The cacophony of political noise streaming in from Edo State in the proxy political battle between Governor Godwin Obaseki and All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is about to go an octave higher following the declaration of 14 seats in the State House of Assembly vacant by Speaker Francis Okiye.
Okiye and those who sat to take the decision are in Obaseki’s camp, while the 14 others are in Oshiomhole’s camp.
Okiye says the seats declared vacant include those of 12 members-elect who have not shown up to be formally inaugurated, and two others who were inaugurated, but have not shown up since inauguration and therefore have not met the mandatory sitting requirement to continue as members of the House.
He said, “12 out of the 24 members-elect who completed their screening and documentation process were inaugurated on June 17, 2019 out of which two of them have refused to discharge their legislative duties.
“They have refused to represent their constituents in the House, invariably denying their constituents effective representation.
“At this point, I am declaring the seats of the 12 members-elect vacant in accordance with Section 109 Subsection 1F of the constitution.”
But reactions from the affected lawmakers show they are adamant.
Washington Osifo one of affected lawmakers said: “It is a laughing matter because the matter is before the court and when a matter is before the court, such action is sub judice.
“We are challenging the illegal inauguration of the House and anything put on nothing cannot stand. So, Okiye is a man that is in search of identity, he is working with the governor in the pursuit of a blind ambition, they have hit the rock”.
Another, Chris Okaeben (Oredo West) said, “They want us to toe the path of violence but we have said nobody’s blood is worth a seat in the Assembly. We will pursue our case in a constitutional way. We have no problem with Governor Obaseki since he said he has issued a proclamation.
“The Clerk did not invite us to any inauguration. A proper inauguration is what we will attend. Okiye has said nothing today.”
Okaeben says the Independent National Electoral Commission head, Prof. Manhood Yakubu, is not dull to heed a call for election to fill any seat in the Assembly.
He said Okiye has no powers to make such pronouncement or ask INEC to conduct bye-elections.
As far as he is concerned, there is no constitutionally recognised House of Assembly duly on ground in Edo State, and those who sat to take the decision did not form a quorum.
Former Speaker Victor Edoror, is unbothered by the threat of the Speaker he says is just a member-elect and not a Speaker. According to him, he has the backing of his constituents who are satisfied he decided to stay away from the “illegal (House of) Assembly”.
“Okiye is not a Speaker. He is a member-elect like us. The Constitution is clear on how many members should be in an Assembly.
“Okiye has no powers to declare our seats vacant. All what is happening in the Edo Assembly are illegal and they will be swept out. My people are happy with me,” he said.
Others whose seats were declared vacant were Crosby Eribo (Egor), Washington Osifo (Uhunmwode), Emmanuel Agbaje (Akoko-Edo 11), Eric Okaka (Owan East), Micheal Ohio-Ezo (Owan West), Oshoma Ahmed (Estako Central), Kingsley Ugabi (Estako East), Ehi Ekhosuehi (Oredo West), Ugiagbe Dumez (Ovia North East 1), Vincent Uwadiae ( Ovia North East 11), Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South West), and Ganiyu Audu (Etsako West 1).
They are alleged to be hibernating in Abuja, where APC’s National Chairman and political foe of Governor Godwin Obaseki, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is. They are believed to be awaiting a valid proclamation of the House.
In his announcement during an emergency plenary session Wednesday, Speaker Okiye invited the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct bye-elections for the affected constituencies within 90 days.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, told journalists that Ehi Ekhosuehi of Oredo East State Constituency and Eric Okaka Owan East State Constituency, were sworn-in but failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a calendar year.
“For others, who hadn’t been inaugurated since the proclamation of House, their constituents have been complaining and have come to us that they want their voices and concerns to be heard at the House.
“So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraught constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary,” he added.
Following a parting of ways between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, Edo State has been embroiled in political crisis that has often flared into violence as the election day for the Edo gubernatorial seat draws near.
While Obaseki seeks re-election, Oshiomhole is alleged to be working assiduously against it.