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Battle for Edo Assembly: Warring members-elect tender ‘evidence of illegality’ in Abuja

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Moves to resolve the political quagmire in Edo State House of Assembly by the House of Representatives have begun in earnest. Sunday Vanguard was at the maiden meeting of the Committee set up to interface with all the parties involved.

To say that the Edo State House of  Assembly is not in a quandary is to muzzle and stifle free speech. The 7th assembly, from the first day of its alleged nocturnal inauguration, has been enmeshed in crisis that has assumed a feudal dimension between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who, incidentally, is the immediate past governor of the state.

Edo Assembly
Oshiomhole-Obaseki

The quagmire stems from the control of the assembly.

The battle has divided the legislature along two factions with nine members allegedly doing the bidding of the governor, shutting out 15 of their colleagues from both inauguration and participation in all-APC House in the process.

But whichever way it is viewed, politics is at play and, for a typical Nigerian politician, the fallout always creates a feeling of ‘no retreat, no surrender’ until the battle is won or lost.

Now, from every mathematical perspective, conceivable stance and reasonable stand-point, 15 is greater than nine and so, it gives one some infantile convulsions and somewhat brain teasers to fathom how the number would constitute themselves into an ideal legislature, comfortably running the affairs of Edo with the majority of them excluded since June 17 when a proclamation was issued by the governor to inaugurate the assembly.

At the moment, the 15 members-elect are yet to take their oath of office almost one month after.

Reps’ Intervention 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has stepped into the matter.

This happened through a motion at last Tuesday plenary.

The motion, sponsored by Julius Ihonvere, Peter Akpatason and Johnson Oghuma of various federal constituencies of the state, prayed the House of Reps to take over the functions of the Edo parliament as provided by Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The motion titled, ‘Urgent Need for Intervention in the Edo State House of Assembly Crisis’, presented by Ihonvbere, highlighted the issues, praying the House to, in the light of “Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, take over the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly and ensure the proper inauguration of the House, with the Inspector General of Police and the Director General, State Security Services providing the necessary security for the 24 members-elect to be sworn-in as expected and required by Law.”

He went on: “The House notes with concern the improper, clandestine and nocturnal inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly on the 17th of June, 2019, wherein nine of the 24 members-elect were purportedly sworn-in without the knowledge of the other 15 members-elect”.

Contributing to the debate, Ogume said the situation “is not acceptable and we are in a position to reverse that.”

Akpatason, on his part, said it was unfortunate that such a situation would be playing out in an APC controlled House.

But to Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas from Adamawa State, the crisis should be investigated first.

Mohammed Monguno from Borno State said the House should do the needful to take over the House.

Hon. Nkem Abonta from Abia State, however, said, “We should not debate the matter but send it to committee.”

Ruling on the matter, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila agreed to the constitution of a committee.

Setting up the committee of 15 members, the Speaker named Namdas its Chairman.

The committee commenced hearing on Wednesday, the following day.

At the hearing, the Edo House members-elect fingered the executive arm as the mastermind of the crisis in the state parliament.

Testifying before the committee, the members-elect alleged that the state administration was begging them to come for inauguration with mouth-watering offers.

According to them, the offers were being made to elicit their support to the current leadership of the House and stop them from demanding its proper inauguration.

Hon. Chris Okaeben representing Oredo West state constituency said the crisis was occasioned by their determination to achieve legislative independence and free the assembly from the control of Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Executive arm.

According to him, most of the returning members were embarrassed by the level of executive control in the immediate past 6th assembly, making it an “appendage of the executive”.

“They even forced us to vote against our own autonomy,” he said.

Also testifying before the committee, another member-elect, Eric Okakah, said he was abducted by a leader he had confidence in, taken to the Government House and was later conveyed in a bus alongside others to forcefully participate in the inauguration”.

On his part, another member-elect, Washington Osifo, told the committee that there was no form of communication, formal or informal, to them to come for the inauguration of the House even after they had held two press conferences, urging the governor to issue proclamation for 7th Assembly.

“The Edo State House of Assembly was, on June 17, illegally inaugurated”, he added.

He said that it was a surprise to them that eight of their colleagues could secretly go for the inauguration only for them to get the pictures of the event on their phone.

The members-elect later tendered 15 flash drives which they said contained real-time details of all the happenings at the time of the inauguration, press conferences, high-profile phone conversations and threats to their lives.

In his remarks earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Namadas, said the panel chose to commence with 15 lawmakers because of alleged security threats to their lives.

He said the committee would be in Edo to meet with the governor, other members of the House and all stakeholders on the matter.

He promised that the committee as a fact-finding one would be fair to all parties involved.

Bottom line

The committee has become the cynosure of all eyes as attention of the public has shifted to it with many believing that where no amicable compromise is reached amongst the warring parties, it may recommend the invocation of the relevant session of the extant laws to force decorum and restore sanity in the state legislature.

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