Reps lacks constitutional powers to shut down Edo Assembly – Govt

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… Massive protest rocks Benin over Reps resolution

…Court rejects pro-Oshiomhole members-elect’s plea to take over Edo Assembly

By Eunice Odigie

The Edo State Government on Wednesday said that the House of Representatives lacks the Constitutional powers to shut down the Edo State House of Assembly.

The state government’s statement is a response to the purported order given on July 17, by the House of Representatives to the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to seal off Edo House of Assembly until a proper inauguration is done, amongst others.

In a statement issued in Benin City, Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq., maintained that “there is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the House of Representatives or even the National Assembly for that matter, is granted the right or power to shut down a State House of Assembly,” adding that “in point of fact such power is expressly excluded by the Constitution.”

Ogie said: “It has come to the attention of the Government of Edo State that the House of Representatives at its sitting on 17th July, 2019 purported to issue certain orders regarding the status and activities of the Edo State House of Assembly.

“Amongst others, it: Directed His Excellency, The Governor of Edo State to ‘issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the House of Assembly’ and ordered the Inspector General of Police to shut down the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly and purported to make further orders in this regard.”

According to the SSG, “The Government and people of Edo State are appalled and disappointed at the gross illegality and abuse of process by the House of Representatives.”

He explained: “It must first of all be pointed out that the emergency supervisory powers over the activities of State Houses of Assembly which are contained in Section 11 of the Constitution of our Republic are expressly donated to “The National Assembly” and not one individual arm of it.

He added that “These powers certainly do not extend to issuing directives to a duly elected State Governor to unlawfully repeat an act which has already been fully carried out in line with the Constitution.

“It has further not been alleged or concluded by anyone that the Edo State House of Assembly is unable to sit. In fact, whenever the ‘self-exiled’ members-elect so choose, they can join their colleagues in plenary in Benin City.

“It is also instructive to note that while the members of the House of Representatives were busy in Abuja issuing their unlawful and unconstitutional orders, the fact-finding delegation of the Distinguished Senate (the upper arm of the National Assembly) was in Benin meeting with Stakeholders with a view to fashioning a road map to peace in our land.”

Ogie noted that “Students of history will recall that the crises in the Western Region Parliament in the 1960s which triggered a conflagration that eventually engulfed the entire nation, was precipitated by a similar attempt to use ‘Federal might’ to muscle, intimidate and overwhelm the functionaries of a Federating unit outside the due process of law.

“Since the situation in the Edo State House of Assembly is a matter currently pending before two (2) Courts of competent jurisdiction, the Government of Edo State would not follow the contemptuous example of those who are currently commenting, adjudicating upon and giving directives on matters currently being litigated upon.”

He said: “Suffice it to say however that there is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the House of Representatives or even the National Assembly for that matter, is granted the right or power to shut down a State House of Assembly, in point of fact such power is expressly excluded by the Constitution.”

The state government advised “those interested parties who sit in positions of authority in Abuja and are using their offices to influence the House of Representatives to take note that we all ultimately owe a debt of accountability to the good people of Edo State for our actions.

“We are certain that the Inspector General of Police, being a law-abiding government functionary will not act in disobedience to the order of a Federal High Court in Benin, validly issue and served upon him restraining him from doing exactly what the House of Representatives now purport to direct him to do, which is to shut down the Edo State House of Assembly.

“Both sides of this dispute are currently before the Court and we are shocked that the House of Representatives could allow itself to be made to act in breach of its own Rules which forbid it from entertaining or making pronouncements on matters before Courts.”

Edo government acknowledged its respect for the National Assembly, but noted that “we live in a nation governed by laws, where no single individual or group is permitted to utilise its privileged position to oppress and intimidate the people of an entire State.

“The Government does not intend to comment on the details of this House of Assembly dispute as same are clearly sub judice, but will ask all concerned to tread with caution so as not to precipitate crises simply in pursuit of selfish agenda.”

Ogie added: “We must state that the final verdict in this matter will ultimately be rendered by the good people of Edo State, for whose benefit government exists. We are certain therefore that this illegality will not stand.”

Meanwhile, there was heavy protest in Bénin City, the Edo State capital on Thursday over the resolution of the House of Representatives to take over functions of the Edo House of Assembly if Governor Godwin Obaseki fails to issue a fresh proclamation letter for proper inauguration of the Assembly

The protest involved civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, market women, artisans, youths and students.

They marched through various streets of Bénin City and carried placards displaying support for Governor Obaseki.

At the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly, the protesters warned they would resist shutting down of the Assembly by security agencies.

Spokesman for the protesters, Mr. Olu Martins, said the issues on the Edo Assembly are in court.

“Everybody should stay and play to the rule of the game because we believe in rule of law. We have banished godfather from Edo State more than eight years ago, we cannot allow it come back now.

“Comrade Oshiomhole (Adams) spent eight years. Obaseki must spend his eight years. We will not allow anybody to stop him.”

Edo State APC Youth Leader, Mr. Valentine Asuen, said “APC youths in Edo State are with you (Obaseki) because you have a sincere and legitimate mission. So remain focused and don’t be distracted knowing that the sky is not your limit but your starting point.”

He added: “It is four over four. No way for godfather because just the same way donkey meat have become a thing of the past in Edo State, so will they also become a thing of the past “.

Similarly, the Edo State High Court, sitting in Benin City, on Thursday, rejected a plea for an interim injunction filed by the 12 pro-Oshiomhole members-elect asking the court to restrain security agencies from barricading and cordoning off the Assembly complex so they can have access to take over the House.

In suit no. B/81OS/2019, Rt. Hon.Victor Edoror, member-elect, Esan Central constituency; Barr. Washington Osifo, Uhunmwode constituency, Edo State House of Assembly and Hon. Crosby Eribo, member-elect, Egor constituency, on behalf of the 12 pro-Oshiuomhole’s members-elect also asked the court to restrain the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye, and his Deputy, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, from parading themselves as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, respectively.

The court headed by Justice Erhabor, refused the ex-parte application, while the matter was adjourned to July 24. Though the Claimants were not in court, but they were represented by their lawyer.

The security operatives asked to be restrained are the Edo State Commissioner of Police; Director, Department of State Services, Edo State, and Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The members-elect challenged the constitutionality of the inauguration of the 7th Assembly of the Edo State House of Assembly, noting, “there is need to restrain the 1st and 2nd defendants from further parading themselves, describing themselves or acting or purport to exercise the powers and functions of the office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively until the hearing and determination of this suit.”

In his ruling, Justice Erhabor ordered the Abuja law makers-elect to put the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other defendants on notice of their suit before him. He refused granting the ex-parte application because it was lacking in merit.

Speaking on the ruling, Law Teacher, Barrister Adaze Andrew Emwanta, explained that “The legal implication of the ruling of the Edo State High Court is to the effect that the plan of the lawmakers-elect to take over the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly has suffered another set-back.”

Emwanta advised the 12 House of Assembly members-elect to present themselves to the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye for inauguration instead of creating all sorts of drama at the National Assembly or the courts.

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