Edo State House of Assembly without 14 Lawmakers.

By; Anita Abu

looking into the June 17, 2019 issues that denied the 14 lawmakers of inauguration and the Triumph of Resistance.

Since its inauguration on June 17, 2019, the Edo State House of Assembly has been engrossed in a leadership crisis. Ten out of 24 members-elect were inaugurated, leaving 14 others in ‘the wilderness.’

The crisis was said to have started due to the supremacy battle between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over who would pick the Speaker of the House.

It was learnt that while Obaseki wanted Frank Okiye, who represents Esan North-East constituency 1 as Speaker, Oshiomhole preferred former Speaker Victor Edoror, who was re-elected to represent Esan Central constituency.

The development led to the inauguration of 10 members-elect. The 14 members who were left out claimed they were not invited for the inauguration.

Subsequently, the 10 members who were inaugurated elected Frank Okiye as the Speaker of the House.

As the crisis raged on, the 14 members-elect moved to Abuja to seek help.

Interestingly, after being absent from sittings for the mandatory 180 days as required by law, the Speaker declared their seats vacant and the House told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a by-election in the affected constituencies.

But the 14 members-elect challenged the decision of the House.

Instructively, a few weeks to the recent governorship election, the 14 members-elect stormed the state and inaugurated themselves in a private residence, with the help of a retired clerk of the House.

Before the governorship election, the deputy to Okiye, Yekini Idiaye and two others joined the 14 members-elect and elected Victor Edoror as their Speaker.

The group thereafter impeached Speaker Frank Okiye and continued plenary in a private residence.

After the governorship election, seven of the 10 inaugurated members dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) at plenary for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The defectors were Frank Okiye (Speaker); Roland Asoro; Ephraim Aluebhosele; Sunday Ojiezele; Henry Okhuarobor; Emma Okoduwa and Marcus Onobun.

But Emmanuel Agbaje, Yekini Idiaye and Nosa Okunbor remained members of the APC.

June 17, 2021 is exactly two years since the inauguration of the 7th Assembly which brought with it various crises that threatened the peace and harmony of Edo State.

The Edo State House of Assembly has been enmeshed in crisis .The discussion begins whether or not as a democratic ,you will support an inauguration of the minority over the exclusion of the majority in the deep of the night , after which you unleashed an atmosphere of terror and then turn around to state that those who ran for their safety and security has absconded .

The discussion that also permeates the issue , is whether indeed there is a properly constituted House of Assembly in Edo State , in view of the fact that the current membership of the Edo State House of Assembly does not conform to the minimal constitutional threshold for which no derogation or proviso whatsoever is permitted by the same Constitution and the decided authorities on the matter vis a vis the positive deposition on oath of the leadership of the House that the seats of those Members Elect of the House , not inaugurated have not been declared vacant .

Well, before June 17, 2019, there was April 14, 2007. The day Edo people effectively demonstrated that power indeed belongs to the people.

According to Hon. Orobosa Omo-Ojo, a former Commissioner in Comrade Adams Oshiomhole government said on that historical day, the people of Edo State thronged out in huge numbers to resist the political class that held the state hostage at their detriment. They voted for Mr. Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole to become their governor.

@However, the result did not reflect the proceedings and the will of Edo people. The perpetuated struggle and resistance that followed eventually sacked the makeshift government on November 11, 2008.

Ironically, Omo-Ojo said Oshiomhole who was the benefactor of that progressive fight, would later become the albatross to politics in Edo State.

@The story of his bitter and wasteful battle with his successor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki is well documented in the public space, including the impact it had on the Legislative arm of government in the state.

‘It is in this tendency, that June 17 should be promoted to occupy the consciousness of Nigerians, because it has signified the triumph of resistance to godfatherism and the rule of one man.

‘Effort must also be made to engrave the names of those that fought on the two divides on the milestones of history, to retrospectively remind us and hereafter that political power is not given but taken.

‘Any attempt to show nonchalant recognition to June 17, 2019 will amount to yet another aborted opportunity to ingrain the true values of political struggle in Edo State and indeed Nigeria.’

Dr. Washington Osifo, one of the fourteen lawmakers who simply described the Assembly crisis was murdered and swindled of democracy in Edo state.

Those who advised, aided, and collaborated with Governor Godwin Obaseki, history will surely judge them all when the time comes.

‘What also baffled me is that for two years now , the case before the Edo state High Court is still in the pre-hearing stage. The case has seen four Chief Judges of the state and over seven Judges without headway.

‘My appeal is to the newly appointed Chief Judge to put his name in the right direction, so that history be kind to him at the end of the day when he retires from acting service.

