The face-off between Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole over the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly took a different dimension yesterday when the Senate sided with the House of Representatives, insisting that the governor must issue a fresh proclamation.
But the state government has described the action as unconstitutional and a flagrant disregard for the principles of separation of powers, noting that “powerful persons” should not be allowed to set the state on fire, just to satisfy their thirst for power and control.
Insisting that the illegality will not stand, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, in a statement yesterday maintained that the issue in contention was already before the law courts, where the National Assembly was joined as defendants in the matter and that the courts had ruled that the status quo be maintained.
The Edo State House of Assembly comprises 24 members. But on the day of inauguration, nine of them were inaugurated under controversial circumstances. All 24 members were elected on the platform of the APC.
But Oshiomhole described the inauguration as “illegal and embarrassing,” just as the national leadership of APC, rejected the inauguration and called for a fresh exercise.
Apparently acting in accordance with Section 11(4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution, the two chambers of the National Assembly decided to intervene.
Section 11(4) of the constitution states: “At any time when any 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; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state.”
Section 11(5) further states: “For the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, 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.”
Flowing from Section 11 (5) above, what it therefore means is that, the National Assembly can only intervene when the state Assembly can no longer “meet and transact business.”
Feelers from the state however indicate that the lawmakers have been meeting, to the extent that they have considered, screened and confirmed nominees of the governor as commissioners. In spite of that, the Senate yesterday insisted that a fresh inauguration must take place.
But the Edo State government said: “ (it) watched with alarm today (Tueday) as the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a step that was not totally unexpected, purported to pass a resolution in the following terms: – Directing the governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly, and ordering a fresh inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly within one (1) week from the date of the said resolution.
“As earlier mentioned, this move was not unexpected in the light of the enormous political pressure which had been brought to bear on the officers and members of the distinguished Senate by the highly placed and powerful persons who are intent on foisting their will and choices on the good people of Edo State.
“This is borne out by the recorded statements made by one Seid Oshiomhole (a member-elect and younger brother of the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole) wherein he boasted that the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, have been instructed on what to do in this matter.
“The government of Edo State wishes to observe that the chairman and members of Ad-Hoc Committee of the Senate which visited Edo State were made aware of the existence of at least three (3) suits pending before various courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration have been submitted to the courts by both contending parties for resolution.
“The ad-hoc committee also failed to inform the Senate of the existence of a valid injunction in suit No FHC/B/OS/70/2019 wherein the Federal High Court restrained various parties from interfering in any manner with the activities of the Edo State House of Assembly which said order had been brought to their attention in the course of their visit to Edo State.
“In point of fact in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/159/2019 the National Assembly, the Clerk of National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives amongst others were specifically ordered by the Federal High Court to maintain the status quo as at 25th July, 2019.
“It is unfortunate that the Senate would act in flagrant breach of these various court orders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the courts and therefore subjudice,” the SSG, said.