Bisi Olaniyi,Benin City/Bolaji Ogundele/Jide Orintunsin/Gbade Ogunwale, Vincent Ikuomola Abuja/Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt/Fanen Ihyongo,Kano
THE Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is seeking police protection for the 17 All Progressives Congress (APC) members of the Edo State House of Assembly.
He has directed the police authorities to provide the lawmakers with security, following a petition from their counsel as the political situation in the state continues to worsen.
From President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday came the latest endorsements for the APC candidate in the September 19 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Buhari handed Ize-Iyamu the APC flag and charged the party leadership to prosecute and win the election with all legal and constitutional means.
Governors elected on the platform of the APC also pledged their support for the party’s candidate.
Their counterparts in the PDP said they would resist any attempt to rig the election.
They condemned what they called the invasion of the State Assembly on Thursday.
Malami, in a memo dated August 5, 2020, requested the Inspector General of Police to “kindly provide adequate security measures” for the inauguration of the assembly members and “the subsequent sittings of the Edo State House of Assembly.”
He said: “My office is in receipt of a letter dated 3rd August, 2020 from Messers West Idahosa & Co. requesting for the intervention of my office on behalf of its clients who are members–elect of the Edo State House of Assembly, but who were excluded or prevented from being inaugurated till date since the House was inaugurated on 17th June 2019. A copy of the letter is attached for ease of reference.
“The law firm has requested that the affected members-elect, who were willing to discharge their constitutional roles, should be inaugurated or sworn in by the Clerk of the House.
Furthermore, the members who have also been sworn in should not be prevented from discharging their duties under whatever guise.
“The above request is in line with the provisions of Sections 90, 91, 101 and 104 of the 1999 Constitution (as altered).
“In view of the foregoing and in order to ensure constitutional compliance with the dictates of Sections 91-96 of the 1999 Constitution (as altered) and also to prevent breakdown of peace, law and order, I am requesting that you kindly provide adequate security measures for the purpose of the inauguration of the concerned members and subsequent sittings of the Edo State House of Assembly.”
Counsel to the APC lawmakers, Dr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa, had in his petition to the AGF entitled ”Urgent and nationalistic Appeal to Intervene in the Restoration of Constitutional democracy in Edo State of Nigeria’, appealed to the Chief Law Officer of the Federation to “invoke your power pursuant to Section 150 of the 1999 Constitution (as altered) to arrest the breakdown of Constitutional Democracy in Edo State by intervening to restore a functional House of Assembly in line with the provisions of Sections 90, 91,101 and 104 of the 1999 Constitution (as altered).”
Recalling the circumstances that triggered the current situation in the legislature, the counsel said: “At all material times before the 17th June, 2019, when the said Assembly was purportedly inaugurated, all the members-elect had complied with the provisions of the 5th schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as altered) by declaring their assets and liabilities preparatory to inauguration in line with the statutory and conventional practice in Nigeria.
“Contrary to the standard practice of inaugurating the House with all members present, if possible, the said House was inaugurated at odd hours with only about 9 (nine) members in attendance, while the others were prevented from attending the inauguration by the agents of the State Governor.
“This unconstitutional behavior resulted in serious breaches of several constitutional provisions and which in turn underlines the continuous disequilibrium in the political stability of the state and the resultant insecurity that has characterised the state.
“Since then, the Assembly has been run by 9 (nine) members to the exclusion of about 14 (fourteen) members-elect for no justifiable reason whatsoever. The members-elect have done everything possible to remedy the situation to no avail till date.
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“More than 60% of Edo State remains unrepresented in the Assembly to the detriment of the citizens of our country who make up such constituencies.
“The Rule of Law has been seriously eroded and replaced by strong arm tactics in Edo State. This in itself is anti-democratic and ought not to be allowed in a democratic government such as the one operated in Nigeria.
“By failing to inaugurate about 14 (fourteen) Members-elect of the House, there is a huge social and political disequilibrium in the state.
“Over 60% of the population of the state are unrepresented in the House of Assembly and are therefore missing out on constituency projects, employment and other forms of Government patronage.
“This has escalated the poverty levels in such constituencies and there is a corresponding increase in crime and general insecurity in such areas.
“Governor Obaseki has now joined the Peoples Democratic Party with a few of the Honourable members supposedly inaugurated even when there is no national faction in All Progressives Congress (APC).This is contrary to the provisions of Section 109 (g) of the 1999 Constitution (as altered).
“Democracy is founded on majority rule. Only recently 3 (three) of the nine inaugurated members, including the Deputy Speaker, Hon.Yekini Idiaye, have joined the14 (fourteen) Hon. members who are unable to do their job as lawmakers to 17 (seventeen).
“It is undemocratic and unacceptable to any sovereign nation that the House of Assembly of one of the states making up the Federation of Nigeria is operated by only 7 (seven) Hon. members out of the 24 (twenty-four) elected. This is a huge ridicule to the Nigerian legal-political system, a source of instability and international embarrassment.
“Since the Members-elect were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, it is legally and politically incorrect to allow a party with minority membership of the House of Assembly to keep out 17 (seventeen) Memebrs-elect of the majority political party in the Huse. This is unconventional and very strange to the legislature world-wide.
“Above all, it sends a wrong signal to the Nigerian public that votes do not matter and that governors are above the provisions of the Nigerian constitution when carrying out their acts of omissions.
“This is an ugly perception that should not be allowed to take root in our national life as a nation.
“With the proclamation of the said House already done and the inauguration of the House having been purportedly effected, it is now left for the members who have not taken oath to be allowed to take oath and carry out their duties in the interest of justice and our nascent democracy.
“There is no feature of the Law which precludes the said Hon. Members and the Clerk of the House. After all, Section 101 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the House of Assembly to have power to regulate its own procedure in carrying out its business. It is not the duty of a governor to do so.”
The 14 lawmakers-elect were inaugurated at an undisclosed location in Benin on Thursday, following which they elected Victor Edoror as Speaker and Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje as Deputy Speaker after unanimously removing Francis Okiye at an emergency plenary session.
The lawmakers could not access the assembly earlier in the day after the police surrounded the complex and Governor Obaseki sent artisans to remove the roof of the building “for renovation”.
Although the police on Thursday arrested seven suspected thugs of the PDP for allegedly attacking the 17 APC lawmakers, several other hoodlums were sighted around the assembly complex yesterday, smoking.
Seized from the suspects were five double-barrel long guns, two single barrel long guns and 10 live cartridges.
The suspects claimed they were mobilised by a top government official.
In view of the political crisis in Edo State, Obaseki has suspended his re-election campaigns indefinitely, due to fear of being removed by the 17 APC lawmakers.
But Speaker Edoror has said they have no plan to sack the governor.