The Edo State Government on Wednesday said that the House of Representatives lacked the constitutional powers to shut down the House of Assembly.
The government’s statement was a response to the purported orders made on July 17, by the House of Representatives to the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to seal off the Assembly, until a proper inauguration is done.
In a statement in Benin City, the state capital, the Secretary to Government, Osarodion Ogie said: “there is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the House of Representatives or even the National Assembly for that matter, is granted the right or power to shut down the House of Assembly,” adding that, “in point of fact such power is expressly excluded by the Constitution.”
Ogie said: “It has come to the attention of the Government of Edo State that the House of Representatives at its sitting on 17th July, 2019 purported to issue certain orders regarding the status and activities of the Edo State House of Assembly.
“Amongst others, it directed, the governor to ‘issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the House of Assembly’ and ordered the Inspector General of Police to shut down the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly and purported to make further orders in this regard.”
According to the SSG, “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 added: “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.
He said: “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.
“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 (the upper arm of the National Assembly) was in Benin meeting with Stakeholders with a view to fashioning a road map to peace in our land.”
Ogie noted that “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, was precipitated by a similar attempt to use ‘Federal might’ to muscle, intimidate and overwhelm the functionaries of a Federating unit outside the due process of law.
“Since the situation in the Edo State House of Assembly is a matter currently pending before two (2) 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.”
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He added: “Suffice it to say however that there is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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, in point of fact such power is expressly excluded by the Constitution.”
The state government advised “those interested parties who sit in positions of authority in Abuja and are using their offices to influence the House of Representatives to take note that we all ultimately owe a debt of accountability to the good people of Edo State for our actions.
“We are certain that the Inspector General of Police, being a law-abiding Government Functionary will not act in disobedience to the Order of a Federal High Court in Benin, validly issue and served upon him restraining him from doing exactly what the House of Representatives now purport to direct him to do, which is to shut down the Edo State House of Assembly.
“Both sides of this dispute are currently before the Court and we are shocked that the House of Representatives could allow itself to be made to act in breach of its own Rules which forbid it from entertaining or making pronouncements on matters before Courts.”
There was protest in Bénin City over the resolution of the House of Representatives that it would take over functions of the Edo State House of Assembly if Governor Godwin Obaseki fail to issue a fresh proclamation letter for proper inauguration of the Assembly.
The protest involved civil society groups, non-governmental orgaisations market women, artisans, youths and students.
They marched through various streets of Bénin City and carried placards displaying their support for Governor Obaseki.
At the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly, the protesters warned that they would resist shutting down of the Assembly by security agencies.
Spokesman for the protesters, Mr. Olu Martins said the issues concerning the Edo Assembly are in court.
“Everybody should stay and play to the rule of the game because we believe in rule of law. We have banished godfather from Edo State more than eight years ago, we cannot allow it come back now.
“Comrade Oshiomhole (Adams) spent eight years, Obaseki must spend his eight years, we will not allow anybody to stop him.”
Edo State APC Youth Leader, Mr. Valentine Asuen said “APC youths in Edo State are with you (Obaseki) because you have a sincere and legitimate mission. So remain focused and don’t be distracted knowing that the sky is not your limit but your starting point”.
“It is four over four. No way for godfather because just the same way donkey meat have become a thing of the past in Edo State, so will they also become a thing of the past “.