Fourteen constituencies in Edo State have been without representation at the state House of Assembly 31 months after the 7th Assembly was inaugurated by the Clerk of the House.
The Assembly was inaugurated on June 17, 2019 by the Clerk, Alhaji Yahaya Omogba, after receiving the proclamation from Governor Godwin Obaseki at about 9pm.
But 14 of the 24 members of the Assembly were not inaugurated as they were not present during the ceremony.
They claimed they were not informed of the governor’s proclamation and that they were deliberately kept out of the inauguration.
Prior to the inauguration of the Assembly, there was alleged crisis between Governor Obaseki and his political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, over who becomes the Speaker of the House.
Obaseki was said to have preferred Frank Okiye while Oshiomhole was said to be rooting for Victor Edoro. The development led to delay in the inauguration of the Assembly as none of the gladiators was ready to concede to the another.
Consequently, the crisis divided the members-elect with the majority aligning with Oshiomhole while the minority pitched tent with Obaseki.
The crisis delayed the inauguration of the House and when it was eventually inaugurated, only 10 of the 24 members-elect took oath of office while the 14 members loyal to Oshiomhole were shut out.
As it stands today, 10 members have been carrying out legislative duties and serving their constituencies in the last 30 months while the 14 who are yet to be inaugurated are still battling to get themselves inaugurated and serve their constituencies.
The members-elect who took oath of office during the inauguration are Nosa Okunbor (Orhionmwon 1); Henry Okhuarobo (Ikpoba Okha); Marcus Onobun (Esan West); Roland Asoro (Orhionmwon 11); Eric Okaka (Owan East); Frank Okiye (Esan North-East 1); Yekini Idiaye (Akoko-Edo II); Emmanuel Okoduwa (Esan North- East II); Emmanuel Agbaje (Akoko-Edo II) and Ojezele Sunday (Esan South-East).
Members-elect who have not been sworn-in are Victor Edoror (Esan Central); Washington Osifo (Uhunmwonde); Vincent Uwadiae (Ovia North East 2); Ugiagbe Dumez (Ovia North East 1) and Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South West).
Others are Crosby Eribo (Egor); Chris Okaeben (Oredo West); Kingsley Ugabi (Etsako East); Ganiyu Audu (Etsako West 1); Seidu Oshiomhole (Etsako West 2); Oshomah Ahmed (Etsako Central); Michael Ohio-Ezomo (Owan West); Uyi Ekhosuehi (Oredo East) and Henry Okaka (Owan East).
In an effort to get themselves inaugurated, the 14 lawmakers-elect petitioned the National Assembly to wade into the matter, insisting that the governor must issue another proclamation.
The National Assembly after a meeting with both parties issued a seven-day ultimatum to Governor Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation letter to the clerk of the state Assembly failure which the state Assembly would be taken over by the federal lawmakers.
But the state government went to a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which held that the responsibility of the governor with regards to the 7th Assembly began and ended with the issuance of a proclamation letter for the House to be inaugurated.
It also got an injunction restraining the National Assembly from intervening in the matter. Our correspondent reports that, that order has not been vacated by any other court.
Meanwhile, the 14 members had gone to court to enforce their right, but the case was not been heard two years after it was instituted.
The 24 members-elect were elected on the platform of the APC, and it was gathered that they sought a political solution but it yielded no result and Obaseki later dumped the APC for the PDP alongside with the 10 inaugurated members.
While the non-inaugurated members blamed Governor Obaseki for their predicament, the governor on the other hand blamed the members-elect for dancing to Oshiomhole’s tune.
To foreclose any clandestine move by the non inaugurated members to get themselves inaugurated and take over the Assembly, the governor allegedly removed the roof of the Assembly complex for renovation and moved the members to the old executive chamber at the government house where they held plenary.
But they, however, returned to the House at the Kings square during the presentation of the 2022 budget by the state governor.
As the crisis festers, the Assembly on December 5, 2019 declared the seat of the 14 members vacant after failing to meet the mandatory sitting requirement of 180 days and asked INEC to conduct a by-election in the affected constituencies.
In January 2020, the 14 members-elect obtained an injunction from a Federal High Court in Abuja, restraining the INEC from conducting by-election into the “vacant seats” until the matter was resolved in court.
The 14 members-elect also dragged the state government and the Assembly to the state High Court but the case had passed through eight judges without any favourable result.
Pundits say the 14 members-elect may not be inaugurated till their four years tenure is over, as there is no end in sight in the crisis that had denied 14 constituencies of representation.
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group, the Strategy Advocacy Outreach (SAO), has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, over the protracted crisis that has left 14 members out of the assembly.
The group’s Convener, Mr John Mayaki, described the situation as the “detention of democracy in Edo State.”
He called on the leaders to take urgent action to resolve the crisis and ensure the inauguration of the sidelined members before the expiration of their term.
Speaking on the development, one of the embattled members, Victor Edoror, said the governor and his cohorts have refused to inaugurate the House in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The matter is still in court and up till now we are not able to represent our people. Out of the 24 constituencies, 14 are not being represented for two years and seven months now,” he said.
He said their non inauguration served as bad precedence for the country, calling for Nigerians to fight it.
He lamented that their colleagues who have been inaugurated have not made any overture to them.
Also speaking, Washington Osifo, lamented that the case they filed in court with an affidavit of state of urgency has not been heard till this moment.
“The mandate given to us by our various constituencies to represent them at the House will expire in 2023. Even though we were prevented from being inaugurated, that doesn’t extinguish our right from seeking re-election either to another office or the same office,” he said.
He alleged that there is a strong collusion in the matter, as according to him “eight judges and three Chief Judges of the state sat on the matter without judgement.
“It baffles me that they lacked the courage to take the matter and decide on it whether the evidence presented is against us or not but they are dancing to the tune of the executive which is a slap on democracy.”
He claimed that when they were all in APC, party leaders, traditional rulers and religious leaders tried to resolve the impasse but the governor was adamant.
Meanwhile, the Edo State government has decried what it described as an attempt to create the narrative that there exists a crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly and that such a crisis has been orchestrated by the executive arm of government.
The Secretary to the State Government (SGF), Osarodion Ogie, said in a statement that the proclamation was duly publicised in official gazettes and in the print and electronic media circulating in Edo State and across Nigeria.
“But on the 17th of June 2019, nine elected members presented themselves for swearing-in, in accordance with the law, while the others (for reasons best known to them) chose to stay away.”
He said, “In the absence of mischief-makers and their godfather, the generality of the people of Edo State have continued to enjoy the benefit of good governance with the three arms of government at peace with one another and working for the common good.”
On his part, the deputy publicity secretary of the APC in the state, Ofure Osehobo, said the party believes in the rule of law, and that they are committed to the process coming to a logical conclusion.
“We believe the judiciary remains the last hope of the common man and we do not have any doubt at all that in the end the truth will prevail,” he said.
On his part, Austin Eme blamed the 14 members for not presenting themselves for the inauguration and for listening to one godfather.
He said after the first inauguration in which eight members were inaugurated, two other members who stayed away turned up to be inaugurated while the 14, still refused to turn up.