Lawyers, on Thursday, questioned the legality of the parallel House of Assembly in Edo State, saying it is against the country’s constitution.
A parallel assembly was created in the state last week Thursday when 14 members-elect were inaugurated allegedly in a private residence in Benin.
Crisis has been trailing the inauguration of the State House of Assembly since June 2019 when only 10 out of the 24 members-elect were sworn in.
The remaining 14 members were sworn in last week. After their swearing-in, they, along with three others, announced the impeachment of the speaker, Mr. Frank Okiye, and Victor Edoro was announced as his replacement.
Okiye has, however, insisted that he remains the speaker of the state parliament.
The 17 members are loyalists of former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, while the other seven are with the state governor, Godwin Obaseki.
While the Okiye-led faction, with seven members, holds plenary at the old legislative chambers at the government house, the Edoro-led faction with 17 members holds plenary at an undisclosed venue.
Daily Trust reports that the Edoro faction has held three plenary sessions at a private residence since the parallel assembly emerged.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Paul Ananaba (SAN) said the speaker cannot be impeached outside the House of Assembly because the impeachment requires a meeting of members of the assembly and the mace, which is the symbol of authority.
“The Supreme Court in the Adeleke and Ngige cases has made it clear that you have to be in the House,” he said.
He explained that proclamation of the House cannot be made twice because the governor had already made the first one by inaugurating 14 members, which left the other members as only “members-elect.”
“Even though it is morally wrong to have sworn in few people, but they should have used legal means to get the others also sworn in. And after that, they can find a resolution to impeach the speaker. But now they cannot do that,” he added.
Ananaba said the drama over the impeachment is all politics, which will continue until after the election.
On his part, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said, “For a House of Assembly to function, its members must sit in the official venue/chambers of the House. Any business transacted outside the hallowed chambers is of no legal effect.”
Also, Barr Hameed Ajibola Jimoh opined that to properly impeach the governor, it is prudent enough for there to be a faction legally elected as House members.
“Perhaps there’ll be the need for either faction to approach a court of law to determine its status. Furthermore, there are grounds for impeaching a governor under the Constitution of Nigeria which must be complied with.
“The speaker impeached, if doubting the legal status of those House members who purportedly impeached him, may seek remedy in the court of law to determine the legality of the impeachment,” he said.
My camp is legitimate – New speaker
Edoro, in an interview with Daily Trust, said his camp remains the legitimate. He also denied media reports on alleged threat to impeach Governor Obaseki.
“The House under my leadership is not plotting to impeach the governor; that is not our dream even when we know he has committed heinous crimes. We know his time is up because it is known in Edo that Obaseki can’t win the September 19 governorship election.
“So why should we impeach him? Impeachment would give him much glory because he would be saying it is because of that he did not win the election. We don’t want to give too much glory,” he said.
Edoro also said his faction was the legitimate house, adding that in democracy majority carries the day.
“There are 24 members in the house and the majority takes the day in all deliberations. We are the majority with 17 members out of 24, hence we decided to change the leadership of the house,” he said.
On where they held plenary, Edoro while quoting section 91 of the 1999 constitution said, “As a speaker, I can decide to sit anywhere we choose to sit, and when the majority takes decision pronounced by the speaker it is authentic.”
He noted that none of the factions was sitting at the assembly complex due to what he described as ‘desecration’ of the building in the name of renovation.
“The building is not the assembly, what makes a house of assembly are members and we have 17 members out of 24,” he said.