Edo crisis: Pro-APC lawmakers list Obaseki’s sins in letter to Malami

By AdvocateNews on 08/08/2020

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Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, main entrance of the State House of Assembly(right)
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, main entrance of the State House of Assembly(right)

The 14 elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly who were not sworn in since the inauguration of the Assembly in 2019 have written to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), highlighting the alleged infractions of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

The members, joined by three members from the faction already sworn in, wrote through their counsel, Dr Ehiogie West-Idahosa of West Idahosa & Co., saying the governor’s action in not allowing them to be sworn in was unconstitutional. This, they said, underlined the disequilibrium in the political stability of the state and the resultant insecurity that had characterised the state.

In the letter with the reference number WIC/AB/W2/1024/20, the 17 aggrieved lawmakers, said to be loyal to a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, said contrary to the standard practice of inaugurating the House with possibly all members present, the governor, on June 17, 2019, chose to inaugurate the House at odd hours with only about nine members in attendance.

They alleged that the agents of the governor prevented them from attending the inauguration, noting that they had done everything possible to remedy the situation but to no avail till date.

The letter titled, ‘Urgent and nationalistic appeal to intervene in the restoration of constitutional democracy in Edo State of Nigeria’, dated August 3, 2020 and signed by West-Idahosa, the principal partner, added, “Since then, the Assembly has been run by nine members for no justifiable reason whatsoever. By failing to inaugurate about 14 members-elect of the House, there is a huge social and political disequilibrium in the state.

“The rule of law has been seriously eroded and replaced by strong-arm tactics in Edo State. This in itself is anti-democratic and ought not to be allowed in a democratic government such as the one operated in Nigeria.

“Over 60 per cent of the population of Edo State are unrepresented in the House of Assembly and are therefore missing out on constituency projects, employment and other forms of government patronage. This has escalated poverty levels in such constituencies and there is a corresponding increase in crime and general insecurity in such areas.”

They said contrary to Section 109 (g) of the constitution (as altered), Obaseki dumped the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party even when there was no “nationally acknowledged” faction in the APC .

They pointed out that democracy is founded on majority rule but that the 17 lawmakers were unable to do their job.

The letter added, “It is undemocratic and unacceptable to any sovereign nation that the House of Assembly of one of the states making up the federation of Nigeria is operated by only seven members out of the 24 elected.”

They said since the 17 members were elected on the platform of the APC, it is legally and politically incorrect to allow a party with minority membership keep 17 members-elect out of the House.

They said since the proclamation of the House had been done and the inauguration of the House “purportedly effected”, it is left for members who have not taken an oath to be allowed to and carry out their duties in the interest of justice.

“There is no feature of the law which precludes the said honourable members from taking their oath with the cooperation of sworn in members and the clerk of the House.”

The 17 members, who have also pledged loyalty to APC candidate in the September 19 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, therefore appealed to the AGF to intervene by restoring a functional House of Assembly in the state. The letter contained the names and numbers of the 17 members.

They said, “We therefore respectfully appeal to you as the Chief Law Officer of the federation to invoke your power pursuant to Section 150 of the 1999 constitution (as altered) to arrest the breakdown of constitutional democracy in Edo State by intervening to restore a functional House of Assembly in line with the provisions of Sections 90, 91, 101 and 104 of the 1999 constitution (as altered). Our clients shall be very obliged to have your intervention in order to save constitutional democracy in Edo State.”

How they secured AGF’s backing within 24 hours

Sequel to receiving their letter on Tuesday, August 4, Malami, wrote the police IG within 24 hours directing him to provide security for the inauguration of the 14 members, which took place at an unknown location on Thursday. The Assembly’s Deputy Clerk, Mr Tom Efezokhae, administered the oath of office on the members.

He, however, cautioned that the members already sworn in should not be prevented from discharging their duties.

The AGF’s letter obtained on Friday revealed that he (the minister) received a letter from West Idahosa & Co., on August 4, 2020, wrote the IG in a letter dated August 5, directing him to provide security for the exercise while the inauguration took place on August 6.

The AGF’s letter, with reference number HAGF/IGP/2020/Vol1/4, dated August 5, 2020, partly read, “The law firm has requested that the affected members-elect, who are willing to discharge their constitutional roles, should be inaugurated or sworn in by the clerk of the House.

