By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN — POLITICAL tension heightened in Edo State, yesterday, as 19 members of the state House of Assembly removed the Speaker of the House, Mr Justin Okonoboh; his deputy, Mrs Elizabeth Atvie and Majority Leader, Folly Ogedengbe, over alleged abuse of office.]
The lawmakers accused the Speaker of illegal award of contracts and high handedness.
The lawmakers, consequently, elected the former Chief Whip of the House, Mr Kabiru Adjoto, representing Akoko Edo constituency 1, as the new Speaker, Victor Edoror (Esan Central) was elected Deputy Speaker and Rolland Asoro (Orhiomwon South), Majority Leader.
With the development, the political tripod of the state has changed as Edo North now has the Speaker; Central district, deputy while Edo South, where Governor Obaseki hails from, now has the Majority Leader position.
Adjoto thanks colleagues
Addressing journalists, Adjoto, who thanked his colleagues for electing him, said: “We have 19 signatures and all we did today (yesterday) is according to the law. We did not know initially that we voted in an incompetent Speaker. He (Okonoboh)has continued to adjourn proceedings in the Assembly for selfish reasons without due regard for our sitting calendar.
“In June and July we went on holidays for six weeks without any reason. In July ending in August, another holiday for two weeks. Now, we went for holidays for three weeks just because his son graduated from Covenant University and he wanted to be there and celebrate with the son.
“Secondly, we are 24 members in the Edo State House of Assembly. Any decision we take in the House, the wife who is the 25th member will vet it before it becomes law. He now raised a memo, they travelled to celebrate a party in America for their son that graduated from Covenant University, they were using the Speaker’s vehicle in convoy within Edo State and outside the state, the children who are home were using his serene with full Speaker’s regalia.
“So we need somebody who will respect the sanctity of the office of the Speaker, somebody who will think Edo people first, who will make laws for the people of the state and I know that I will not disappoint our people.”
It’s illegal, I remain speaker —Okonoboh
But reacting, Okonoboh said: “What they did was illegal. Those who purportedly impeached me have been suspended. This morning (yesterday), we started plenary when the member representing Akoko Edo 2, Emmanuel Agbaje, stood up, I asked him to sit down he refused. That was when confusion started and they started the fight.
“This cannot happen at this time that we need peace in Edo State for development. All they said about me are rubbish. These people have been very ambitious for their selfish interest. They don’t want peace in our state, they don’t want the governor to work and that is the issue. I remain Speaker of the Edo state House of Assembly.
“Because of this, the following members have been suspended: Mr Adjoto, Mr Victor Edoror, Mr Monday Ehalua, Mr Asoro, Mr Peter Erhuaha, Mr Sunday Aghede, Mr Emmanuel Agbaje, Osaigbovo Iyoha. For peace to return to the House they have been suspended.”
It’ll strengthen the legislature—CNPP
Reacting, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, led by Dr Samson Isibor, commended the lawmakers for a peaceful takeover of power, describing it as entirely the business of the House that must not be faulted.
His words: “It is unfortunate but it is a welcome development in the sense that this is democracy at work. The members have the right to choose their leaders.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the APC in the state, led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, met at the party’s secretariat to resolve the feud, yesterday, but Obaseki left the meeting disappointed after the lawmakers insisted that the new leadership stays.
All attempts to persuade the lawmakers to allow Okonoboh remain Speaker failed.