(EDITORIAL) WHY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION ON EDO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY SHOULD NOT STAND

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The Nine Members Taking their Oath

The State House of Assembly is established by Section 90 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and its endowed with powers to legislate as well as privileges and immunities to enable it to exercise these powers without hindrance.

From onset, Midwest Herald would wish to establish that on June 17, 2019, the Edo State House of Assembly was inaugurated by the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Audi Yahaya Omogbai, after he had received and read the proclamation letter from Governor Godwin Obaseki on the floor of the Assembly. A speaker in the person of Mr. Frank Okiye was subsequently elected by the nine members that were present at the inaugural sitting.

What followed was protest by fifteen members-elect who were not present during the inauguration, because they were addressing a press conference, erroneously to push the state governor to send the proclamation letter to the Clerk. Relying on the prevailing happenings, it is a fact that the members-elect were more interested in the control of the Assembly, and not their inauguration. It is also now clear that they were executing a script on behalf of Mr. Adams Oshiomhole who is in dire need of the control of Edo State.

The following day, the fifteen protesting members-elect that have since reduced to twelve, converged in a hotel, allegedly to plan their invasion of the parliament. However, their plan was nipped in bud when protesting youths stormed the venue and dispersed them. Shortly after, they moved over to Abuja on the invitation of their sponsor, where they lodged their petition with the National Assembly.

Conversely, the new Speaker, Okiye led the Clerk and other members to the Federal High Court in Benin City to seek for protection against any inimical action of the fleeing members-elect. The Court granted their prayers and by way of a restraining order against fifteen members, their agents, the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of State Services and others from interfering with the activities of Edo State House of Assembly as led by him.

The disgruntled members-elect also followed and approached the Edo State High Court to obtain a restraining order as well. But their effort was thwarted by Justice Anthony Nosa Erhabor who rejected their prayers and adjourned the case for hearing at a later date.

At the resumed hearing this week, the Judge refused to grant them relief and with this setback, they have now rested their last hope on the help from some National Assembly members who attempted to smuggle a motion for the sacking of Okiye and thirteen others through obnoxious takeover and closure of the Edo State House of Assembly. The unpopular motion was sponsored by Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, representing Owan Federal Constituency and supported by Mr. Peter Akpatason and Mr. Johnson Oghuma of Akoko Edo and Etsako Federal Constituency respectively. All six Representatives from Central and South declined their support.

The setback from the rejection was short-lived as the investigation committee set up by Speaker Femi Gbajiabiamila has hurriedly submitted report and recommendation, asking the House of Representatives to take over the responsibility of running the Edo State House of Assembly.

It is our position that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution has not given authority to any arm of the National Assembly to interfere or takeover the affairs of Edo State.

It is true that Section 11 (4) empowers the upper House to make laws for the peace and good government of a state at any time when the State House of Assembly is unable to perform its functions.

Specifically, Section 11 (4) says: “At any time when the House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions…”

From the foregoing, the present harmonious Edo State House of Assembly is definitely not what the writers of the Nigeria Constitution contemplated in Section 11 (4) above. The fourteen members, who have taken their oaths and completed the relevant clearance, have been sitting without hindrance and interference.

If there was doubt or ambiguity about the lack of constitutional right to annex Edo State Assembly, Section 11 (5) unambiguously states that: “For the purpose of subsection (4) of this session, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business.”

This paper has noticed that since the inauguration of the 7th Assembly, its members have peacefully and diligently been performing their legislative duties. The recent clearance of six commissioner nominees appointed by Governor Godwin Obaseki without rancor discharges the House of being unable to perform its functions.

Being that as it may, it will amount to busy-body, unnecessary interference and mischief should the Senate, House of Representatives or both decides to do the biddings of any puppeteer that is fly-fishing for the godfather role in Edo State.

As it stands today, there is no question as to whether the Edo State House of Assembly is able to perform its functions because the House is sitting in plenary, holding meetings and performing oversight functions through the different committees.

By way of our conclusion, we recommend that the two contending groups should either pursue their different through the pending litigations to conclusion or abide by whatever decisions that may be reached through peace moves. In the alternative and perhaps more rewarding for the ten exiled members-elect, is to present their selves for oath taking after completing their documentation – this is the best face-saving option.

Similarly, we call on the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of State Security Service to respect the order of the Federal High Court, Benin and also ignore the unsavory directive of the House of Representatives or any other to close down Edo State House of Assembly. Doing so can be interpreted as an invitation and call for anarchy which is capable of destabilizing the peace in the state.

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