dominated by All Progressives Congress (APC) legislators, to complement the efforts of the executive in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
Obaseki, while hosting executive members of Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN), Edo State chapter, who visited him at Government House, Benin City, wondered why some of the members-elect refused to be inaugurated.
He expressed delight that they are coming to terms with the reality on ground and the need to be inaugurated and effectively represent their people.
“We are one in the parliament as we campaigned vigorously to have an Edo State House of Assembly that will support the government to deliver good governance to Edo people. I don’t know why some of the members-elect don’t want to be inaugurated,” he said.
He called on the members-elect to get inaugurated and join hands with their colleagues in the legislature to conduct their legislative business and effectively represent their various constituencies.
“But I am hopeful on the discussions and I believe soon enough, things will be resolved as there is no crisis in Edo State. I urge staff of the Assembly and citizens to go about their lawful activities,” he added.
According to him, his administration is transparent and determined to do what is right and would ensure that Edo people enjoy good governance that would improve their livelihood.
The governor also said the state government would continue to prudently manage its resources for the benefit of the people while his administration would focus on training and retraining of civil servants, including members of PASAN.
“We will create a comfortable environment to train workers in the state for effective service delivery. We will look for ways to restructure, train, and provide facilities for you to work effectively. These are meant to motivate Edo workers,” he stated.
Leader of the delegation, Mr. Haruna Umar Farouk, commended the governor for his developmental strides and pledged the association’s support to his administration.