House Of Reps Investigates Impasse In Kogi Assembly
THE recent intervention by House of Representatives must have put paid to the seeming wild goose begun by five members of the Kogi State House of Assembly. The House Committee visited Lokoja last Thursday and almost delivered its verdict same day on arrival.
Kogi State House of Assembly had been enmeshed in a lingering crisis, which snowballed into the impeachment of the Speaker, Momoh Jimoh Lawal by five out of the 20-member legsilature. But the 15 members loyal to the impeached speaker staged what could be described as a counter-coup by approaching the House of Representatives and praying it to wade in and ensure the restoration of sanity.
However, the attempt to impeach the Speaker by the five lawmakers was almost dead on arrival based on the absurdity and public outcry against it. For a state burdened with a baggage of many oddities waiting to be addressed, the people do deserved a break, especially from another round of political uncertainty coming from people they elected to serve them.
Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase, could not hold back his disappointment with the five members’ desperate tactics. The five ‘mutineers’ failed to meet with the Iriase committee, even when they were allegedly informed.
In the current crisis however, there seems to be the case of voice of Esau and the hand of Jacob playing out. The minority APC was at the verge of making history of producing the speaker against all odds. The emergence of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as governor on the APC platform from the same zone with the embattled Speaker seems to have aggravated the Assembly crisis
Leading the 10-man committee on the resolution mission, Iriase and his colleagues met with the group of 16 members, who in their solidarity felt that that their five colleagues must be running away from the shame of their shadows, after perceiving it as a misadventure. Iriase said their absence was unfortunate, as they could not make themselves available for the process that was harmless, only to go on air to say they were in court.
He noted that being a democratic process that started before they went to court, their action does not speak well of them. “More so, we are taking our leverage from the constitution, which empowers us to do what we are doing right now. So, it is unfortunate for them not to avail themselves of this harmless mission to gather information.”
The committee leader stated that “even in their absence we have gotten enough documentary and oral evidence that enable us to know what is going on.” On whether their findings would not be deemed to be one-sided since the five tactically stayed away, Iriase asked rhetorically, which group; group of five in the Assembly of 20?
While indicating that the committee’s next line of action is to package its findings, observations and make recommendations, he said there was no need to jump the gun as the input of the state governor, the commissioner of police and the DSS would also be useful. The committee leader noted that having chosen not to be heard, the five members cannot accuse the committee of being biased in the end. The Deputy Chief Whip however stressed the need to restore rule of law in Kogi State House of Assembly.
Earlier in an interaction with journalists after meeting with Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello; Iriase said his committee had one week to do justice to the impasse by looking into the affairs of the Assembly with the aim of amicable resolution, after which it will report back to the Green Chamber, in Abuja.
“We want to find out the real facts behind the alleged crises in Kogi State House of Assembly. We want to find out what has happened, we want to take what we know side by side with the constitution and we want to insist on what we know when all the facts are out.”
On the purported interlocutory injunction secured by the five members against the committee, the leader said he was not served any papers, asking, “Can I have the papers on the injunction? I don’t pick injunctions from the television screen, where is the injunction?
He disclosed that though his committee wanted to meet with the two factions separately behind closed-door, the embattled Speaker and his 15 loyal members attended, but the group of five did not show up.
In his remarks, Governor Bello, promised to cooperate with the delegation in their fact-finding mission towards the resolution of the Assembly crisis, even as he denied having a hand in it. “Surely like everybody knows, I have no hand in the crises, I am of the executive and they are of the legislature so they have their problems earlier than now, before I was sworn in and they decided to continue with their trouble.”
He said the amicable reconciliation of the warring factions of the state assembly will go a long way in restoring confidence, hope and unity that is required for the rapid growth of the state.
Kogi Assembly, with majority of its 14 members from the PDP, against the APC that has 11 members, had been having a running battle since last year over who should be the speaker after the PDP lost the governorship election to the APC. The embattled speaker, like the proverbial cat with nine lives, has been surviving different impeachment plots.