“In view of the foregoing and in order to ensure constitutional compliance with the dictates of Sections 91 to 96 of the 1999 constitution (as altered) and also to prevent breakdown of peace, law and order, I am requesting that you kindly provide adequate security measures for the purpose of the inauguration of the concerned members and the subsequent sittings of the Edo State House of Assembly.”

The inauguration heightened the tension in the state on Thursday, especially as the police and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps took over the entrance of the Assembly Complex, which was shut and was undergoing renovation by the government.

Apart from electing Victor Edoror as the new speaker and Emmanuel Agbaje as the deputy speaker, the 17 factional members also ‘impeached’ Francis Okiye as the speaker and Roland Asoro as the deputy speaker.

In a related development, in an open letter to the AGF via an advertorial in The PUNCH on Friday, Okiye, the embattled speaker, said he was reluctant to conclude that the “breathtaking speed” of his (the AGF’s) speed of response to West-Idahosa’s letter had anything to do with the fact that the governor had left the APC for the PDP.

In highlighting the pending and concluded litigation on the Edo Assembly crisis, Okiye said it was clear that all matters relating to the functioning or otherwise of the Assembly and/or its members are sub judice.

He added, “It would therefore be clear that the course of action which you have urged upon the Inspector-General of Police would in fact amount to a grievous assault on the rule of law, separation of powers and respect for judicial authority.”

He urged the AGF not to allow his prestigious office to cause mayhem in the state, adding that he should take urgent steps to ensure the situation does not degenerate further.

I won’t recognise factional Speaker, says Obaseki, attacks Ganduje

Meanwhile, following Ize-Iyamu’s visit to the President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa on Friday, Obaseki has said he is not worried by the endorsement of the APC candidate by the President.

Obaseki, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Friday, said the President, as the leader of the APC, was free to support his party’s candidate.

He said, “I cannot speak for the President; he’s a due-process man. He strikes me as somebody who wants the process to follow its due course. The President is a member of the APC. Why would he not receive his party’s candidate?”

The governor said he would not recognise the 17 lawmakers, describing the AGF’s directive to the IGP as illegal and a recipe for anarchy. “How can I recognise them? There is a law we have to follow, otherwise we will have to be like a banana republic,” he added.

Obaseki, however, described as hilarious claims by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State that he (Obaseki) performed woefully.

He added, “If he (Ganduje) says all the physical structures, all the roads we have built, are underperformance, I see why he can never be governor. If he says reforming the educational system in Edo State, which is acknowledged worldwide, is underperformance, then he cannot be governor. Edo is not Lagos. We will see on September 19.”

The governor in a broadcast earlier on Friday said the events of Thursday had all the signs of an attempted coup d’état, adding that any person or group of persons who set out to test the will of the state would meet with the full wrath of the law.

He added, “These events portend grave danger to the safety and security of our polity. It had all the hallmarks of an attempted coup d’état. The people of Edo State rose as one to prevent the desecration of our democracy. It is however worrisome that certain persons are willing to plunge the society into avoidable anarchy and conflict just to satisfy their illegitimate objectives.

“Be assured, dear people of Edo State, that this government will take all steps necessary to defend the rule of law and democratic ideals.”

Meanwhile, Okiye has said he remains the speaker of the House, adding that till date, only 10 members of the Assembly had been sworn in.

“We adjourned till Monday (August 10, 2020) and on Monday, we will sit. So, those people that are no longer members of the House going somewhere to conduct a get-together and come out to say they have a resolution, that they are now members of the parliament, I see that as an affront on the democratic principles.”

US expresses concern over security agencies’ interference

The United States Government has expressed worry over the deteriorating political climate in Edo State, stating that it was disappointed with the role played by some political actors in the state, stressing that it does not support any party or candidate.

The US Mission in a statement, titled ‘The United States supports democratic process where the will of Nigerian people is reflected in results,’ in Abuja on Friday said it was especially concerned by allegations of interference by security forces in political matters, adding that it would continue to monitor the situation closely in the run-up to the election.

