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Edo Assembly: From rumblings to impeachment

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Ativie (left) pulling the former Speaker, Edoror from the seat.

Ativie (left) pulling the former Speaker, Edoror from the seat.

He was popularly called ‘Tiger’ but he was forced out of his forest and now made to sit under the tree while other ‘lesser animals’ took over his forest.

This was how a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) described what transpired in the Edo State House of Assembly on Tuesday when the erstwhile speaker, Victor Edoror popularly called Tiger was impeached by 16 of his colleagues out of the 24 that make up the House.

Not much of the impending plot to remove Edoror was heard until few minutes before 2 pm on that fateful day. Just before sitting, there was an unusual movement of lawmakers and ‘strange persons’ suspected to be thugs.

The removal of the erstwhile speaker was characterised by the typical Nigerian political style, where suspected thugs dictate the pace of action and even take laws into their hands while law enforcement agents look on. Thugs took over the hallowed chambers shooting and shoving, fighting for the mace.

Trouble started when the Majority Leader, Folly Ogedegbe moved the motion for impeachment of the speaker, and the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Bright Osayande. The member representing Esan North East, Patrick Iluobe, seconded the motion.

The motion reads in parts: “We the underlisted and undersigned Honourable Members representing the various constituencies in the Edo State House of Assembly have on this day 3rd of May 2016 resolved to impeach our Speaker, Chief Victor Edoror a.k.a. Tiger and the deputy Speaker Hon. Osayande for acts of gross misconduct.”

Iluobe was later appointed Speaker ex-tempor to preside over the business of the day where the new Speaker, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie representing Uhunmwode was elected while Dr. Joseph Okonoboh representing Igueben was elected deputy Speaker.

Immediately the new Speaker was sworn in, Edoror and his deputy walked into the chamber allegedly in company of persons believed to be thugs shooting sporadically to scare people out of the chambers, in the process some people sustained various gun shot injuries.

There was a mild drama when Edoror attempted to forcefully pull off Ativie from the Speaker’s seat. It got rowdy when Edoror like in a children’s play quickly sat on the chair when Ativie was distracted and stood up to speak to someone. An attempt later to remove Edoror from the seat was unsuccessful. At this juncture, Ativie and her team stormed out of the chambers.

Apparently to avoid a situation where members claimed in the past that their names were added without their consent, the impeachment notice was handwritten and signed by the individual 16 lawmakers which included Bar Foly Ogedengbe (Owan East), Mrs Elizabeth Ativie (Uhunmwonde, Aseid O. Victor (Owane West), Lawani Damian (Etsako Centarl), henry Okhuarobo (Ikpoba-Okha), Nosayde Otubor (Orhionmwon East) and Chris Okaiben (Oredo West).

Others were Emmanuel Agbaje (Akoko-Edo II), Sylvanus I. Eruaga (Etsako West II), Patrick Iluobe (Esan North East), Gani Audu (Etsako West I), Adjoto Kabiru (Akoko-Edo I), Crosby Eribo (Egor), Kingsley Ugabi (Etsako East), Sir Ezehi Igbas (Esan North East I) and Dr. E.J. Okonoboh (Igueben).

Sixteen members signed the impeachment notice that was circulated to journalists immediately after the house proceedings.

Addressing journalists immediately after the fracas, the new Speaker, Ativie, said the members could no longer tolerate the greedy nature of the speaker.

She claimed that the impeached Speaker had up to six different financial cases with the EFCC and the members cannot continue to allow such indecent person to lead the House.

She therefore, said that five-member committee headed by Kabiru Adjoto representing Akoko-Edo 1 would investigate the financial recklessness of the impeached speaker from June 2015 till May 3rd.

She said if found wanting at the end of the three months when the committee will submit their report he will be handed over to the appropriate authority.

Also speaking, Adjoto alleged that the impeached Speaker was “violently corrupt … as it is today, Edoror has a lot of EFCC cases hanging on his neck, and you media men can go and verify this. We cannot afford to have a Speaker that is being investigated by the EFCC because of his corrupt nature. As earlier mentioned by our new Speaker, Edoror has a corrupt tendency. Enough is enough that is why sixteen members of the House today signed impeachment notice against him. As we speak today, both APC and PDP members in the House signed impeachment notice against him”.

Shortly after the sitting, Edoror with six other lawmakers backing him, met in the House chambers claiming that there was nothing like impeachment in the assembly. He claimed that 11 and not 16 members signed the impeachment notice and therefore that allegedly impeached him did not meet the required two-third majority number to impeach him.

It would be recalled that the twenty four members of the House revolted against the leadership of the Speaker recently which culminated into rowdy plenary session over alleged refusal by the State Government to buy them official vehicles. This development forced the House to proceed on indefinite vacation.

Journalists were also victims of the fracas as some media men who were in the impeached Speaker’s office to get his reaction to the allegations of corruption were beaten and rough handled by suspected thugs allegedly arranged by the ex- Speaker even with the presence of fierce looking and fully armed security men in the office.

The thugs ambushed the journalists, numbering over 20, as soon as the ex-Speaker was through with talking to the press.

The Guardian gathered that the trouble between the Speaker and the members have been on for a while particularly when the members discovered that they were allegedly being short-changed by the Speaker and his deputy amidst constant claims that the executive arm of government was not releasing enough funds for the legislature.

There was allegation of N32 million released for the members immediately after their inauguration last year that members argued was not disclosed by the Speaker.

More worrisome according to sources was a vexed issue of money meant for a lawmaker for some personal emergency by a benefactor (believed the be the Governor) that was not delivered to him in full.

There was also a recent development that led to the House members publicly opposing the State Governor when they originally summoned commissioners to appear before them on Tuesdays which was the weekly state executive council meeting and threatening sanction against those who failed to appear.

The seeming difference between the Executive and legislature got to a head when the lawmakers without waiting for a letter from the governor as provided for in the law before directing that the local government council chairmen should hand over to the Head of Service of their various councils.

This did not go down well with the governor who had to write to the House expressing his displeasure describing the action as a usurpation of his powers as the Governor of the State.

This, The Guardian gathered, led to a meeting where the governor was said to have openly told the lawmakers how much he has been approving and releasing to the lawmakers which was allegedly not being disclosed by the former Speaker. This, sources claimed, infuriated many of the lawmakers particularly the new members.

Responding to the allegations of corruption and high-handedness, Edoror said his colleagues were ill-informed and that, allegations were false and insisted that there was no time he received any grant for them that he did not deliver.

On his impeachment, Edoror alleged that only 11 persons purportedly impeached him and that some of the signatures were forged, adding that 11 fell short of needed two third to remove him.

Immediately after the fracas, both parties met with party leaders and the state governor to chart a way forward and it was gathered that APC leaders from Edo Central were appealing for a return to status quo but the plea did not go down well with other leaders.

The meeting was adjourned to another date for further deliberations due to the inability to reach a conclusive truce.


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