‘What you see in Edo state today is not far from military rule. What differentiates the military government from civil rule is the legislature, today in Edo , it doesn’t exist. Democracy has been murdered and swindled by Godwin Obaseki and people are clapping for him, forgetting that one day he will surely account for his misdeed.

Two years after Its Proclamation, Barrister Douglas Ogbankwa picked on the intricate issues in the Edo State House of Assembly with a factual and legal matrix on the matter .

Barrister Douglas Ogbankwa said the suit on whether or not the House was properly inaugurated was at the Edo State High Court was already pending when in December, 2019,the then Speaker purported to declare some seats vacant in the Edo State House of Assembly ( EDSHA), without allowing the Court to determine the legality or otherwise of the purported inauguration done with minority of the members at the thick of the night outside parliamentary hours ,which is an illegality ab initio.See Danladi v. Taraba State House of Assembly (2014),11,SCNJ,134,where the Supreme Court stated per Olubode Rhodes-Viviour (JSC,as he then was ),that a House of Assembly is not a secret cult,where you hold proceedings at nocturnal hours of the day ,that Proceedings of a House of Assembly must be held in the hallowed chambers of the House and nowhere else ,at parliamentary hours (10am to 4pm) , in public ,to allow for public participation and public scrutiny.It is trite Law that you can not pick and choose which procedure suits your aim,if you want to insist on due process ,insist on due process all the way .

‘ When in December, 2019, the then speaker purported to declare those seats vacant, a suit was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja: FHC/ABJ/CS/1582/19 filed by D.D. Dodo SAN on behalf of the 14 Law Makers, joining INEC as a party to the suit since the EDSHA, albeit illegally, directed INEC to conduct fresh Elections to fill the seats of the members not inaugurated.

According to him, ‘ A motion for injunction filed by the Members not inaugurated ,was moved midway and the court directed the Defendants to come and show cause, INEC came to court orally to say it would await the outcome of the cases. The court directed INEC to put those facts in an affidavit form which was done and duly filed.

‘ Upon becoming aware of INEC’s position the other Defendants filed their affidavit to show cause and brought the votes and proceedings for the day they purportedly declared the seats vacant , to say that they declared only two seats vacant, and that they did not declare the seats of those not sworn in vacant.Even at that , those two Seats can not be declared vacant,because ,from June,2019 to December,2019 ,is not up to One Legislative Year ,for the purpose of determining the number of days the said Members have been absent from Meetings of the House and the declaration of the Seat of a Member of a House of Assembly vacant is a process that requires ,giving the Member Notice in Writing in advance of the intention of the House to declare his seat vacant ,allowing the Member to defend himself,a physical examination of the Attendance Register of the House with the Member and his legal representative (if any ) ,Setting up of a Committee to ascertain the allegations against the Member ,the Committee reporting back to the House its findings ,a consideration of the Findings of the House by a Committee of the whole and votes being taken thereafter on the issue and an issuance of the Hansard of the House on the issue is what completes the Process.This is in keeping with the Constitutional threshold of fair hearing ,which ensures due process and not leaving the fate of an elected representative of the people to the vagaries of Political expediency and intrigues.The Law is always a guide. On the above proposition of law ,See Usman v. Kaduna State House of Assembly. (2007) 11 NWLR,(Part 1044) 158,C.A

‘ On the strength that those seats were not declared vacant, PDP and its candidates who contested against those members who have not been inaugurated and lost in the general election , initiated a suit at the Federal High Court,Benin City asking that the court should declare them winners as the members elect had refused to subscribe to their oaths of office. PDP did not join the members who took oath but acted on the false assumption that those seats were already vacant,which assumption is neutralized by the analysis on the issue above .

‘If the constitutionality of the inauguration of the House is being challenged, can you declare any seat vacant?This is following in the time honoured principal of lis pendis-parties are to stay action in a Matter pending the Hearing and Determination of a Matter .See Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu v Military Governor of Lagos State (1989) 2 NWLR (Part 10)

‘The suit determined by the Federal High Court,Port Harcourt- Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/159/2019: Hon Yekini Idiaye & Anor V. Clerk of The NASS & 5 Ors, only validated the proclamation of the House by the Governor , it did not touch on the inauguration of the house as claimed. It prevented the Governor from issuing another proclamation but never validated the purported inauguration done at night.

‘Can you declare an unoccupied seat vacant ?For a seat to be declared vacant ,it must have been occupied in the first place .Section 91 of the Constitution says a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of not less than 24 Members and not more than 40 Members .

