There appears to be fire in the Governor Godwin Obaseki-backed Edo State House of Assembly with Monday’s ugly development in which the factional speaker of the House, Francis Abumere Okiye, was removed and slammed with three months suspension by nine out of the 10 members. The House is made up of seven members from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with three belonging to the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Okiye represents Esan North East state constituency in the embattled House. He was elected speaker by seven members at a controversial inauguration of the House June 17, last year which was the genesis of the protracted crisis that had rocked the state legislature ever since so much so that it presently parades two leaderships, the other headed by Victor Tiger Edoro.
The impeached factional speaker was immediately replaced with Marcus Onobun representing Esan West constituency at a proceeding which reportedly caught the state government unawares in spite of the fact that the law makers had been operating from the government house where it had relocated since June 29, 2020 allegedly to prevent the excluded group of 12 members yet to be inaugurated from gaining access to the House. The Clerk of the House had claimed in a statement that the relocation was to allow for fumigation and renovation works at the complex. The impeachment exercise took place at a time the governor was out of the state while a frantic last-ditch effort by the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, the secretary to the state government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie, and Kabiru Adjoto, former speaker and now a political aide to the governor, came rather too late as the deed had been done before they got wind of it.
In what was evidently a well-executed plot, which caught the target unawares, Okiye’s impeachment followed a motion moved by the majority leader, Henry Okhuarobo representing Ikpoba-Okha state constituency who raised the issue of a petition against Okiye after he had called on the clerk of the House, Yahaya Omogbai, to read out the day’s order of proceedings for the commencement of plenary. Okhuarobo’s motion was seconded by the member representing Akoko-Edo 11 constituency, Emmanuel Agbaje (APC). Members of the House unanimously adopted the impeachment motion through a voice vote.
According to the impeachment motion, Okiye was accused of financial impropriety and therefore suspended for three months after which a committee headed by Okhuarobo was set up to probe him and submit a report to the House.
Onobun, the new factional speaker, thanked his colleagues for electing him. He immediately dissolved all the standing committees of the House and relieved all the appointees of their various appointments. He also constituted a three-man committee to look into the financial records of the House under Okiye’s leadership and also placed him on suspension for three months to allow for a peaceful transition.
Speaking to newsmen at the Government House, Okhuarobo defended the impeachment. He said “the members have compelling reasons to do what they did and the House needed to wait till now because of political reasons and now the process is over. Irrespective of APC or PDP, we are united in the quest to move the state forward”.
But in their reaction to the impeachment drama, some members of the Edoror-led House mocked their colleagues loyal to the governor for fighting over “a position that did not exist”. Speaking to TELL on condition of anonymity, one of them asked: “what are they impeaching? You are impeaching somebody that is not supposed to be there. You cannot build something on nothing. The truth is that there is no Edo State House of Assembly as they are claiming because they are not 24. We have been sworn-in; so, we have two Houses of Assembly – one from Federal, one in Edo. We have a letter to that effect signed by Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister.
“We have adequate security, we have everything and we have our speaker and principal officers. And of course, we are more; we are in the majority. We were 17, now we are 14; the three that came to join us before the election, they’ve gone back after Obaseki won. The only thing is that we are not being paid and that is the issue. You cannot give us a letter and you are not paying us. But more importantly, the case is in court”.
Another of the law makers described as “unfortunate”, the ugly development in the state legislature. “It is unfortunate what is happening. How many are they that they cannot work harmoniously? As little as 10, they cannot manage themselves. How could they have managed 24?” He berated the governor for selling falsehood to the world by claiming that they “refused to be inaugurated”. According to him, “how can somebody spend money to contest election and then refuse to be inaugurated? Does that make sense? It only shows how dishonest and mean the governor is knowing full well that he had done everything to prevent our being inaugurated”.
Obaseki had told journalists at the state house, Abuja after he paid a thank you visit to the president following his re-election that the lawmakers refused to be inaugurated because “they were listening to their godfather (veiled reference to Adams Oshiomhole, his predecessor) who kept hoping and promising that he would unconstitutionally get the state House of Assembly to reissue a proclamation even after the court had settled the matter”.
Also reacting to the unfolding drama in the House, another APC chieftain laughed hilariously and told the magazine that “Yes, I heard they said they have removed Okiye. Let them start their own fight; we are watching. He had enjoyed the illegality while his stay in the office lasted; now, he’s going to experience the other side. You don’t know where they put former speakers in the state House of Assembly? It’s a store room; very small, tiny room. That will be his office from tomorrow”. Efforts to reach the sacked speaker for his reaction failed as he refused to pick calls to his phone. Group of 14 Edo law makers taunt Obaseki-backed minority House as nine members impeach Okiye, factional Speaker.