The crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress and the state House of Assembly took a new twist as the seat of the 12 lawmakers who have not been inaugurated were declared vacant by the the speaker of the House, Mr. Frank Okiye.
The House also declared vacant, the seat of two other lawmakers, Mr. Uyi Ekhosuehi and Mr. Henry Okaka who represent Oredo East and Owan East constituencies were innaugurated alongside nine others but refused to attend plenary for six months.
The Assembly has been engulfed in crisis over who becomes the speaker of the House following the supremacy battle between the national chairman, Adams Oshiomole and his political godson, Godwin Obaseki.
It was gathered that while Oshiomole wants Victor Edoro as speaker, Obaseki wants Frank Okiye to become speaker.
The development according to Daily Trust findings, led to the inauguaration of 11 members-elect by the speaker following a proclamation letter from Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Then, the 13 members-elect who have not been innaugurated moved to Abuja, claiming there was no innauguration and called for a fresh proclamation.
The members approached the National Assembly and both chambers intervened by calling on the state government to issue a fresh proclamation which the governor declined on the ground that he won’t issue two proclamations for one innauguration and accused the National Assembly of doing the bidings of the national chairman.
Interestingly, the battle over the inauguration shifted to the court with Obaseki and the House of Assembly winning the first round, as a Federal High Court declared that the governor had already issued a proclamation and can’t issue a second one.
Penultimate Wednesday, the speaker, Frank Okiye, declared vacant, seats of 12 members-elect who refused to present themselves to the Clerk of the House for inauguration.
The 12 members-elect are; Vincent Uwadiae- Ovia North-East 2 constituency, Ugiagbe Dumez- Ovia North-East 1, Washington Osifo- Uhunmwode, Michael Ohio-Ezomo Owan West constuency, Victor Edoror-Esan Central, Kingsley Ugabi-Etsako East.
Others are; Chris Okaeben-Oredo West constituency, Sunday Aghedo-Ovia SouthWest, Crosby Eribo-Egor, Oshomah Ahmed-Etsako Central, Ganiyu Audu-Etsako West 1 and Seidu Oshiomhole-Etsako West 2.
The speaker also declared the seats of Mr Uyi Ekhosuehi and Mr Henry Okaka representing Oredo East and Owan East respectively vacant for not meeting the mandatory sitting requirement.
Declaring the seats vacant during plenary, Okiye said the 12 members-elect defiantly refused to come and process the necessary documentation as part of the conditions for their inauguration.
“12 out of the 24 members-elect who completed their screening and documentation process were inaugurated on June 17, but two of them have refused to discharge their legislative duties. They have refused to represent their constituents in the House invariably denying their constituents effective representation,” he said.
He said the House declared their seat vacant in accordance with Section 109 sub-section 1F of the constitution.
The speaker urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by- elections within 90 days in the affected constituencies.
On his part, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Yekini Idiaye, said the resolution was reached at a plenary on Wednesday, December 4.
He said the absentee members-elects’ constituents had been complaining to the House that they wanted their voices and concerns to be heard in the House.
“So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraughted constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary,” he said.
Speaking with Daily Trust Saturday, the spokesperson of the concerned members-elect, Washington Osifo, representing Uhunmwode constituency, said INEC is an organised body and won’t do something in an unorgainsed manner.
“There is no organisation or body that obeys an unlawful directive and INEC on its own has said it will never obey the unlawful directive but would only take a lawful directive,”.
He said: “INEC is bound to do things in line with the law and that notwithstanding, the matter was in court when they took their decision. They don’t even have the power to declare our seats vacant.
“Our seats were never occupied because we are challenging them in court. We have been in court since June and no position was taken on it by the court and the court forbids any party to the case to do anything on any matter that is before it. That is the position of the law.
“Whatever step the House took last Wednesday as it relates to declaring our seats vacant is a nullity, just the same way the inauguration of the House on June 17 is a nullity.
“We are not surprised because illegality begets illegality and for Okiye to be working with Governor Godwin Obaseki, the right thing cannot be done. We were not surprised because those who do not mean well for the people are entrusted with responsibility and Okiye has become a willing tool in the hands of the governor,” he said.
He commended their constituents who he said are behind their action, noting that without their support they would not have been able to challenge the injustice.
On his part, the former speaker of the House whose seat was also declared vacant, Victor Edoro, said it was illegal to declare their seats vacant.
“As far as we are concerned, whatever is happening in the Edo State House of Assembly is illegal in the sense that we have no House of Assembly. It would only become a House once they comply with Section 91 of the constitution of Nigeria which stipulates clearly that for a state to have a House of Assembly, it must have not less than 24 members and not more than 40 and once that is not done, anything contrary is illegal”.
According to Edoro, in the first place, there is no House of Assembly in Edo State and as such Edo has no speaker, as the matter is in court and nobody can act on a matter before a court of competent jurisdiction.
“It is prejudice to act on a matter that is before the court and I will not join them in illegality,” he said.
Edoro representing Esan Central constituency however expressed optimism that the court would rule in their favour, saying judges in Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court are men of integrity and would do justice in the matter.
Meanwhile, INEC has said it would obey any lawful resolution of parliaments including that of Edo State.
According to Mr. Rotimi L. Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the commission, as a law-abiding institution, is committed to obeying the law.
“Unless there is a valid court order served on the commission asking it to take an action or to stay action on an issue, it is duty bound to obey any lawful pronouncement,” Oyekanmi said.
On the call on INEC, speaker Frank Okiye told Daily Trust Saturday that the House had forwarded its resolution to the commission for action. He said the House acted within the law and did what needed to be done according to the law.
“Members of their constituents are mounting pressure on us that they want to be represented in the House and we had to follow what the law says so that the people can be represented. That is what the law says and we acted within the law,” he said.
Also speaking, a group under the aegis of Reformed Oghomwan Mandate Group (ROMG) commended the House of Assembly for declaring the seats vacant.
A statement by the group’s Director of History, Statistics and Strategy, Mr. George Osagie Osaghae, said speaker Frank Okiye displayed uncommon courage in declaring the 14 members-elects’ seats vacant.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the Assembly’s declaration because a so-called honorable member-elect should not be allowed to continually hold the legislative progress of their constituencies to ransom in the name of godfatherism,”.
Osaghae said the members’ refusal to appear for inauguration after six months is a threat to democracy and the rule of law.
The group condemned what it described as reprehensible acts of hostility being waged against Governor Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shaibu and Speaker Frank Okiye by Adams Oshiomhole under the Edo Political Movement.