Barrister Douglas Ogbankwa said ,Section 91 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ,1999 (As Amended ),provides that , ‘Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of three or four times the number of seats which that State has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect, as far as possible, nearly equal population: Provided that a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of not less than twenty-four and not more than forty members*

‘When ever the word “shall”,,is used ,it indicates compulsion and a mandatory obligation that can not in any way be derogated from.Section 91 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (As Amended), provides thus

“The Quorum of a House of Assembly,shall be one-thirds of all Members of the House “.A Quorum is only activated upon inauguration.You can not have a quorum of a House not inaugurated and the Clerk of the House stated on record that no notice of inauguration in writing was given to the inaugurated Members .There three types of Notices in Law,viz:

*Actual Notice ,constructive notice and implied notice as he further explained that None of the three notices were done and the House of Assembly was inaugurated as the Bible says *Like the coming of a thief in the night* I begin to doubt any person’s democratic credentials ,if he or she supported the impunity that was done on the 17th of November,2019,just after 9pm as stated in a deposition on Oath by the then Edo State Commissioner of Police ,Now DIG Dan Mallam Mohammed and also the Intelligence Report on the issue by the Secret Service.

.In the Section relating to the declaration of the Seats Vacant ,the Constitution talks about Members and not Members Elect . Section 109(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ,1999 (As Amended,) provides thus :
A Member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House, if without 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 during which the House meets in any one year.

There is no ambiguity whatsoever..It is trite Law that the express mention of a subject is the exclusion of another and no matter how beautiful your argument is ,your argument can never take the place of the Law .The Law is clear and unambiguous on this score .Members Elect are not Members.It is the inauguration of a Member Elect that makes him a Member.How can a Member that has not been inaugurated be taken as a Member for the purpose of declaring his seat vacant .

The Federal High Court ,Port Harcourt Judgment is of the Authority that Proclamation can not be done twice .Once the House is proclaimed, flowing from the theory of separation of Powers, which properly delimits the Executive ,Legislative and Judicial Powers of the State as enshrined in Sections 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999, (As Amended), by the 4th alteration , activities of the House are within the province of the Internal Affairs of the House that borders on Political Question,that is not amenable to the control of the executive ,but the Moderation of the Courts vide Judicial Review .See Balonwu v. Governor of Anambra State (2009) 18 NWLR (PT. 1172) 13,SC.

Nigeria is a Society governed by Laws and not on the whims and caprices of one man.

Plurality of Opinion is the hallmark of a Constitutional Democracy .Conflict itself is a part of Democracy.The Majority will have their way ,while the Minority will have their say.

A situation ,where a small proportion of the Minority seizes the Sovereignty of the people ,is akin to the Hobesean State of Nature ,where life was nasty ,solitary and short .
14 Constituencies have remained unrepresented for two years.Democracy is on trial in this matter and where you stand actually determines whether you are a Democrat or not.

A State thrives on the balance of power and the vagaries of alternative choices .Where you have a State with a diminished House of Assembly,no commissioners and advisers ,an acting Chief Judge ,what you in that State is not a Governor , but an Emperor.You might be the Governor ,but you are not God .This is a dangerous precedent being set in Edo State and I tell you ,today you might be a beneficiary , tomorrow you will be a victim!

‘If the Constitution mandates that there must be at least 180 sitting days in a year (which is one calendar year). It is impossible to declare those seats vacant early in December 2019 because from 17/6/2019 to early December, 2019, you do not even have 180 days, Let us build Institutions that will outlive our stay in office ,so that those institutions will build us when we leave office .’

Edo Speaker calls for sustenance of democracy

Hon. Marcus Onobun is the Speaker of the Ten Edo State House of Assembly in celebrating two years of 7th Assembly, calling for the sustenance of Nigeria’s democracy.

“It is with tremendous joy and gratitude that I thank God Almighty and the good people of Edo State for their unflinching support and loyalty in making this day possible. You are all part of our success story and I enjoin you to continue to avail of your immeasurable support and contribution.”

Going forward, he said that the inauguration of the house “came at a period of great challenges and trials in the history of our dear state.

“But you, the people of Edo State, my distinguished colleagues and staff of this great institution, through your resolve, perseverance and dauntless support ensured that the dictates of the constitution and rule of law were strictly adhered to and upheld.”

‘Within the period, he said that the house received “a total of twenty-two bills; of these, seventeen bills have been passed into law and assented to and five bills are at various stages of passage. A total of 97 resolutions were adopted and the house also embarked on inspection and arbitration visits pursuant to its oversight functions. These bills and resolutions are targeted at addressing and remedying socio-economic issues in the state.”

He described as commendable the working relationship between the executive and the legislative arm of government adding that the synergy “has played a fundamental role in fostering economic, social and political stability in Edo State, thereby facilitating the requisite environment for it to thrive.”

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, had said some few weeks back that he had no power to bring back the 14 lawmakers who refused to be inaugurated as members of the state House of Assembly.
He said the elected-lawmakers were not prevented from being inaugurated but they “refused to undertake the exercise.

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