It added, “We are especially concerned by allegations of interference by security forces in political matters, which we will continue to monitor closely in the run-up to gubernatorial elections in the state in September. As we approach the 2020 off-cycle elections in Edo and Ondo, we urge all stakeholders to work towards a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful process.”

APC must avoid Zamfara, Rivers experiences in Edo, says Buhari

The President, however, told APC leaders on Friday that the party must avoid the pitfalls which affected it in the Rivers, Zamfara and Bayelsa elections during the Edo governorship poll.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Friday said the President desired the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State to be transparent.

The statement titled ‘President Buhari receives Ize-Iyamu, urges APC to avoid Rivers, Zamfara experiences’ quoted Buhari as saying, “What I want is a transparent process so that the confidence of the people will be strengthened.”

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, told reporters that the campaign had started on a good and happy note, with the APC already taking over the state legislature with a majority of 17 out of 24. He said the governor had failed the people.

Edo election not do-or-die, says APC candidate 

Ize-Iyamu, who also met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, told State House correspondents that the election was not a do-or-die affair, while asking the PDP-led government in the state to allow the will of the people to prevail.

He said Thursday’s development in the Assembly was a triumph for democracy. “Are you going to compare seven people to 17? In a legislative arrangement, seven people will want to lord it over 17 people? That is an aberration. I have told you that even to form a quorum you need eight, they don’t even have eight members.”

Sowore slams Buhari for endorsing Ize-Iyamu despite N700m fraud case

Meanwhile, the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, has faulted the President for endorsing Ize-Iyamu, who is facing corruption charges to the tune of N700m.

Sowore, who is the publisher of Sahara Reporters, tweeted, “Pastor Ize-Iyamu is undergoing trial for N700m scam, Buhari pretends not to remember.”

Speaking on the endorsement, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said the President must have been in a dilemma to raise the hand of a candidate who is facing corruption charges.

He added that Buhari would have preferred to endorse the APC candidate with glee and razzmatazz in Benin City if Ize-Iyamu didn’t have the N700m corruption case on his neck.

The PDP also criticised the meeting, saying the APC candidate desperately needed the endorsement to shore up his battered image.

The factional Speaker of the Assembly, Victor Edoror, has said anyone displeased with the process should approach the court, or wait for the court to decide whether their action by convening the sitting was legal or illegal.

Speaking in an interview on a Channels Television programme on Friday, he noted that the governor was nursing fears that he might be impeached but the Assembly had no such plans.

Impeachment mere charade – Wike

Rivers State Governor and leader of the PDP Campaign Council in the Edo election, Nyesom Wike, on Friday condemned the convergence of the 17 lawmakers and the purported impeachment of the speaker and deputy speaker of the Assembly, saying it was a mere charade.

He said, “Fortunately, the purported impeachment of the speaker is a mere charade, completely futile and exists only in the imagination of the evil perpetrators and their crude and unintelligent co-travellers and sponsors.”

“We have raised the alarm before that the APC is not ready for a free and fair contest and will do all sorts of things including violence with the backing of the federal might to rig and claim unmerited victory at all cost. Nigerians can now bear witness that our claims and fears of the desperation of the APC are not without basis.”

Meanwhile, there were reports that seven persons have been arrested in connection with the tension at the House of Assembly in Benin City on Thursday.

One of our correspondents gathered on Friday that the arrested persons prevented the 17 lawmakers who attempted to make their way into the complex early on Thursday before they later retreated to an undisclosed location to be inaugurated.

When contacted on the telephone, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Johnson Kokumo, said he was busy, while the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Chidi Nwabuzor, said he had not been authorised to speak on the matter.

But speaking at a press briefing in Benin on Friday, Vice-Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the APC Campaign Council, Mr Patrick Obahiagbon, urged the police to investigate the activities of the arrested persons to identify their sponsors.

PDP women protest, express support for Okiye

The women wing of the PDP in the state embarked on a march to the House of Assembly to show their solidarity with the embattled Speaker of the Assembly, Mr Frank Okiye.

The women, who walked from the Government House to the Assembly Complex, and led by the Edo-South Woman Leader, Uwa Osunbor, queried why the 14 members suddenly showed up a few weeks to the governorship election.

Source The Punch

Posted 08/08/2020 08:48:03 AM


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