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Recall suspended 3 Edo lawmakers

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The Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Blessing Agbebaku over stepped his legislative boundary recently when contrary to provisions of the Constitution and Court pronouncements, regarding discipline of suspected erring lawmakers, unilaterally announced the indefinite suspension of three members of the legislature without giving them fair hearing on the trumped up allegation of plotting to impeach the leadership of the House.

We demand the immediate lifting of this sanction imposed on Hons. Donald Okogbe (PDP, Akoko-Edo II), Bright Iyamu (PDP, Orhionmwon South) and Adeh Isibor, (APC, Esan North-East I) on the ground that the Speaker’s decision is not only an injustice, illegal, unconstitutional, laughable and totally unjustified, but a major setback for the Nigeria’s democratic journey which was enthroned through the collective unrelenting struggles of heroes and heroines some of whom paid the supreme sacrifice ultimately.

Unfortunately too, apart from denying their constituents and constituencies their constitutionally guaranteed right to adequate representation in the business of law making for good governance in the House, Agbebaku’s disgraceful show of tyranny clearly demonstrates that some politicians in the country are yet to fully imbibe the tenets of democracy and the rule of law even when courts of competent jurisdiction have consistently held that disciplinary powers of legislative houses including the Edo State House of Assembly should be exercised with caution and do not extend to reckless suspension of members.

In fact, we are deeply worried that the latest violent attack on the rule of law occurred in Edo State again, and a sad reminder of the aberration, where a minority few of 10 out of 24 members hijacked the legislative business of the House for four years after the incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki refused to swear in 14 legislators, just like Agbebaku, on the lame duck same excuse, that they were loyal to the former governor and political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole now a serving senator representing Edo North senatorial district in the Red chamber of the National Assembly and therefore, might be influenced to impeach him (Obaseki) then..

Regrettably also, the Speaker’s act of reckless illegality, which we totally condemn, came after the Court of Appeal had unambiguously ruled that the relationship between a member of the House and the Assembly itself is not that of a master servant relationship but that the member is a true and legitimate representative of his people whose membership of the legislature is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended and not any other person or group of persons.

Should Agbebaku feign crass ignorance of the established precedent, we recall quite vividly that in the case of: Speaker Bauchi State House of Assembly versus Rifkatu Samson Danna (2017), who was similarly unjustifiably suspended indefinitely before dragging the House to court, the Appeal Court stated unambiguously that the lawmaker (Danna) not being an employee of the House, can neither be suspended nor had her entitlements, including salary and allowances withheld.

Specifically, the Appellate Court while ruling on the illegality of the House further held that, “Any member of the Bagoro constituency (which Danna represented at the time), could have challenged the indefinite suspension of their choice representative in the Bauchi State House of Assembly  on the grounds that their accrued rights had been violated or breached by the appellants” warning that the “conduct of the appellants is the tyranny of the majority against an elected minority of the House of Assembly”.

In other words, in our view, since the Appellate court was very clear on the primacy and superiority of the electorate in correcting the injustice perpetuated against a lawmaker, we challenge the constituents in the affected three Edo constituencies to immediately test Agbebaku’s latest brazen illegality in court of competent jurisdiction and seek justice for the their true representatives, who have been unjustly sanctioned by an apparently desperate and power-drunk Speaker.

Definitely, the constituents cannot afford to be docile or totally indifferent regarding the unfortunate fate of their true representatives whose rights had been infringed upon, no matter the forces behind the leadership of the Edo State House of Assembly even as we firmly believe that the judiciary should be decisive, transparent and timely in dispensing justice to the aggrieved and not entertain any unnecessary frivolous delays by lawyers just like what played out in the group of 14 lawmakers versus Obaseki.

We sadly recall that the crisis which rocked the Edo House of Assembly after the incumbent governor defected from the All Progressives Congress, APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2020 when he won reelection, defied solution despite attempts by stakeholders, with the majority 14 members, who were not inaugurated to take their rightful seats in the House, later had their seats declared vacant after they failed to show up over a period of time specified by law (180 sitting days).

Consequently, embattled 14 legislators were denied salaries and allowances and their constituents robbed of any representation between 2019 and 2023 when the current members of the House were voted and sworn in.

Again, more painful is the fact that their constituents were denied legitimate and effective representation for four years even after the aggrieved lawmakers challenged their been shut out of the House in court and more importantly, despite the established fact that contrary to the norm, the inauguration of the minority 10 took place in the dead of the night inside the hallowed chamber of the assembly in Benin city, the state capital.

The point we are making and very strongly here too, is that with barely four months to the Governorship election slated for September 21, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and following the recent impeachment of Obaseki’s deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu also by the Assembly, Edo State should not be thrown into any avoidable political turmoil by the brazen impunity of any public office holder including Agbebaku’s unconstitutional suspension of three members of the legislature one of whom reportedly stridently opposed Shaibu’s removal.

According to reports, while Hon.Okogbe’s suspension was a direct fallout of his total and unwavering loyalty to Shaibu, Iyamu’s travails emanated from his open resistance to the paltry N300 million budget allocation to the Deputy Governor’s office during the 2024 budget presentation.

It is against this glaring case of vendetta that we demand that the PDP should immediately prevail on the Speaker to toe  the path of honour and legality by recalling the three lawmakers having sworn to defend the rule of law and tenets of democracy,as the people already confronted with worsening insecurity, inflation and hardship in the land resulting from President Bola Tinubu’s policies cannot afford to be further subjected to avoidable crisis on account of Agbebaku’s illegality which outcome no one can predict. The Speaker must learn from former United States of America President, late John F. Kennedy’s famous quote that: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’’ and that his been elected as first among the 24 member doesn’t insulate him from impeachment if that is the decision of the majority.

 

For a better society

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