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Kogi assembly: Another crisis over speaker’s seat

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Kogi Assembly Speaker, Umar Ahmed Imam

The peace and tranquility the Kogi State House of Assembly has enjoyed for months now would soon be disrupted, following recent action against the immediate past Speaker, Umar Imam, whose seat was declared vacant.

Indications are rife that the action may trigger litigations over the audacity and the power of the members to declare a colleague’s seat vacant without court orders.

Political analysts have argued that ordinarily, the State House of Assembly on its own cannot declare any seat vacant, except on the death of a member.

However, the House during plenary on Tuesday deliberated on the issue and decided that Umar Imam’s seat should be declared vacant for dumping the All Progressives Congress (APC) that make him member, representing Lokoja 1 State Constituency.

The action has not gone down well with his constituents in Lokoja, as they may soon disagree with the APC government over the persecution of their representative.

Their first grouse was his being forced to resign as Speaker and number three person; a position they cherished and saw as their only opportunity to have their voices heard.

The other is his replacement by a member, though from the same senatorial district, but not in their favour.

To make matters worse, the former Speaker was completely shut out from the party, even when he remained loyal.

Hence Imam, after so much frustration decided to dump APC for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the platform on which he would contest to actualise his ambition of winning the Lokoja/Kotokarfe Federal Constituency bye-election slated for yesterday.

The vacancy was occasioned by the sudden death of the former Deputy Majority Leader, Buba Jibrin, in March.

The late Jibrin came from the same Federal Constituency with Imam.

Imam had announced his defection in a well-attended press conference made up of National, State and Local Government Area Party officials from Lokoja-Koto Federal Constituency.

The former Speaker said he had written to the State House of Assembly about his defection, indicating that he was shut out of the party by its leadership in the state. He disclosed that the current leadership of APC in the state betrayed those that laboured to build the party.

Imam said virtually all those that worked for the success of APC in the last general election were shut out by the state government.

According to him, as a foundation member and former Speaker, he was instrumental to the stabilisation of the Yahaya Bello-led government, which was bedeviled by crisis because of the unusual manner he emerged.

Imam explained that before quitting the ruling party, he made several efforts at reconciling aggrieved members by meeting the former National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun.

He, however, noted that he was vilified by the State Government because of his refusal to support the botched recall of Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District.

Imam said: “I was vilified for not supporting the recall of Senator Dino Melaye.

I made my stand known that I was for reconciliation; I spoke for the people, I was attacked and removed for this.

“There were three national efforts towards Kogi reconciliation, but they all failed.

I told the newly constituted reconciliation committee that they were behind time and that the committee was not a sincere one, if they were sincere they should go back to Tony Momoh’s report.”

Imam revealed that he dumped APC for SDP because of the prolonged crisis in the party that has led to its factionalisation at both the state and national levels, adding that he is confident of victory.

Following Imam’s defection, the House declared the Lokoja 1 State Constituency seat occupied by him vacant.

The decision was sequel to a letter sent to the House by the State Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Abdullahi Bello, a motion moved by the House Majority Leader, Bello Hassan Abdullahi, and a letter sent to the House by the former Speaker announcing his defection to a new party.

Seconding the motion and the letter sent to the House for the seat of the embattled former Speaker to be declared vacant, the Deputy Majority Leader, Ahmed Muhammed, (APC Ankpa I), said the motion was timely.

The House, however, directed the Clerk to convey the resolution of the Assembly to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In his reaction, the National Chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Olu Falae, condemned the action of the APC controlled
Assembly.

According to him, “This is another evidence of illegality, arbitrariness and malice.

The law says you can change party if your party is in crisis and there are factions within it.

His party was APC; but today we have APC and R-APC, two factions, the conditions for defection legitimately have been fulfilled and as such he exercised his right to leave a party in factions and joined SDP. So, it is illegal, criminal and unconstitutional for the

House of Assembly to declare the seat vacant. We shall take them to court and the court will deal with them.”

SDP, National Publicity Secretary, Alfa Muhammed said: “The current Speaker Matthew Kolawole decamped to APC from the PDP and nobody declared his seat vacant, Senator Godswill Akpabio just decamped and his seat has not been declared vacant,” he said.

He described the action as legislative rascality and ignorance of the law, adding that SDP would challenge the declaration in court.

The current Speaker, Matthew Kolawole, said: “The decision of the House is based on the letter written by the former Speaker, Imam Alfa, and that of APC Chairman in Kogi State, informing the House that the former Speaker has dumped APC for another party.”

On the argument that nay voices were louder than aye’s, Kolawole said in his records there were 22 members at the sitting.

He said: “Basically 11 members spoke for the motion, while nine spoke against it.

Check the record, let the video clip be played and you will know the members that spoke for and those who spoke against. How will the voice of nine be more than the voice of 13?”

On the fact that he and seven other members defected earlier and their seats were not declared vacant even when there was no crisis in
PDP, he said, “I think you got it wrong, when we dumped PDP there was a very serious crisis because at that there were two leaders in the party.

We hard Makarfi on one side and Ali Modu Sheriff on the other and both were in court.”

He noted that what is happening in APC is a matter of personal interest, which is different from political crisis.

Kolawole stressed that even if there is a case in court and the judge has not pronounced that there is a crisis, then there is no crisis.


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