A Divided Nasarawa Assembly

The emergence of two Speakers in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly is creating tension in the state, Igbawase Ukumba writes

There is confusion at the moment in Nasarawa State following the emergence of two Speakers at the 7th state House of Assembly.

The confusion at the state House of Assembly was alleged to have been caused by the supremacy battle between the trio of the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; the former governor of the state, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura and the former Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, on one hand and  former  Rivers State Governor, Nyesom  Wike on the other hand.

It was alleged further that the trio have the sympathy of the state chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Francis Orogu.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that their alleged alliance paved the way for Hon. Ogah Ogazi to emerge as a factional Speaker of the state House of Assembly at the state assembly complex, while the former speaker, Ibrahim Abdullahi was re-elected by some members at a different venue.

The ruling APC in the state had vowed that it would not fold its arms and watch the former leaders causing confusion in the state, pointing out that the development was capable of derailing the tremendous progress so far made by Governor Sule.

Meanwhile, records have shown that the lawmakers in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly consist of 11 APC members, eight PDP members while other minority parties such as the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) have three and two members, respectively.

While the immediate past speaker, Ibrahim Abdullahi (APC Umaisha/ Ugya State Constituency), was re-elected by 11 members at the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs, Ogazi (APC Kokona East State Constituency) was elected by 13 members at the State House Assembly complex.

However, there was drama in the morning of the election day when the state House of Assembly postponed indefinitely the inauguration of the 24 members-elect earlier scheduled for last Tuesday by 10am, citing insecurity.

Acting Clerk of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Ibrahim Musa, said in a statement that the inauguration of the 7th Assembly had been postponed indefinitely over security threat.

Consequently, there was heavy security presence at the State House of Assembly complex, as the entrance was barricaded to prevent everyone from gaining access to the premises.

But in a twist later in the afternoon, the immediate past Speaker of the Assembly, Ibrahim Abdullahi and 10 other members reportedly converged at the State Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs where he was pronounced re-elected as Speaker of the 7th Assembly. The 11 members-elect also elected the member representing Nasarawa Eggon East State Constituency, Jacob Kudu, as Deputy Speaker.

Similarly, the 13 other members-elect, sitting at the Nasarawa State House of Assembly complex, reportedly elected Ogazi as the Speaker, and Hon. Mohammed Oyanki as his deputy.

However, Governor Sule said he only recognised Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi as Speaker of the state assembly. Sule made his position known to the people of Nasarawa State when he featured as a guest on ARISE NEWS Channel, insisting that he only recognised Abdullahi who was sworn in by the Clerk of the House.

He said: “Only the clerk can swear in a speaker. The moment he inaugurates a speaker, the speaker will now turn around to inaugurate the other members. In Nasarawa State, we have the House of Assembly and the former House of Assembly. The clerk went and sworn in these members-elect and brought them to my office. Some people are making noise about whether they are 10 or eight.”

The governor, therefore, said the quorum for the House of Assembly was one-third.

“I followed the law. Who do you want me to recognise? The one sworn-in by the clerk or the one sworn-in by only God knows who?” the governor reportedly queried.

“I think executives have the right as human beings. As a governor, I am also a citizen of Nasarawa State. I have the right to say I prefer this rather than that. I have a choice. I am a human being. But it is not compulsory,” he added.

Sule, therefore, explained that his preference for Abdullahi was because he was mature and had been able to keep the state House of Assembly calm.

“Before Speaker Abdullahi came, we had members of the House of Assembly in Nasarawa State that were actually punching each other. Since I came in 2019, there has not been one time where we had any kind of problems within the House where people are punching each other.

“He has the respect of most of the members. We have 11 members of the assembly that are APC. Eight are with him in this same exercise that we are talking about. Before I had my preference, I had a discussion with the party and the party also chose him and said that it is the right person that we want,” the governor said.

The governor argued that he consulted also with some of the major stakeholders in the state who also agreed that Abdullahi was the right person.

“I didn’t just jump up and said this is the person I want. I made consultations. Then we called all the legislators from our party and told them this is who we want to be Speaker and we want them to support him,” Sule explained.

A new twist has been added to the controversy as a Federal High Court in Lafia had been urged to stop Abdullahi and Jacob Ajegana Kudu from parading themselves as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly.

The court was also urged to make “an order nullifying the purported oath of office taken on the 6th day of June, 2023,” by Balarabe, Kudu and nine other members-elect, listed as 1st – 11th defendants in the suit FHC/LF/CS/8/23, and inaugurated at the Conference Room of the Nasarawa State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Lafia or anywhere outside the assembly’s parliamentary chambers.

The Ogazi-led assembly members with the House of Assembly joined as 14th plaintiff, in the originating summons dated June 7 and filed on June 9 by their team of lawyers, including Johnson Usman (SAN) and SI Ameh.

Ogazi sued Abdullahi, Jacob Kudu, Suleiman Yakubu and Ven-Bawa Larry as 1st to 4th defendants, respectively.

Others are Musa Ibrahim, Danladi Jatau, Mohammed Omadefu, Solomon Akwashiki, Hajarat Ibrahim, Musa Guide, Emmanuel Mading, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General (IG) of Police, Nasarawa State Commissioner of Police, Department of State Services (DSS), the Governor of Nasarawa State and National Assembly as 5th to 17th defendants.

They prayed the court to make “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st – 11th defendants from parading themselves as the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and members of the 14th plaintiff (House of Assembly), having not taken their oath of office in the 14th plaintiff’s parliamentary chambers or in the 14th plaintiff.

They are seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 13th – 15th defendants (IG, Commissioner of Police and DSS) from intimidating, harassing, arresting or detaining the 1st – 13th plaintiffs in order to prevent them from performing their functions as the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly including making laws for the Nasarawa State when they were inaugurated and sworn-in in the Chambers of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly as required by law.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 12th defendant (INEC) either by itself, agents, privies, or any of their other organs or officials (anyhow so called) from recognising the 1st – 11th defendants as members of the 14th plaintiff (assembly) until they are validly or legally sworn-in”, among other reliefs.

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