Benin City — The crisis in Edo State House of Assembly worsened wednesday as the seats of 12 members-elect, who have failed to present themselves for inauguration, as well as two others, who didn't meet mandatory sitting requirement to continue as members of the House, were declared vacant.
Speaking with journalists, Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, representing Akoko Edo State Constituency I, said the resolution was reached at a plenary of the Assembly wednesday.
The Assembly has been in crisis as a result of a dispute between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, over the control of the party in the state.
Following disagreement over the convening of the Assembly by the governor, 12 members, believed to be allies of the national chairman of APC, have stayed away from the state legislature since inception in June, culminating in the declaration of their seats as becoming vacant yesterday.
Idiaye said yesterday that the seats declared vacant were Etsako West I, Etsako West II, Owan East, Owan West, Etsako Central, Etsako East and Esan Central.
Others were Uhunmwonde, Oredo East, Oredo West, Egor, Ovia North East I, Ovia North East II and Ovia South West I.
He said two of those affected from Oredo East and Owan East, were sworn-in but failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a calendar year.
For others, who hadn't been inaugurated since the proclamation of the House, he said: "Their constituents have been complaining and have come to us that they want their voices and concerns to be heard at the House. So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraught constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary."
He noted that the House also passed the 2020 Appropriation Bill and affirmed the removal of the suspended Chairman of Etsako East Local Government Area, Alhaji Aramiyau Momoh, after receiving the report of the investigation committee on appropriation of funds and undermining the financial rules and regulations of public service.
The other matter considered at the sitting, according to him, was the confirmation of the members of the board of the Edo State Internal Revenue Service (EIRS).
Declaration Illegal, Cannot Stand Test of Time, Says Lawyer
However, a lawyer Douglas Ogbankwa, has declared the pronouncement of the Edo State House of Assembly as illegal, noting that it could not stand the test of time.
Ogbankwa, who spoke to THISDAY in Benin City, said the House misfired because Section 109, subsection 1 of the Constitution of Nigeria made reference to members and not members-elect.
He said in Law, "We say the express mention of a thing is the exclusion of another."
According to him, "One-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year cannot be determined until the end of the legislative year. Again the Section in question applies to members and not members-elect that sat during that particular year.
"The existence of the power purportedly exercised by the speaker is by no means clear. A member-elect is not a member for the purposes of section 109. The only remedy lies with the people (constituent) to recall a member-elect, who refuses to take his or her seat.
"Another issue is: how can the minority declare the seats of the majority vacant? It is an anathema and amounts to standing logic on its head. The purported declaration is an illegality ab initio and it will not stand the test of law."
Also reacting, spokesman of members-elect whose seats were declared vacant by the House, Mr. Washington Osifo, representing Uhunmwode State Constituency, described the purported declaration as a laughable, wondering why the Assembly continued to fumble and stumble.
He said the action of the House was subjudice because the matter was before a competent court of law.
He said: "We are challenging the illegal inauguration of the House and anything put on nothing cannot stand. So Okiye is a man that is in search of identity. He is working with the governor in the pursuit of a blind ambition. They have hit the rock.
"The information got to us as early as last week that he (Okiye) met a group, who call themselves a union of PDP candidates, who contested the election. He held a meeting with them and they agreed that they should write a petition to the house and it is on that premise they did what they did today. It also confirms what has been on the ground that the governor wants to hand over the state to the PDP."