Benin City (Precise Post) – The crisis rocking Edo state has taken a different dimension as the Conference of Speakers are taking steps to publicly disown the sacked speaker of the Edo Assembly, Francis Okiye, if he fails to allow the assembly to resume and carry out its constitutional functions without the interference of the executive arm of government.
The Speakers’ body, it was gathered, frowns at what it described as Okiye’s penchant for working against the independence of the legislature in his quest to please the governor.
The chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday deplored Thursday’s siege to the Edo State House of Assembly by suspected supporters of Governor Obaseki.
Obasa, in a statement in Lagos, also said the removal of the roofs of the assembly on the orders of the governor was an injury to Nigeria’s democracy and must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
But the governor’s office said Obasa got his argument wrong and failed in his responsibility to “defend democracy, its values and structures, such as the legislature, which he claims he represents.”
It was gathered that the decision to caution Obaseki and Okiye was reached at the weekend when the leadership of the conference met online to review the happenings in the state.
According to sources, one of the decisions reached at the meeting is the urgent need to write both the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police to ensure protection for members of the assembly who are willing to sit at plenary.
The Nation gathered that the group may also write Obaseki and Okiye as well as the newly elected Speaker, Victor Edoror, on the need for all parties in the dispute to respect the rule of law as well as the sanctity of the legislature in all their dealings.
“The Speakers’ conference is grossly dissatisfied with happenings in Edo,and this will be communicated to all those who should know,” a well placed source said.
“It believes that the AGF and the Police I.G. should no longer fold their arms and watch our democracy suffer such lethal blows in Edo State.
“If we fail to do anything about these now, you can rest assured that the legislature will be trampled upon in more states across the country in the days and years to come.”
Obasa, in his statement yesterday, said he and his colleagues across the country were shocked at “the brazen manner suspected political thugs took over the Assembly, removed the roof and broke the symbolic mace, which were all captured in a recorded video.”
He added: “It is sheer recklessness and a proof of dictatorship for a governor who is supposed to be the head of the executive arm of government to decide to take charge of another arm through questionable means like it happened in Edo.
“There were reports linking the removal of the roof and the offloading of gravel at the complex to purported plans by the government to renovate the Assembly, but we think this is an afterthought.”
The Conference wondered how the idea of renovating the Assembly at this point in time came about.
Its words: “Why is the government just realising the need renovate the complex at the twilight of the administration?
“What happens to the building if the governor does not return? What happens if the next administration does not take that direction?”
The conference did not spare the state police commissioner who it claimed allowed himself to be used as a tool to perpetrate an attack on democracy in the way the drama panned out at the Assembly complex in the state.
It noted that the removal of the Assembly roof does not stop the lawmakers from sitting, as the constitution of the country does not limit plenaries to the hallowed chamber alone.
You’re wrong, says Edo governor’s office
Responding, the Special Adviser to Edo State Governor on Media and communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said Obasa had a distorted understanding of “the issues in the Edo State House of Assembly, even when the facts stare him in the face.”
He said: “It is disheartening that the chairman of speakers in Nigeria, whose mandate is to among other things, defend democracy, its values and structures, such as the legislature, which he claims he represents, is trying to find justification for the coup that took place in Benin City by members of his party.”
Nigeria’s democracy, Osagie said, “stands on a tripod with clear separation of duties for the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature,” and urged Obasa to “refrain from dragging Governor Obaseki into the business of the legislative arm of government.”
Security operatives on Thursday morning took over the state assembly complex with patrol vehicles stationed around the area.
The deputy speaker of the state assembly, Yekini Idiaye, was removed on Wednesday barely 48 hours after he threw his weight behind Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September governorship election in the state.
The roof of the assembly was also removed “for repairs” following allegation that the 17 APC members of the House planned to impeach Obaseki.
Speaker Edoror has denied the allegation
The Nation also gathered that Majority Leaders of the State House of Assembly are poised to meet to express their collective disapproval of the happenings in Edo State.
A member of the body from the Southwest said: “No lawmaker anywhere in the country is pleased with what is happening in Edo, irrespective of party affiliation.
“I can assure you that it is not only the speakers who are ready to defend democracy in Edo, the majority leaders of state assemblies as well as various caucuses of the National Assembly are peeved by the development and are going to move against attempts by the executive in that state to continually disparage the legislative arm of government.
“As a matter of fact, a meeting has been called to discuss this and take a firm position in support of the position of the conference of Speakers. From Monday, Nigerians will begin to see how United we can be in defence of democracy,” the source said. (Nation)