FELIX NWANERI writes on the wind of change blowing across the states’ Houses of Assembly, which have so far swept away leaderships of the legislative bodies of Rivers, Abia, Jigawa and now Delta State
Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Monday Igbuya, has joined the growing list of presiding officers of state legislative houses, who have been relieved of their positions in recent times. Igbuya, a three-term lawmaker was removed yesterday after a motion for his impeachment moved by Johnson Erijo (Isoko South II) and seconded by Peter Onwusanya (Oshimili South), was unanimously adopted by all 22 out of the 29-membr House present at plenary.
The remaining seven members, including the impeached speaker were absent at the proceedings. Erijo said that the removal of the speaker became necessary following his incompetence, highhandedness and unacceptable leadership style. He added that for the assembly to move forward, a new speaker was needed as the legislature was key to the growth of democracy and development of the state. Also relieved of their positions alongside Igbuya was the majority leader, Tim Owhefere, who was replaced by Johnson Erijo.
The impeached speaker, however, suffered double tragedy as he was suspended for three months.
The sacked speaker was immediately replaced with lawmaker representing Okpe constituency, Sheriff Oborevwori.
He was nominated by Onwusanya and Daniel Mayuku (Warri south-west). After his election, Oboriowori was immediately sworn in by the clerk of the house, Lyna Ocholor.
The new speaker, in his acceptance speech, promised to adhere to the rules of the House, saying that though he had become the first among equals, he would accord every member his due respect.
He also promised his colleagues that he would not allow the integrity of the Assembly to be eroded, and called for support of members even as he announced the dissolution of all standing committees of the House.
While many have read several meanings into Igbuya’s impeachment, given the speed of the light at which he was sacked, most observers are not surprised over the development as the process of removing the head of a legislative house is so simple that a speaker could be ousted within the blink of an eye.
Section 92 sub-section(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides for how a speaker or his deputy could be removed, states: “The Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly shall vacate his office -(a) if he ceases to be a member of the House of Assembly otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of the House; (b) When the House first sits after any dissolution of House; or (c) if he is removed from office by a resolution of House of Assembly by the votes of not less than two-third majority of the members of the House.”
This constitutional provision is what members of most states Assembly rely on in sacking their speakers at will. While many have continuously pointed accusing fingers at the executive arm over the intrigues and power play for the gale of impeachments in the states Assembly, the fact remains that legislators at the state level are the architects of their fate.
By refusing to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment that would have granted them financial autonomy during the 2010 constitutional amendment process as a result of “under-hand tactics of their governors,” states Assembly have remained mere appendages of the executive arm of government at that level. Only 22 out of the 36 states Assembly passed the amendment aimed at granting them first-line charge status.
Others caved in to the demands of their then governors and rejected it.
The governors impressed, coerced and in some instances blackmailed the legislators, using the principal officers, like the speakers to jettison the idea.
To this end, the two-third required approval from the various states after the National Assembly had considered and endorsed the proposal, was never met as the same legislators, who, it was meant to benefit failed to vote in its favour.
Authorisation of Expenditure from Consolidated Revenue Fund as provided for in Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution would have granted financial autonomy to State Houses of Assembly as it states that “Any amount standing to the credit of the House of Assembly or the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to; (a) the House of Assembly of the State; and the heads of the courts concerned; respectively.”
The 14 state legislative houses, which killed the dream, were Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kwara, Ondo and Rivers.
Two states, Katsina and Kwara that could have saved the situation by giving the clause the needed two-third passage, backed out at the eleventh hour. Both states exhibited ambivalent postures on the issue.
Katsina was obviously undecided, having sent in two different letters to the Senate, one conveying its approval of the clause and the other stating its rejection of it. Kwara, on its part, passed just one leg of the clause dealing with the independence of the Judiciary, while rejecting the sub-section that deals with independence.
This ambivalent stance by Katsina and Kwara state Houses of Assembly nearly caused confusion when the final collation of stateby- state voting patterns on the different proposed amendments to the constitution was released.
The two states were listed among states that approved the clause, making it look like the clause had met the two-third required for its passage.
The controversies and the eventual death of the proposal still hovers around the alleged promptings and heavy funding said to have been deployed by the governors then to kill the anticipated law so that they will continue to call the shots in the states unchallenged by the parliaments.
But, its consequence is that the gale of sack of states Assembly speakers, mostly at the prompting of forces outside the legislature, has continued unabated as evident in the recent impeachment of the speakers of Rivers, Jigawa and Abia states Assembly. With the four states down the line, the gale of sack is expected more in the days ahead as power play over the 2019 general election heightens across the country, but only time will tell, where the “wind of change” will blow next.