By Emma Amaize, Gabriel Enogholase & Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY- ONLY those involved saw it coming. Few hours after 19 members-elect of the Edo House of Assembly protested Governor Godwin Obaseki’s non-proclamation to pave the way for their inauguration, only nine members were available when the House was inaugurated by the Clerk of Assembly, Alhaji Audu Omogbai, on Monday nght with Mr. Frank Okiye from Esan North East I elected as Speaker, and Yekini Idiaye of Akoko-Edo I as Deputy Speaker. Sitting was thereafter adjourned till July 17.
The move means the proxy war between APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Obaseki has assumed a new dimension
Genesis of the crisis
The 19 lawmakers accused Governor Obaseki of attempting to scuttle democracy by refusing to send a letter of proclamation to that effect at a time all state Houses of Assembly had been inaugurated.
Addressing journalists in Benin on behalf of the 19 lawmakers, Mr Washington Osifo, the member-elect for Uhunmwonde constituency said: “Whereas the tenure of the members of the last Assembly expired on 7th June 2019, Whereas the governor by virtue of Section 105 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is constitutionally required to immediately issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the new Assembly to avoid vacuum. Whereas all other states of the federation of Nigeria have inaugurated their Houses of Assembly, Governor Godwin Obaseki has deliberately refused to allow the House of Assembly to function thus usurping the powers of the legislators.”
APC chairman reads riot act
Edo APC Chairman, Mr. Anselm Ojezua had threatened to sanction the lawmakers-elect if they did not abide by the zoning arrangement spelt out by the party leadership. All the 24 members are from APC but they could not agree on who should be speaker among the trio of Messrs Frank Okiye, Victor Edoror and Emma Okoduwa.
Governor aligning with APC position
While the governor and the party leadership prefer Okiye, the 19 lawmakers are angling for Edoror.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Paul Ohonbamu, dismissed as false allegations that the governor trying to impose a leadership on the House, adding that the governor was aligning with the party’s position. He said the party does not want what befell the Sixth Assembly where they had four speakers in four years to recur.
However, the party had its way on Monday night with the election of Okiye. However, the stage for instability has been set as the 19 members-elect are said to be insisting on independence of the House.Vanguard gathered that a team of lawyers were assembled earlier in the day to study the implication of the planned inauguration before three lawmakers were said to have been invited for a meeting and in the process their phones were allegedly taken from them and then they were driven to the House of Assembly and sworn in by the Clerk.
All the entry points to the assembly complex were cordoned by security personnel to avert the breakdown of law and order and not less than 17 police patrol vehicles were stationed at the entrance of the gate during the inauguration. The lawmakers later visited Governor Godwin Obaseki at his private residence.
Yesterday morning, thugs took over the Assembly gate as early as 7am hailing the inauguration of nine of the 24 members of the House.
A letter of proclamation obtained by Vanguard indicated that the governor sent the letter to the Clerk of the House on June 14 for the inauguration to hold on Monday
However while some of the thugs were busy keeping watch at the various gates of the House, another group, named Concerned Youths of Edo State, led by Kelly Uhunoma Okungbowa, stormed the assembly premises with placards of various inscriptions and chanting songs of solidarity in support of Obaseki and the emergence of Okiye as Speaker of the Seventh Assembly.
According to him “I am here this morning with the good people of Edo State, Concerned Youths of Edo State to felicitate with one of our own, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye, the newly elected speaker of Edo State House of assembly
“We are here to inform the people of the world that what happened yesterday (Monday) is a welcome development in our state and we want to use this opportunity to urge the rest of the elected members to follow suit with the same way others came yesterday to elect their speaker and deputy speaker.”
Okiye promises to work with Obaseki
A few minutes after, Okiye arrived at the Complex, and said that the new members were ready to take the bull by the horn, and would never deviate from the law making business.
“Business of law making as it concerns legislative dealings is very precise. We will make sure we don’t allow the gap between the House members and their constituents exit any more because once the gap is breached, they (the constituents) will have the dividends of democracy much more.
“We know that transferring raw materials from our various localities is challenging. We are prepared to deal with the complexity associated. We are hitting the ground running as quick as possible. As legislator, we will collaborate with the executive for better quality delivery that will lead to greater Edo State through motions and bills,’’ he said.
On why the House adjoined for four weeks, he said it was to enable them fix logistics, “the air condition in the inner office is not working. We need to check the offices, staff and legislative aides must be competent because we want them to meet up on the kind of job we want to do.”
Okiye also said the Seventh Assembly under his leadership will work assiduously to complement Governor Obaseki’s effort in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
“We are very determined and in high spirits to hit the ground running. The job we are doing will not be completed without the complementation of the executive. I subscribe to the fact that the governor is doing well and we will partner with him along that line to do better. The betterment of Edo State in terms of economic and security is our focal point and we intend to address that headlong.”
The Speaker said the Seventh assembly will be different from the former as it was bent on getting closer to the people at the grassroots in order to feel their pulses and formulate policies that will improve on their well beings.
Obaseki, congratulates Okiye, Idiaye
Meanwhile, Governor Obaseki has congratulated Speaker Okiye and his Deputy, Yekini Idiaye, on their emergence.
In a statement yesterday in Benin, the governor said with the inauguration of the Assembly, all was set for the members to commence legislative activities and perform their responsibilities to engender development across the state. “I congratulate the Seventh Assembly on their inauguration and the election of Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye as Speaker and Hon. Yekini Idiaye as Deputy Speaker. Their emergence, I am sure, will pave way for more development in the state.”
He assured of maintaining a seamless, fruitful relationship with the Seventh Assembly as experienced during the Sixth Assembly, noting that a cordial relationship would ensure delivery of dividends of democracy to the people.
“We are ready to work with the newly inaugurated Assembly in deepening progressive ideals in the state, ensuring that there is a close synergy to see to the delivery of policies, programmes and initiatives targeted at repositioning the state as an economic powerhouse in the country.
“As we continue to provide tech-driven, people-centric governance in Edo State, there is no denying that the new leadership of the House will key into our overall objective of re – articulating Edo state for prosperity and economic growth.’’
Osifo blasts Obaseki over midnight inauguration of House
However, Co-ordinator of Nigeria Grassroots Patriots and University don, Dr Isaiah Osifo, has slammed Governor Obaseki over the ‘midnight inauguration’ of the House, describing it as “desperation taken too far.”
“How can a people be so desperate? Inaugurating less than a simple majority of the 24 elected members of Edo State House of Assembly is a crime by the so -called clerk of the House of Assembly and his sponsors against the people of Edo state,” he said in a statement.