There appears to be a fresh twist to the impasse rocking the Edo State House of Assembly as the sitting lawmakers are determined to declare the seats of their ‘rebellious’ colleagues vacant and push for fresh elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told Sunday Tribune at the weekend that it was in custody of a formal request for bye-elections to fill the seats of the 14 lawmakers.
Addressing APC members from Owan East and West local government areas in Sabogida-Ora area of Edo State during the past week, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, foreclosed the chances of the 14 lawmakers from returning to the parliament as he announced that INEC would soon fix a date to conduct fresh elections into their seats in the Assembly.
Obaseki, who said there was no division in the state APC, threatened that all those working to destabilise the party would be shown the way out. He equally declared that his estranged godfather and national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, remained suspended from the party.
Speaking with Sunday Tribune on telephone, Rotimi Oyekanmi, media aide to INEC chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, said the electoral body had since received a letter from the speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Frank Okiye, for the bye-elections.
“The commission is not planning to conduct any bye-election in Edo State. While it is true that we have received a letter from the Edo State House of Assembly on the matter, no decision has been taken on it,” he said.
Prodded further to clarify if INEC had foreclosed fresh elections, Oyekanmi said the commission would be guided by provisions of Section 109 of the Constitution.
“What I mean is that the commission is yet to take a decision on the letter. However, INEC is empowered to conduct a bye-election into a state House of Assembly, provided the conditions align with Section 109 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he said.
Chapter 5, Section 109(1) (a,b,c,d,e,f) of the 1999 Constitution read in part: “A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House, if: (a) he becomes a member of another legislative house; (b) any other circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of that House, would cause him to be disqualified for election as such a member; (c) he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria; (d) he becomes president, vice president, governor, deputy governor or a minister of the government of the federation or a commissioner of the government of the state or a special adviser; (e) save as otherwise prescribed by this constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this constitution or by any other law; (f) without a just cause, he is absent from meetings of the House of Assembly for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one third of the total number of days which the House meets in any one year.”
Section 2 (1) of the same Section 109 reads: “The speaker of the House of Assembly shall give effect to Subsection (1) of this section, so, however, that the speaker or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of the member.”
Sunday Tribune findings revealed that the Edo State parliament has been embroiled in crisis following its inauguration and election of speaker, Honourable Okiye, by nine of the lawmakers.
The process had since been rejected by the other 15 lawmakers believed to have the backing of Oshiomhole.
Moves by both the Senate and the House of Representatives in different proclamations threatening to take over the functions of the Assembly, if Governor Obaseki failed to issue fresh proclamation were aborted by several court judgments.
Oba of Benin calls for prayers, sacrifices
In a related development, worried by the lingering crisis in the ruling party and the recent violent clash between the feuding factions, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Ewuare II, has urged traditional rulers in the state to fast and pray for peace ahead of the state governorship election in 2020.
Oba Ewuare 11, who spoke in Benin on Saturday, at the quarterly meeting of Edo Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, said the prayers and fasting should go along with offering of sacrifices to gods and the ancestors.
The traditional ruler, who is the chairman of the council, said that the call for prayers became necessary in view of the current political crisis in the state, a situation he stressed had “become a serious concern to everyone.”
Ahead of the 2020 governorship election in the state, Governor Obaseki is currently at daggers drawn with the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole, for the soul of the party, a situation which has heated up the polity.
Oba Ewuare said: “Prayers and fasting should go along with offering of sacrifice to gods and the ancestors.”
The traditional ruler was, however, optimistic that he that the state would be peaceful, in spite of the current face-off among political gladiators.