By Ozioruva Aliu
THE crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly continued yesterday with the 15 lawmakers-elect, who were absent during the Monday night inauguration insisting on proper inauguration of the assembly and the members allowed to choose their leaders.
They insisted that they were properly elected by the people but the House was not properly inaugurated. They said while they were strategizing and waiting for a follow-up message from the Clerk on when they would be inaugurated, the House was inaugurated with only nine persons in attendance including four of them who were allegedly forced into the chambers for inauguration.
However, by way of consolidating on his emergence as Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Frank Okiye has resumed duties, performing oversight functions with some lawmakers and has been receiving visitors, congratulatory messages and paying courtesy visits.
The crisis is raging because while the 15 lawmakers want proper inauguration, the Edo State All Progressives Congress, Chairman, Barr Anselm Ojezua said the lawmakers were going off line of the party’s path and should find their way back so that they could be integrated.
Ojezua said: “Before the House was inaugurated the party had already taken a position and the inauguration is in line with the party’s decision, the only thing is that we have to appeal to those who seemed to be out of line to fall in line so that they can move forward, they must remember that they are products of the party and not independent. The party has taken a position and they appear to be falling out of that position. So all they need to do is just come to the leadership and then they will be inaugurated.’’
On the legality of the election of some principal officers, he said: “At least there are some people among them who are ranking members who have understanding of the House rules. They also know what the constitution says in relation to forming a quorum in the House. Everybody knows that one-third of the total number forms a quorum and that a quorum can take a decision in the House and the choice of who leads the House is a simple majority decision.”
When contacted, yesterday, former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun simply said what was happening in the state was the fallout of godfatherism.
We’re deliberately schemed out – Osifo
However, the spokesperson of the 15 lawmakers, Washington Osifo, countered that they were deliberately schemed out because the governor wanted to impose a speaker on them.
According to him, they prevailed on Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue the letter of proclamation days after the Sixth Assembly ended but he insisted on some conditions.
He said: “We persistently prevailed on the governor to send a letter of proclamation and he said he would do it but with some pre-conditions and we later discovered that the pre-condition is to appoint the Speaker of the House and that if we do not accept, there will be no proclamation. We felt he was holding the Assembly on the jugular, we felt he was standing democracy on its head and we said no and by our very conscience championed by the mandate given to us by our people, we began to ask ourselves what kind of leadership, what kind of representation are we going to give in the House? We were ready and capable but the man refused to send a letter of proclamation.”On the issue of the inaugurated nine members forming a quorum, Osifo said: “There can be no quorum until a House is properly inaugurated. What the law requires is the inauguration of the entire members, which they failed to do. In a hurry, they went to that section of the constitution looked for eight numbers, got nine after kidnapping four of members-elect, and inaugurated the House and they called it proper inauguration.
What they were supposed to do is after the governor sent the proclamation, the Clerk will give a universal information to the entire world, and if you like, a personal invitation sent to us as members-elect so that we can also inform our loved ones and well wishers. The question is would we have been there if we were told? Of course we would have been there because the reason for our agitation was for the governor to send a letter of proclamation so that we can be inaugurated but they did that by giving the information only to those they wanted to be there and then kidnapped the four to make the nine and left us out. ‘’Today what we are saying is that we are here to tell the world and to thank Nigerians because we have followed their reactions to the heinous crime and criminality performed by the executive arm of Edo state government. What they did was an aberration, it further offended the expectations of the constitution. We want to again call on the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria, we want to again call on the leadership of the National Assembly, we want to call on our royal father the Oba of Benin, we want to call on all traditional rulers in Edo state and all clergymen, we want to call on the National Working Committee to rise up and speak to the conscience of these men and let democracy work in Nigeria. This is not a good lesson to learn in a democracy, those behind us are watching, we want to represent our people and represent them very well.”
Groups, others speak
However, a public affairs analyst, Barr Douglas Ogbankwa, said the process fell short of the law and called the Clerk to reconvene the House for proper inauguration.
Some groups in the state including Edo in Safe Hands Group, Godwin Obaseki Support Group (GOSG), Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM), Concerned Citizens of Edo State (CCES), among others, have hailed the peaceful emergence of the Assembly leadership.
Spokesperson, Edo in Safe Hands group, Mr. Nosa Idele Ogbeide, in a statement, said the group is pleased with the peaceful inaugural sitting of the Seventh Assembly, noting, “with the peaceful inauguration of the Assembly, elected members who have been sworn-in should waste no time in settling down to legislative business. “We join other well-meaning Edo people to celebrate the emergence of Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye of Esan North East Constituency I, as the Speaker, and Hon. Yekini Idiaye of Akoko Edo Constituency I, as Deputy Speaker. We are confident that Rt. Hon. Okiye will bring his expertise and level-headedness to bear in providing leadership to the Assembly.”
The GOSG threw its weight behind the emergence of Okiye as speaker, saying: “We hail Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye’s emergence as the speaker of the newly inaugurated State House of Assembly. We urge the new speaker and other members of the Assembly who have been duly sworn-in to join hands in drafting legislations that will put the state on the path of history.”
The Obaseki/Shaibu Movement, OSM, in a statement, also hailed the emergence of Okiye, noting that the will of the party has prevailed.
Ogbankwa agrees with G-15
However, a public affairs analyst and lawyer, Douglas Ogbankwa, agreed with the protesting lawmakers, saying: “The processes leading to the purported inauguration is faulty in many respect. First of all, proclamation was sent in secret as if they were going to inaugurate a secret society. Second of all, members did not have notice of the purported inauguration, the inauguration was done in the night under heavy security cover, the media was not allowed to observe the inauguration, usually some critical stakeholders are invited to observe the integrity of the process.
‘’There are some issues that did not conform with the rule of the Edo State House of Assembly. Order 2 Rule 1 of the Standing Rules of Edo State House of Assembly 2015 says that no member shall be eligible to be elected as speaker or deputy speaker except he has prior legislative experience so the purported deputy speaker does not have any legislative experience. Of the 24 members, we have up to eight of them that were re-elected and have legislative experience. You can only talk about quorum after inauguration.’’
He also queried the adjournment till July 17 when other members have not been inaugurated. “What it means is that at least about 12 to 14 constituencies will have no representative in the House of Assembly till July 17, that in itself is injustice to those constituents who are supposed to have their legislators representing their interests in the House.”
Ogbankwa said “the way forward is for the clerk of the House to give proper notices to all the members to reconvene and there will be a proper inauguration with all the members present to choose their leaders are. That is the way forward.”