By Simon Ebegbulem & Daniel Idonor
BENIN CITYâ€”FOLLOWING the fracas between members of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, and their counterparts in the Action Congress, AC, in the Edo State House of Assembly, Monday, the Assembly premises was, Tuesday, sealed off by armed mobile policemen numbering more than two thousand.
Three Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, were stationed at the gate and around Ring Road. This came as thousands of PDP youths led by Jarret Tenebe, led a street protest against the suspension of the Speaker, Zakawanu Garuba by AC lawmakers in the House.
A counter protest by AC youths led by Osakpamnwan Eriyo, called for the arrest and prosecution of the PDP lawmakers who allegedly used an axe and tear gas canisters on three AC lawmakers, Philip Shuaibu, Johnson Oghuma and Kabiru Adjoto.
Shuaibu reportedly received serious cut on his legs and left hand while Oghuma received a deep cut on the head.
The protesting AC and PDP youths clashed at Ring Road, and would have foisted another round of blood letting but for the quick intervention of armed mobile policemen stationed in the area. Following the defection of one PDP lawmaker, Bright Omokhodion to the AC, the 13 lawmakers suspended the Speaker, Zakawanu Garuba, his deputy, Levis Aigbogun and Frank Okiye. Consequently, they elected Peter Aliu, Etsako East, as Acting Speaker.
However, Zakawanu and the PDP leadership in the state, led by Chief Dan Orbih described the suspension as illegal, asserting that the lawmakers lack the two-thirds majority to impeach the Speaker. Acting Speaker, Aliu, however, told newsmen that Zakawanu and two others were suspended and urged them to hand over all property belonging to the House.
Briefing by PDP and AC youths
Tenebe who addressed newsmen on behalf of the youths who protested in solidarity to Speaker Zakawanu, accused the state government of masterminding the impeachment and vowed that the people of the state would resist any attempt to illegally remove the Speaker.
He said: â€œI am from the same local government with the Governor, Comrade Oshiomhole, and the Speaker, but ever since he became governor there has been lawlessness in the state. Last Monday, the Speaker adjourned sitting but some dissident lawmakers went there to say he has been impeached. But we have decided that no one has monopoly of violence. Edo State belongs to all of us and the governor should leave Zakawanu alone.â€
Countering Tenebeâ€™s claim, AC youths led by Osakpanmwan declared: â€œthe PDP lawmakers went there with arms to foment trouble and they wounded three AC lawmakers whom we do not know if they will survive. We voted for these people to go and make laws for us not to be carrying arms. We call on the police to quickly arrest and prosecute these lawmakers. Zakawanu has been removed by his colleagues; he should go to court if he feels aggrieved.â€
Former Deputy Speaker of the House and Special Adviser to the Governor on Parliamentary Matters, Omo Ezomo, said that â€œthey had 16 signatories and that constitutes two thirds of members. This is not the first time impeachment has happened in that House and I have been privileged to be a partaker of most of the impeachments.
â€œSo the moment a petition is presented before the House regarding malpractice and irregularities before the House, from that moment the Speaker steps down because he cannot be a judge in his own case. They have to investigate the allegations and if thereafter the allegations are proven not to be true, he can come back as Speaker. I think what happened last Monday followed the due process of the law and Zakawanu should accept it.â€
But a former member of the House and immediate past state representative on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mathew Iduoriyekewnen, disagreed, saying that â€œsection 92 sub section C of the constitution, provides that a Speaker cannot be removed with less than two-third members. Agreed that one PDP member defected but they are just 13 members. You are aware that they forged the signatures of three members of the House, Segun Saiki, Dr Israel Aguele and Patrick Aisowieren and these people have come out to say so.â€
Though the House was sealed off at the time of filing this report, Vanguard was reliably informed that the AC members will meet this evening at the House where a substantive Speaker will emerge. Vanguard also learnt that the member representing Esan West, Bright Omokhodion who defected to the AC from the PDP last Monday, would be crowned as the new Speaker.
Oshiomhole blames PDP for crisis
GovernorÂ Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, yesterday, lambasted the opposition in the state for the crises in the House of Assembly which led to theÂ impeachment of the Speaker, Zakawanu Garuba; saying that such crises have, over the years, become a culture of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents, the governor explained that it was unfortunate for the opposition to link him to the crises, saying that the removal and appointment of Speaker in the State House of Assembly was not part of his constitutional role in the state.
Governor Oshiomhole said: â€œThe constitution is very clear. I have powers to appoint commissioners but even that power is shared with the House because the House must clear and approve. I have powers to appoint advisers; I have powers to appoint permanent secretaries. I do not have powers to appoint speakers and so the constitution did not give me any role in it and of course I do not have any role in what happened yesterday. You probably saw me here yesterday. I was at the Villa in the morning and from here I went to Calabar.
â€œIn Edo State PDP to PDP they changed speakers several times. Egbadon was replaced by Itula, both of them Esan from the same LGA. This was PDP replacing PDP. Before then Egbadon had replaced another speaker again from the same area.
This was within a period of two to three years. So was it coercion they were using to impeach themselves. In Delta State we saw PDP law makers on their own carrying chairs and tables in effecting changes. In Ogun State, you saw battles within PDP members.â€
Asked if it was right for 13 lawmakers to make impeachment possible in an Assembly of 24 members the Governor said: â€œI am not a lawyer or a counsel to any of the factions but I donâ€™t think it is reasonable on your part in a conflict situation where you know that truth is the first casualty. You donâ€™t lift the statement of one party and exclude the statement of the others.”