The crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, maybe a long-drawn one with the state governor, Godwin Obaseki showing signs that he is not in the least war-weary, and the controversial speaker of the embattled House, Frank Okiye spitting fire over the resolution by the House of Representatives to take over the functions of the House if within one week the governor failed to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Seventh Edo State House of Assembly in line with Section 105(3) of the constitution.
Attempts by the National Assembly to mediate in the roiling crisis appear therefore to be stoking the raging political fire the more rather than dousing it. Recall that the selective inauguration of nine out of the 24 members-elect on Monday, June 17, 2019, had factionalized the House along the lines of the minority supporting the governor, and the majority loyal to the immediate past governor and national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. Following a motion moved by Julius Ihonvbere, a former presidential aide, asking the National Assembly to take over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly, the lower chamber unanimously resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to look into the issues at stake before exercising its constitutional right in that direction. It is the outcome of that fact-finding exercise that is heightening political tension in the state and further ruffling feathers in the governor’s camp.
Adopting the recommendations of the report of the 13-man ad-hoc committee headed by Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa) at plenary on Wednesday, Obaseki was also directed to publish the date, time and venue of the inauguration in any national daily, and television station. Other recommendations by the committee are that all actions already taken by the members of the current assembly should be declared null and void pending a proper inauguration; that all members of the assembly, both those who had been inaugurated and those not yet inaugurated should dissolve their factions, stating that this would be in the interest of peace and stability of the house with a view to moving the state forward. It was further recommended that the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, Department of State Service should shut down the State House of Assembly and provide adequate security, stressing that this would allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect. According to the report, where the recommendations failed, “the National Assembly should invoke the Provisions of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution to take over the State House of Assembly until the situation normalizes”.
For the feuding parties, however, it was different strokes for different folks. While the Henry Idahagbon-led Edo Political Movement felt vindicated that what happened June 17 was nothing but sheer executive impunity and legislative rascality which should not be allowed to stand, a seething Okiye, with the conspiratorial backing of the executive arm, is kicking. A visibly upbeat Idahagbon gleefully told Tell “we are happy; we are going to celebrate it today. We are vindicated. We told them, they didn’t listen. Next time when we talk, they should listen”. Explaining the implication of the possible take-over of the functions of the House, Idahagbon said “anything that has to do with Edo State House of Assembly now would be done by the House of Representatives. If you want to pass a budget, you will send it to them in Abuja and go and defend it there. If you want any law passed, you will send it to them. That is the meaning of taking over under section 11 of the constitution”. But pooh-poohing the development, Okiye wondered where the House of Representatives derived its powers from, insisting that there was no crisis in the Edo House of Assembly. Okiye who spoke to Channels Television in his office, said “here, there is peaceful conduct of our operation and the people that are in the National Assembly do not have such powers to issue out such orders. I repeat, they do not have it. So, it is condemnable and should be resisted”. Later in an official statement, the former majority leader of the House and a ranking member, reminded whoever cared to listen of “a subsisting court order restraining the Police, headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the National Working Committee of the APC; the DSS and their agents, from interfering in the affairs of the Assembly, as the House has been going about its activities peacefully and without rancor”. Upbraiding the National Assembly and accusing it of bias, Okiye said the federal lawmakers must take note that they are expected to act as agents of peace and not merchants of crisis, positing that “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”.
Further chiding the committee members, Okiye said, “In a time like this in which the nation is being engulfed in one form of violence or the other, it is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is seen to be promoting violence and exacerbating the tension in the country”. He was not done yet. Accusing the committee of compromise, especially by Oshiomhole, the factional speaker said considering what they came to know in the course of this process, the recommendation of the Ad-Hoc committee did not come to them as a surprise. “For example, the chattered plane marked 5N FCT, which brought the committee members to Benin City, was paid for by the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is a major party in the disagreement. Also, the younger brother to the National Chairman, Seid Oshiomhole, in a recent leaked audio conversation, revealed the underhand dealings in Abuja regarding the matter”, Okiye stated. He further alleged that the APC national chairman and his proxies had been having meetings with the committee members and other actors in the issue in Abuja and doling out money to ensure the issue went 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”, Okiye concluded.
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