As Oshiomhole, Obaseki feud leaves Edo Assembly in shreds – Punch Newspapers

SOLA SHITTU writes that the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly, which has defied all forms of intervention, is affecting the stability of the state as ex-governor Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki continue to lock horns

The Edo State House of Assembly has been an arm of the government at the receiving end of the ongoing feud between the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Godwin Obaseki.

The proceedings of November 13, 2019, at the Edo State House of Assembly, will not easily be forgotten in the memories of those present at the House when Obaseki presented the 2020 budget proposal.

The Speaker of the House, Mr Frank Okiye, had invited the governor to present the budget proposal in the absence of 14 members of the House in a 24-member Assembly.

The crisis at the Assembly had started on June 17, 2019, when 14 members loyal to Oshiomhole were not inaugurated alongside their colleagues when the 7th Assembly was proclaimed.

The division has since snowballed into a major leadership crisis that has torn the APC in Edo State apart.

How the Edo Assembly crisis started

Sources trace the problem to the early days of Obaseki as the governor of the state.

The 6th Edo State House of Assembly had been inaugurated in 2015 by the former governor, Oshiomhole, before the 2016 election that brought Obaseki to power.

However, as soon as he (Obaseki) took over the reign of power, he began to implement stringent economic policies owing to alleged dwindling economic fortunes of the state.

The first among these policies was the cancellation of the constituency and annual vacation allowances of the lawmakers.

This, however, did not go down well with the lawmakers who made several efforts to let the governor see reasons why their constituency and annual vacation allowances should be restored.

The situation became almost unbearable for the lawmakers, but they kept quiet hoping that someday the governor would see reasons with them.

By 2019 when the general elections came, the lawmakers had concluded that the governor would never change his mind.

Nevertheless, the election was held and the ruling party, APC, won all the 24 seats in the House, a feat his predecessor, Oshiomhole could not achieve.

This was said to have further emboldened the governor to seek to control the House which was loyal to Oshiomhole.

Obaseki was said to have felt that leaving the assembly that way could threaten his re-election bid. He subsequently began moves to gain control of the House.

The controversial proclamation of Edo Assembly

On June 12, 2019, the governor informed the chairman of the party in the state, Anselm Ojezua, of his intention to issue the Proclamation Order for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly and that he would like the party to take responsibility for the emerging leadership of the House of Assembly, in line with the practice at the national level.

The State Working Committee of the party met on June 13, 2019 to deliberate on the matter and develop a framework for distributing the principal offices in the House; thereafter, another meeting was scheduled for June 14, comprising the SWC, members-elect and the leaders of the party across the state.

In that meeting, the leaders were requested to constitute themselves into senatorial committees to fill the positions allotted to their senatorial districts from among the members-elect. On Sunday, June 16, the final meeting was convened in the Government House, Benin where the final list was presented, adopted and announced to the members.

But on 17 June, a group of members-elect addressed a press conference and accused the governor of refusing to issue a Proclamation Order for the inauguration of the House and attempting to foist a Speaker on them.

It turned out that as of the time they were addressing the press, the Proclamation Order had already been issued and transmitted to the Clerk of the Assembly and the House was inaugurated on the same day with the leadership constituted as prescribed by the party leadership in the state.

However, while the press briefing was going on, a group of hoodlums pounced on the lawmakers-elect and beat them up. Since then, only nine members out of the 24 have been consistent in the House.

How cancellation of constituency, vacation allowances split Obaseki, lawmakers

But the Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, claimed that the governor does not have the power to stop any allowance that was due to members of the Assembly because it was already in their budget.

He said, “It is according to the availability of resources. If the resources cannot go round all the luxuries and pecks then that’s just the way it is. After all, it’s not all the time that budgets are financed one hundred per cent and in any case, when you have shortfalls in the budget we have to prioritise.

“Do you want us to use the money meant for the payment of salaries of House of Assembly workers to fund members’ vacation? How would you go on vacation when you have not even been inaugurated as a lawmaker? So, I think they are just making excuses.

However, the spokesman for the 14 members-elect, Washington Osifo, said he did not understand what the state government meant by not making funds available for the lawmakers’ constituency and vacation allowances.

