Lagos Assembly: Crack in legislative wall as suspicion, ambition set in
• Speaker Used Phony Attendance List To Suspend, Remove Members — Source
• Process Flawed With Irregularities, Says Adewale
There is a crack in the Lagos State House of Assembly. And it manifested to the world last week, when two lawmakers, Moshood Oshun and Raheem Adewale were suspended indefinitely and two principal officers, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, Deputy Majority leader and Rotimi Abiru, Chief Whip were removed.
Before now, the Lagos Assembly was seen as a united House that was a strong tool in the hand of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, to checkmate the executive, especially the governor. It was why when former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was seen not toeing the path of the party leaders in Lagos; the Assembly became handy to cut him to size. Then they spoke with one voice and that had been the tradition.
With the sack of the two principal officers and suspension of the two honourables, it was evident that the House did not speak with one voice. This is because some parliamentarians voted for the action, while others kicked against it. Even the numbers of those who supported the move is being challenged, as some of those listed were said not to be at the sitting last Monday.
That has led some analysts to suggest that the political empire of their leader may have been divided.
And those claiming that there was a crack are basing their argument on the fact that the crisis in the Assembly was alleged to be a product of the power-play between the Speaker, Rt Hon, Mudashiru Obasa and Senator Bayo Oshinowo, a party leader in Lagos.
It was alleged that the four representatives were accused of plotting against the Speaker, in conjunction with Oshinowo, with suspicion that that was how information about how much the House spent on cars was leaked. But there is the perspective that Obasa became Speaker courtesy Oshinowo, so there is more to the issues than whether the affected legislators are loyal to Oshinowo.
But hours after the news spread that the lawmakers were suspended because they were loyal to Oshinowo, the Speaker came out to immediately debunk it in a statement, maintaining he still enjoys cordial relations with the Senator. The Speaker described the Senator as a friend and mentor, with whose support he had excelled in legislative activities. He claimed he was with Oshinowo on Tuesday, a day after the lawmakers were suspended and he was the one that dropped the Senator off on his way to Abuja. “If there was a rift between us, will that happen?”
Obasa stated that the action meted out to the four lawmakers was to instill discipline among members of the state’s House of Assembly, which does not equate with friction in any form.
In the statement, he maintained that: “Tinubu remains everything to the continued success of the party he built from the scratch and nurtured up to this moment.
“It is unarguable that his resilience, love for democracy, passion to see his foot-soldiers grow and belief in discipline cannot be measured.”
Despite that not all the lawmakers endorsed the suspension and sack, the Speaker said the party in Lagos remains united and action taken on the floor of the House was to strengthen its sanctity.
A source, however, informed The Guardian that the legislators were accused of spying for the executive, which made the Speaker uncomfortable.
Raheem Adewale was one of the lawmakers suspended. When he was asked what exactly was communicated to them as their offence and if the matter was referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee, he said he couldn’t say what their offence was, as they were not confronted with it, neither were they given fair hearing on the matter.
“Many people have been asking this same question and there has not been answer to the question,” he said.
On the allegation of disloyalty, he said they are loyal to the Speaker and Senator Bayo Oshinowo.
“I am from Lagos East and automatically, he is my leader as Senator representing my senatorial districts. He was four-time honourable member in the Assembly too.
“If you are alleging, you need to come out with clear evidence. That should be the basis of setting up of a committee to probe the allegations, but that was not done. I am challenging anybody to come out that this is the evidence they have against me.”
On the claim that those suspended and sacked were those who leaked the information that the Assembly spent N2.4b on cars, Adewale said: “I do not know anything about that. Principal officers cannot say they know anything about that, let alone floor members.”
Adewale stated that the process of their suspension is illegal, but as law-abiding persons and loyal party members, they believe that the party would look into the matter dispassionately, since it has intervened. He declined to speak further on the issues, especially as the party has intervened.
Speaking on the development in the Assembly, a lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, said elected representatives of the people have legitimate powers and mandate of their constituents to represent them in the House of Assembly.
“And we have precedents before now, no principal officers have the power to suspend any member at all, because they would be depriving the constituents the right of representation at the parliament. Within the House, there are committees, because the House of Assembly works based on committees. There is also the committee of the House that is mandated to look into breaches of privileges by any member, there is a procedure by which such members can be dealt with and there are consequences.
“If any member has done anything wrong, it is usually referred to the Committee of Ethics and Privileges. And if the Chief whip, the chairman of the committee is involved, the appropriate step is for the Assembly to set up an adhoc committee to give fair hearing to such a person.
“Now, if you are following what is happening in the House of Assembly, there are actually two major things happening, the removal of two principal officers and suspension of two other members. Procedurally, if a member is alleged to have committed an offence, you expect such offence to be communicated to the member in a formal way, not verbal and it would be referred to the Ethics Committee.
“When that happens, the committee will invite the member to hear his or her side of the story. It is to give fair hearing to the person involved and after the committee might have submitted its report to the whole House, then the entire House would approve the recommendation of the committee’s report. Even if the Ethics Committee brings a report that the entire members are not in support of, it is not a resolution of the House.
“Every report of the committee, for it to be effective, needs the backing of all the members. Of course, in our rulebook, there is punishment for members who go wrong and this range from withdrawal of privileges, like asking that somebody should step down as committee chairman. That is where it stops. Nowhere in our rulebook can a member be suspended, not to talk of indefinitely.
“So in this instance, the two honourable members that were allegedly suspended indefinitely, procedure was not legally followed. Clearly, it can be said that it is not right; it is illegal and could lead to a legal issue. That is with suspended members.
“For the principal officers, they are there at the prerogative of colleagues. If they are found wanting too, offences will be communicated and they have the right to defend themselves. Of course, members can say they longer want a principal officer, but it has to be communicated. To elect presiding officers, two-third of the House needs to do that, but in this instance, as I speak, no committee has been set up to give any fair hearing to any of those affected. Some of the people that they claimed signed the removal were not in town; they are out of the country.
“You can check the whereabouts of Jimi Mohammed and Desmond Elliot on the 9th of March, if they were available to sign any notice of removal. Also, from the list, there are members whose names were just written and signatures were not there. So, what I can say happened was that as parliamentarians, we hold meetings and sign attendance register. So what the Speaker purportedly used was an attendance of a meeting of a caucus and that was what he deceived the entire Lagosians with. The members, whom the speaker alleged signed the document, some of them have denied, saying though they held a meeting sometime ago, it was not for suspension of principal officers and lawmakers. What I am saying in essence is that, the punishment did not follow due process. And the hierarchy of the party has intervened.”
The legislator alleged that it is the inordinate ambition of the Speaker that is throwing the Assembly into confusion, as he is indeed looking at running for the senate in 2023.”
Attempts to get Obasa to speak on the process for the suspension was not successful. He did not pick his calls and did not reply the text message sent.
Also, both Desmond Elliot and Folajimi Mohammed did not pick their calls nor reply the messages sent to their Whatsapp, despite it showed they read the messages.