Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Showdown appeared imminent between the House of Representatives and the state House of Assembly following a directive to Governor Godwin Obaseki, to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Assembly.
If the governor fails to comply with the resolution within one week, the House said it would invoke its Constitution powers and take over the functions of the state lawmakers, until normalcy returns to the assembly.
The House also directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu and Director General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji, to shut down the Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect.
The resolution followed the adoption of report of the House of Representaives Ad-hoc committe at plenary, yesterday.
The report was earlier considered at the Committee of the Whole, chaired by the deputy speaker, Idris Wase.
But in a swift reaction, the state Assembly drew the attention of the federal lawmakers to a subsisting court order forbiding it or any other agency from interfering with its proceeding.
The Green Chamber had last week set up an Ad-hoc panel to investigate the crisis rocking the Assembly, following a motion calling for intervention.
The Edo Assembly have been in crisis since June 17, when nine members participated in the inaugural session and elected Frank Okiye as speaker.
The other 15 members alleged foul play, stating that they were not invited. However, three of the 15 protesting members later presented themselves to Okiye, who administered the oath of office on them.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Abdulrasak Namdas, said the 13-man committee in the course of its assignment met with all the parties in the crisis.
The committee attributed the crisis to the struggle by the two factions to produce the speaker of the House and lack of adequate communication.
Namdas stated that the committee also discovered that the proclamation was issued ten days after the expiration of the preceding Assembly, and did not contain the time and venue for the inaugural sitting.
The five-point recommendation of the committee, which was okayed by House, read in full:
“That the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in the interest of peaceful coexistence of the state should issue a fresh proclamation within one week in line with section 105(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), stating the date, time and venue and publish in any national daily and television station;
“That all actions taken by seventh Assembly members should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration;
“That all members of the Edo State House of Assembly, both those inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated, should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the House with the view to moving the state forward;
“That the Inspector General of Police and Director General, Department of State Services should shut down the Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect, and
“That where recommendations i, ii and iii above fail the National Assembly should invoke the provisions of sections 11(4) of the 1999 constitution to take over the state House of Assembly until situation normalize.”
Shortly before the adoption of the committee’s recommendation at the Committee of the Whole, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member from Abia State, urged the House to direct the Clerk of the Edo State House of Assembly to reconvene the House to enable members-elect yet to be sworn in take their oath of office rather than directing the governor to issue a fresh proclamation.
The lawmaker noted that the Green Chamber is not in position to nullify the proclamation of the Edo Assembly earlier issued by Governor Obaseki.
However, Nkem-Abonta was ruled out of order by the deputy speaker, who stated that the proclamation was a nullity as it was not properly done.
Edo Assembly: Respect subsisting court order
In its reaction, the Edo State House of Assembly flayed the move to disrupt activities in its chamber and called on the IGP, DSS and the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to respect a subsisting court order restraining them from interfering in the activities of the state Assembly.
Speaker of the Assembly, Frank Okiye, in a statement in Benin City, accused the federal lawmakers of bias, promoting violence and exacerbating the tension in the country.
Okiye said: “Considering what we came to know in the course of this process, the recommendation of the Ad-Hoc committee does not come to us as a surprise.”
Okiye claimed the chartered plane marked 5N FCT, which conveyed the committee members to Benin City was paid for by Oshiomhole, who he alleged is mastermind of the crisis.
He further claimed: “The younger brother to the National Chairman, Seid Oshiomhole, in a recent leaked audio conversation, revealed the underhand dealings in Abuja regarding the matter. He stated that Oshiomhole and his proxies have been having meetings with the committee members and other actors in the issue in Abuja and dolling out money to ensure the issue goes in their favour.
“With all these, it was clear that the ad-hoc committee was up to no good. Their report was always going to be biased.
“Moreover, we want to draw the attention of the general public and the police to a subsisting court order restraining the Police, headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Department of State Services (DSS) and their agents, from interfering in the affairs of the Assembly, as the House has been going about its activities peacefully and without rancour.
“The National Assembly must take note that they are expected to act as agents of peace and not merchants of crisis. Edo State has always been peaceful and any attempt for them to carry out this order will certainly disrupt the peace that is currently being enjoyed in the state.
Gov blames oshiomhole for crisis
Meanwhile, Governor Obaseki has blamed Oshiomhole for the instigating the crisis.
He spoke when he received Senate fact-finding Committee in Benin City, yesterday. The committee headed by Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi was constituted last week by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, following a point of order raised by Opeyemi Bamidele about the crisis rocking the Edo Assembly.
Part of the mandate of the committee is to establish what led to the crisis and guide the chamber on the next course of action.
Senator Abdullahi, during the meeting with the governor, assured that the Senate will not take sides, but ensure that the right thing is done.
Receiving member of the Committee in Government House, Governor Obaseki attributed the crisis to the failure of the APC national chairman to properly address the salient issues that led to the crisis.
Obaseki said he had performed his constitutional duty by issuing a proclamation letter and that the Clerk undertook the processes as deemed fit, adding that there were issues within the legislature and they had gone to the judiciary as the constitution provides for clear separation of powers.
“When people arbitrarily make up their minds because of some predetermined outcomes and make statements and conduct themselves, this is what it leads to. I issued a proclamation. Consultations were held before the proclamation was issued. Various party organs met before decisions were reached. As far as I am concerned, I abided by the Constitution and issued a proclamation. I believe in separation of powers.
“Whatever the outcome, we expected that if a higher authority were concerned about the fate of this state, they would have called to see how to resolve the issue but that wasn’t done. The matter has moved to court and all parties are in court. I have done my own bit. Within the legislature, there are issues and they have gone to the judiciary and the constitution provides for clear separation of powers.
“We have evidence that people are under pressure. Look at this matter in the interest of our country and in defence of our democracy”, Obaseki told the Committee.
Abdullahi said the Senate was concerned about restoring peace and order as provided for in the Constitutional, pointing out that there was no clash with the House of Representatives Committee as their duties are seen as a function of the National Assembly.
The Committee also met with the Speaker, Okiye, the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai and 11 other members of the House.
The Committee also visited the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, as well as other stakeholders.
The senate committee is expected to meet with Oshiomhole and other members-elect who are currently in Abuja.
We leave everything to God, ancestors – Oba
The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, has told the Senate Committee that he has left the situation to God and the ancestors.
“We can only pray that God and the ancestors should give you the wisdom to resolve the crisis and bring peace to the state.
“We are leaving everything into the hands of God and our ancestors now,” the Oba prayed.
The royal father expressed optimism that the committee will put their wealth of experience to bear to ensure peace is restored to the state.
Earlier, leader of the committee, told the monarch that they were in the state for a fact-finding mission with the view of providing a lasting solution so that the 24-member House could get down to work and deliver the dividends of democracy to the citizens who voted them.
He assured the monarch that they will be fair in their actions to all aggrieved parties.