He said, “Did the governor not go on vacation? Did the judges too not go on vacation? Is it not supposed to be part of the package that come with their office as an elected officer? Can they be denied that? Can the governor deny himself of that? Is it not a separate arm of the government? Or is it a department in the Government House? So, the question does not even arise at all. It is just a case of an evil man who does not have a way out; he has lost all issues on the part of the law and even on morality.

“He is just trying to see how he can say something whether it makes sense or not. This part of it doesn’t make sense at all. The constituency project as it is today has become a part and parcel of our politics. Even at the National Assembly, they see it as a way of relating with your constituency but it doesn’t mean that it is your own. Consider all the projects that were executed by our predecessor, the governor stopped them the moment he came on board.

He added, “They became dead projects and we are asking him to give life to those projects. I can tell you that since this governor came on board, my own constituency called Uhunmwode has not benefited from any project being executed in the state. My constituency is the most backward in the state today in terms of infrastructural development.”

Apart from the constituency and vacation allowances, the lawmakers-elect are also aggrieved over the choice of the Speaker.

The incumbent Speaker, Frank Okiye, was their initial choice until Obaseki showed interest in him. So, to them, they felt he would be a rubber-stamp Speaker. The members-elect want someone who can look into the governor’s face to table their demands. They saw a replacement for Okiye in Victor Editor, a one-time Speaker who was removed during the administration of Oshiomhole.

However, the Speaker has consistently called on the aggrieved members-elect to return to the House for them to be inaugurated but his plea fell on deaf ears as they insisted that the Okiye-led House was an illegality.

Harvest of litigations as crisis lingers

As it stands, there are five different cases in various courts in Port Harcourt, Benin, Akure and Abuja over the Edo House of Assembly crisis.

Finally, on December 4, the House closed the door for reconciliation by declaring 14 constituency seats vacant.

Okiye,who announced this in the chamber of the House, told Saturday PUNCH that letter had been written to INEC to conduct a fresh election into the vacant seats.

According to him, the seats were declared vacant because no member-elect has presented their certificate of return from Independent National Electoral Commission to the Clerk of the House or present themselves for inauguration in respect of the constituencies.

The affected state constituencies are: Ovia South-West, Etsako-West (I), Esan Central, Egor, Owan-West and Oredo-West. Others are Etsako-West (II), Etsako-Central, Uhunmwode, Etsako-East, Ovia North-East (I) and Ovia North-East (II).

However, Osifo said the action of the House was a nullity and violated a subsisting court order.

But the party chairman in the state, Ojezua, linked the crisis in the Assembly to Oshiomhole whom he accused of harbouring the dissident lawmakers-elect in Abuja to destabilise the state.

However, a Benin-based legal practitioner, Mr Abraham Oviawe, said whether the Speaker’s action was right or not, the only option left for the 14 members was to go to court.

Oviawe quickly pointed out that the action of the Speaker was hasty because the House had not sat for a year for such an action to be taken, as provided by the constitution.

“But Section 103 of our constitution says that the computation will be determined within one year to confirm if they have been absent for a certain number of the time they are supposed to be on the seat. Unfortunately, the House has not sat for up to a year but the Speaker has gone ahead to declare their seats vacant,” he said.

But a public affairs analyst, Prof Julius Iyasele, said the constitution only gave power to the governor to make the proclamation once.

He added, however, that the governor’s proclamation was in error.

“Our constitution says that once a governor issued a letter of the proclamation he can only do it once, but our governor did that in error. You can accept the error because he did it out of fear. You cannot say that he didn’t plan what he did but we believe that he did that out of fear of the unknown between him and his predecessor.

“It is unlikely that any human being now can resolve the crisis except God intervenes. All the who-is-who in Edo State have intervened in the matter and the imbroglio persists. It is only God that can settle it or we wait till 2020 governorship election in Edo State,” he added.

Meanwhile, the 14 members-elect have again gone to court in Abuja to file another suit to stop INEC from honouring the ESHA letter calling for a fresh election to fill the 14 constituencies’ seats declared vacant by the House on December 4.

With this development, it is the sixth legal tussle that has trailed the June 17 inauguration of the House of Assembly.

Only time will tell how the issues in the state APC, which have also affected the smooth running of the House of Assembly, would be resolved in the overall interest of the state.

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Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]



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