In fact, the Speaker was thrice ‘impeached’ but on each occasion, the moves turned out inconclusive. Based on the rerun election ordered by the Court of Appeal in five constituencies late last year, the members have been reduced to 20 with PDP having 13 while the APC has 7. With the rerun concluded, PDP has upped its membership of the Assembly by three members, making them 16, even as two of the elections are still inconclusive.
In the current crisis however, there seems to be the case of voice of Esau and the hand of Jacob playing out. The minority APC was at the verge of making history of producing the speaker against all odds. The emergence of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as governor on the APC platform from the same zone with the embattled Speaker seems to have aggravated the Assembly crisis.
The group of five had named Umar Imam, representing Lokoja 1 constituency as their speaker and Friday Makama as the new majority leader, Lawal Ahmed as the deputy majority leader and John Abba as the new chief whip.
Also allegedly impeached alongside the Speaker were the Deputy Speaker, Alih Ajuh and the majority leader, Kolawole Matthew. All that was happening just as the remaining 15 members were conferring at the embattled Speaker’s residence where they also passed a vote of confidence on his leadership.
The five lawmakers, who spearheaded the impeachment, had converged at the House of Assembly complex at about 11 am, met behind closed-doors and hatched the purported impeachment.
Newsmen at the premises of the complex were not allowed to have access to the Assembly complex as security personnel stationed there enforced that order.
After their meeting, spokesman of the group, Friday Makama, who announced himself as the Speaker Pro tempore during the purported impeachment, told journalists that 15 signatures of members were earlier collected for the impeachment. Seven members who were present at yesterday’s sitting, he disclosed, resolved to effect a change in the leadership of the Assembly.
Makama said Jimoh Lawal was impeached because of his inability to convene the House as it should be, adding that he was no longer capable of leading as he was being hunted by his own shadow owing to the perpetual fear of impeachment.
While explaining that the ‘former Speaker’ was removed for his highhandedness and stranglehold on the Assembly, Makama declared: “The quorum of 20 members of an assembly like ours is seven people. We had the quorum and we have been able to seat. We have taken relevant resolutions that will move Kogi State forward.”
He said their resolutions include the replacement of the speaker with Umar Imam of Lokoja 1 constituency. “Only one principal office of the House was stepped down today; the position of the deputy speaker and the reason is that we needed further consultations with members to arrive at a decision because there are two good contenders who are close to the principal officers of the house so we decided to step it down till then.”
Continuing, Makama narrated: “Today I have presided as Speaker Pro Tempo to remove him that is to tell you that the situation has gone out of hand, there was nothing like any inducement. Sitting was adjourned to the 3rd of March.”
But in what appeared to give the governor’s involvement away, Makama disclosed that members were in a meeting with the Governor where the decision for the Speaker to step down was agreed upon, adding that the former speaker was asked to resign honorably but he refused to follow the path of honor.
However, in a swift reaction the Speaker described the five members as dissidents and rabble rousers who were just perpetrating illegality in the name of a script handed to them. He was flanked by the fifteen members, who in their show of solidarity also signed a document passing a vote of confidence on his leadership.
Lawal said by the power vested in him as the Speaker, he issued a proclamation that the House should resume on Thursday, adding that any sitting outside Thursday was illegal. He said the House of Assembly was an institution, where it would not be acceptable for five members to take laws into their hands stressing, “So it is not a situation whereby five dissident members will just sit in somebody’s office and say that the speaker has been impeached and they could not enter the Assembly chamber where the mace was.”
As to whether he was part of the meeting where the Governor asked him to resign, the Speaker asked rhetorically, ‘how can he direct me to resign?’ The governor has no right to direct me to resign.”
He denied that 15 members signed any purported impeachment document, adding that the signatures were forged.
The embattled speaker indicated rather, that 15 members came to his residence to pass vote of confidence in his leadership. “So, how can they claim that 15 member again signed the purported impeachment. That was illegal and fake. It was forgery of signatures. “In any case, any impeachment exercise is supposed to take place in the legislative chamber, so you can’t stay in the Chief Whip’s office and say you have impeached the speaker. There is nothing like that.”