The much-anticipated inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly has allegeely been performed, behind closed doors.
According to a statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Strategy to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Crusoe Osagie, and released to the press at exactly 1.39 am on Tuesday, the inauguration took place with nine of the 24 members-elect present.
The statement claimed that the inauguration took place at the Chamber of the Assembly complex at about 3 pm on Monday.
Sources close to the Assembly who did not want to be named, however said the inauguration actually took place at about 9.30 pm, Wednesday, presided over by the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai.
A picture of the inauguration showed one of the lawmakers cladded in black vest and jacket on a pair of shorts.
According to the statement, “members present at the inauguration include Hon. Nosa Okunbor; Hon. Henry Okuarobo; Hon. Uyi Ekhosuehi; Hon. Marcus Onobun; Hon. Ephraim Anehbosele; Hon. Roland Asoro; Hon. Eric Okaka; Hon Frank Okiye and Hon Yekini Idiaye.”
The statement said: “The much-anticipated inauguration of the Edo state House of Assembly took place in Benin City at around 3pm, on Monday, June 17, 2019.
“The Clerk of the Edo House of Assembly, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai, ushered the members-elect into the chamber and read out the letter of proclamation transmitted to the office of the clerk by the Executive Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
“After reading the letter, the Clerk proclaimed the House and the
members-elect began the process of electing the House leadership, with Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye of Esan North East Constituency I, emerging the Speaker, while Hon. Yekini Idiaye of Akoko Edo Constituency I, was elected Deputy Speaker.
“Upon completion of the process of swearing-in, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Okiye took charge of proceedings and thanked all the members-elect present for the confidence reposed in him, promising that he would work for the people of Edo State.”
In his acceptance speech, Okiye was quoted thus: “It is with the deepest sense of humility that I receive this call to serve the people and I assure that I will do all in my power to serve their best interest at all times.
“I congratulate my colleagues and fellow members who are today inaugurated. I call on members-elect who have not satisfied the process of swearing-in, which includes the completion of the asset declaration form, to do so speedily so they could be inaugurated to undertake the task for which the people elected them.”
The statement also stated that motion for adjournment was moved by the Speaker himself, following which the House was adjourned till July 17, 2019.
“The reason for the long period of adjournment, it was gathered, was to make room for logistics for their allocation of accommodation, offices, vehicles and other materials to make for smooth legislative activities.
“A legislative committee was set up to superintend over the logistics of the allocation to ensure a smooth exercise. The committee was chaired by Hon. Roland Asoro of Orhionwon South Constituency,” the statement concluded.
However, it was gathered that Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu about 9.30pm inaugurated the House inside the Government House, Benin and immediately swore in Frank Okiye as Speaker.
The Governor and his Deputy reportedly moved the 7 members-elect, the Clerk of the House of Assembly, among other officials to stage a secret and partial inauguration.
While in Government House, they had their phones switched off in what has been described by reliable sources as an attempt to commit the illegality and constitutional breaches.
The movement of these principal officer of the Assembly to Government House was reportedly supervised by Shaibu, and a cash of N10m sourced from the state treasury was tabled before each member.
This final act of desperation came on the back of the statement released by 19 members-elect of the Assembly, denouncing the refusal of the Governor to issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the Legislative arm and the unconstitutional attempt to impose a Speaker on the House.
The 19 members-elect of the Assembly had on Monday issued a statement denouncing the alleged refusal of Governor Obaseki to issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the Legislative arm.
The members-elect also accused the Governor of unconstitutional attempt to impose a Speaker on them.
They accused him of attempting to truncate democracy.
A former Commissioner for Education, Barr. Washington Osifo, read the statement on behalf of the protesters.
He noted that the tenure of the last Assembly expired on 7th of June, 2019.
The statement said: “Today, we Members-elect of the Edo State House of Assembly, wish to bring to the knowledge of the people of Edo State and the general public of the attempt by Governor Obaseki to truncate democracy.
“The Governor, by virtue of section 105 (3) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, (as amended), is constitutionally required to immediately issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the new Assembly, to avoid vacuum.”
They lawmakers-elect noted that “there cannot be democracy without legislature, because it is the legislature that give credence to democracy.”
They accused Governor Obaseki of deliberately refusing to allow the House of Assembly to function, thus usurping powers of the legislature.
According to them: “It is also common knowledge that the Governor, no matter how powerful, cannot impose individuals either as Speaker on legislators. At best, he can only lobby for for his preferred candidates as was witnessed at the National Assembly.”
They therefore called on the people of the state, including Oba of Benin and the leadership of APC, to prevail on Obaseki “to immediately issue letter of proclamation to enable the Assembly to function and to avoid constitutional crisis.”
The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, could not be reached on phone for reaction.
But, the State Chairman of APC, Anslem Ojezua, in his reaction, said the leadership of the party has agreed on the composition of the Assembly leadership.
“I don’t see any constitutional crisis, because, we met only yesterday and we have agreed as a party on how the leadership of the Assembly should be constituted.
“I expect that Mr. Governor will issue the proclamation any time now. But I don’t see any constitutional crisis at all. As you can see, everything is moving smoothly.
“There is no problem at the moment, no one has violated any section of the Constitution, I don’t know what they are getting unduly anxious about,” he said.