Residents of Benin City, the Edo State capital, were gripped with tension as a factional group of 17 members of the Edo State House of Assembly opposed to the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, vowed to sit in the legislative premises despite the ongoing renovation of the complex.
The 17 lawmakers who are presumed to be loyal to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, comprise five that were hitherto in the governor’s camp, who were joined by 12 others that were surreptitiously sworn in last week, more than a year after those loyal to the governor were inaugurated.
The speaker of the faction loyal to the governor, Hon. Frank Okiye, had earlier declared the seats of the 12 lawmakers-elect vacant.
But the governor played down the lawmakers’ action, saying the decisions arising from any of their sittings would not be binding on him and the state government.
At their sitting last week, the 17 pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers had claimed to have elected Hon. Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central State Constituency, as speaker and Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko-Edo I, as deputy speaker.
However, the governor, Okiye, with the seven other members, and the Deputy Governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu, had prevented the takeover of the Assembly by the 17 lawmakers, saying the place is under renovation.
The roof of the building was removed while heaps of sand and gravels for the renovation were dumped at the entrance gate of the Assembly.
The governor and his camp also described the actions of the pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers as illegal, adding that the matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction.
In a swift response, the elected Speaker, Edoror has said they would sit today (Wednesday) and also continue to sit even if the entire building was taken away.
Edoror who spoke with THISDAY noted that the House of Assembly belongs to the people, adding that being the custodian of that arm of government, he is duty-bound to provide the leadership and choose where to sit.
His words, “Even when that part of the chamber has been bulldozed, we will continue to go there,” he said, adding: “Whether they destroy all of it or not, we will take our sittings there. No man born of a woman can prevent us.”
On the allegation that they planned to remove the governor, Edoror accused the governor of destroying the building to prevent them from accessing the premises.
He said: “But let me tell you, we are not there to remove anybody. We only want to access the place so as to give our people quality representation and good governance.
“Removal of the governor is not a tea party and it is not even part of the agenda except they want to make it so. What they are doing is to prevent us from sitting on the pretext that we want to remove the governor. That is far from the truth.
“That Assembly was renovated two years ago under Hon. Kabiru Adjoto’s leadership. How can it now go for another renovation exercise? It is all geared towards causing confusion.”
Meanwhile, Governor Obaseki has dismissed the plans by the pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers to sit on Wednesday, saying they are not members of the legislature and no decision taken by them will be accepted.
The governor’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, who spoke on behalf of Obaseki, said: “They are not members of the House and so I cannot accept anything from them.”
Recall that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had earlier asked the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to provide police protection for the 17 APC lawmakers.
Malami’s directive had followed a petition from their counsel.
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 August 3, 2020 from Messers West Idahosa & Co. requesting 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.”
He, therefore, requested the office of the IGP to “provide adequate security measures for the purpose of the inauguration of the concerned members and subsequent sittings of the Edo State House of Assembly.”