The Edo Government yesterday maintained that the House of Representatives lacked the constitutional powers to shut the state House of Assembly.
The Governor Godwin Obaseki administration was responding to Wednesday’s resolution of the lower chamber of the National Assembly ordering the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to seal off the complex until a ‘proper inauguration’ was done.
In a statement in Benin City, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, insisted that “there is nowhere in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) 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.”
According to him, “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.
“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.”
Ogie added: “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 was in Benin meeting with stakeholders with a view to fashioning a road map to peace in our land.
“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, were precipitated by a similar attempt to use ‘federal might’ to muzzle, intimidate and overwhelm the functionaries of a federating unit outside the due process of law.”
The SSG went on: “Since the situation in the Edo State House of Assembly is a matter currently pending before two 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.”
However, a State High Court sitting in Benin City has rejected a plea for an interim injunction filed by the 12 pro-Oshiomhole members-elect asking it to restrain security agencies from barricading and cordoning off the Assembly complex so that they can take over the chamber.
The court, headed by Justice Erhabor, later adjourned the substantive suit to July 24. Though the claimants were not in court, they were represented by their lawyer.
The suit, B/81OS/2019, was filed by Victor Edoror (Esan Central) and 11 others.
Justice Erhabor subsequently ordered the plaintiffs to put the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and other defendants on notice.
Besides, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned the leadership of the House of Representatives against ‘unconstitutional’ acts that could trigger a constitutional crisis in the state and the nation at large.
In a statement, yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party stated that its order to security agencies to seal the complex was unconstitutional and provocative.
Also yesterday, scores of youth staged a solidarity march in the Edo capital to fault the resolution of the federal legislators.
Their spokesman, Rev. Olu Martins, said the directive was uncalled for since the matter was already in court.
But leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the state under the aegis of Edo People’s Movement on Thursday (EPM) lauded the resolution.
In a statement by a former Attorney General of the state and co-convener, Henry Idahagbon, and Samson Osagie, they called on the people to resist tyranny.
Also, a group, Joint Action for the Advancement of Democracy (J. A. A. D. E.) in a statement by its leader, Comrade Aiyamenkhue Edokpolor said the resolution reaffirms the sanctity of democracy and the rule of law.