Edo Assembly: The Legal Tango

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By Osa Director Esq.

Osa Director

The 12 members elect of Edo State House of Assembly, EDHA yet to be sworn-in are seeking legal interpretation of their self induced exclusion from performing their legislative duties.

As in a high octane drama, laced with various plots and scenes, the roiling crises in Edo State House of Assembly, EDHA is unfolding with different plots, twists and turns. Recently, the now tagged 12 dissident members of the state Assembly who are holed up in Abuja, refusing to be sworn-in under the Speakership of Frank Okiye appraoched an Edo State High Court seeking the following reliefs:
(1). an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants (Frank Okiye and Yekini Idiaye) from further parading themselves, describing themselves and or purport to act as or assume the powers and functions of office of the speaker and deputy speaker respectively of Edo State House of Assembly pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
(2). An order of Interlocutory Injunction restraining the 4th-6th defendants (the Clerk, EDHA, Commissioner of Police, Edo state, The Director, DSS, Edo State and Commandant, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, Edo State) in this suit from the further barricade and condoning off of the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly, Anthony Enahoro House, Kings” square, Benin City; and denying the claimants access to the premises until the hearing and determination of this suit.

The motion on notice filed by Victor Edoror and his colleagues has Prof. J. Odion as lead Counsel. According to Edoror, the Clerk of EDHA clandestinely inaugurated the 7th Assembly in the state with only 9 members on 17th June at 9.30pm. The 9 members went ahead to conduct an election with Frank Okiye and Yekini Idiaye elected as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

The initial 15 members led by Edoror alleged they were cleverly excluded from the House inauguration as the letter of proclamation sent by Governor Godwin Obaseki was surreptitiously issued in a move to purportedly deprive them of attendance.

However, a few days after the proclamation letter and consequent inauguration of the EDHA in a dramatic move three members of the Edoror group who are holed up in Abuja defected to pledge allegiance to Speaker Okiye leadership.

This singular action changed the colouration and dynamics of the power struggle between both factions who are locked in a proxy war between an emerging godfather , Adams Oshiomhole, national Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and immediate past governor of Edo state and his godson, Governor Godwin Obaseki, incumbent governor of Edo State. Indeed, the defection split the 24 members EDHA right through the middle like a hot knife passing through butter.

When the matter came up for hearing and possible ruling before Justice Anthony Nosa Erhabor of Edo State High Court, he adjourned till July 18th. Midwest Herald Newspaper learnt that the decision of the learned Judge is not unconnected to the increasing public doubt as regards the impartiality of the nation’s judiciary which is fast developing a knack for courts of coordinate jurisdiction to issue different verdict in matters of same facts in issue.

Moreso, as the Speaker Okiye group recently got a favourable judgement in a Federal High Court sitting in Benin City restraining the top hierarchy of APC and Inspector General of Police and others from interfering in the legislative duties and responsibilities of the EDHA members under his leadership. Therefore, Justice Erhabor might have restrained the court from hasty pronouncement in order to save the judiciary of further embarrassment by giving a contrary verdict to that of the Federal High Court. Nonetheless, Edo people eagerly await the decision of the court come July 18th, 2019.

However, keen observers of the dog fight between an emerging godfather, Oshiomhole and his godson, Governor Obaseki maintain that the strategy of the Edoror led group was to get an injunction against Okiye and his group who are loyal to Obaseki and thereafter use the opportunity to invade the state from Abuja backed with a resolution from the National Assembly to take over the House.

According to Johnson Ojei, a legal practitioner, what the Edoror group is doing might be an excercise in futility. In his words, “without prejudice to the suit in court, I will say there is no basis for any injunction against Okiye and his group. This is because the letter of proclamation was duly issued by the governor and the inauguration of members was done by the Clerk of the House. That the inauguration was done 9.30 pm or 12am goes to no issue as no time frame was specifically stipulated by the constitution for inauguration of members.”

“As for the claimants averments that they are being deprived of access to EDHA and therefore a restraining order should be placed against the Commissioner of Police, Director and Commandant of DSS and NSDC of Edo State command respectively is in my view not factual and necessary. Initially, the claimants were 15 and now they are 12. The three members who left Abuja for Edo state and got sworn in as legislators were neither molested or arrested by the aforementioned security agencies. Therefore in my view, it is a fallacy to claim that they are being prevented from entering the EDHA by these security agencies.”

Certainly, the battle line is drawn and the daggers are out. But who will finally blink? Inshort, who has the constitution and the support of the people on his side in this intractable dog fight between an emerging godfather, Oshiomhole and his godson, Obaseki? Only time will tell.

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