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Tension in Bayelsa over Speaker’s sack

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The Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Kombowei Benson, Saturday, said he would not vacate the Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 seat following controversies surrounding the Court of Appeal judgement that declared his April 11, 2015 election null and void.

Benson remained adamant insisting that the purported written judgement was different from the record of court’s proceeding on December 9, 2015.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, in a written judgement delivered on December 9, 2015 nullified the April 2015 election that returned Benson.

The court in a copy of the ruling, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh poll within 90 days to fill the seat.

The Speaker was sacked in a case filed by Mr. Ebifaghe Orunimighe, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the seat of the House of Assembly in Southern Ijaw Constituency 4.

According to a copy of the judgement, Justices Mohammed Lawal Garba, Ejembi Eko and Stephen Jonah Adah, sat on the three-man panel that nullified Benson’s election.

The judgement which resolved issues 1,2 and 3 in favour of the APC candidate, was delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko and signed by other justices on the panel.

But about 60 days after, Benson faulted the authenticity of the written judgement saying the record of proceeding on that day showed that the appeal of the APC candidate was dismissed in the open court.

Addressing journalists in his office at the House of Assembly complex Yenagoa, Benson insisted that the ruling of 9th December upheld his election and dismissed the appeal filed by the APC candidate.

Benson said to further clarify the issues and put the record straight, he had through his team of lawyers filed a motion on notice praying the Appeal Court to set aside the judgement that was not in conformity with its declaration in the open court on December 9.

He said the motion on notice further prayed the court to make an order directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stay execution on the judgment pending the determination of the motion on notice.

Benson said he remained the speaker and would continue to preside over the affairs of the House of Assembly pending the resolution if the case.

But the APC candidate for Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 accompanied by his Media Aide, Bodmas Debekeme and his lawyer, in a separate press briefing, called on Benson to respect the judgment of the Court of Appeal and stop playing to the gallery.

Oruminighe warned Benson to stop parading himself as Speaker or risk going to prison for contempt.

At the news conference entitled, ‘Contemptuous conduct of Kombowei Benson – former Speaker’, Oruminighe noted that his lawyers had begun a process of filling a contempt suit against Benson.

He said that the judgement which sacked Benson was the only subsisting judgement adding that speaker, his team of lawyers, had copies of the same ruling.

According to him Benson in utter defiance to the judgement of the Court of Appeal, presided over the 2016 budget presented on the floor of the House by Governor Seriake Dickson on January 15, 2016.

Orunimighe said: “It is worrisome that the conduct of Benson borders on contempt of court and wanton disregard for the rule of Law.

“As you are aware, the illegality perpetrated by the ex-Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and members of the PDP-led Government is an absolute display of lawlessness reminiscence of the Hobberisan state of nature.”

He urged the members of the public to disregard the innuendoes of Benson and advised the embattled Speaker to stop engaging in acts that were tantamount to disobeying the lawful and valid judgement of the Court of Appeal.

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