The political crisis in Edo State assumed another dimension yesterday as 17 members of the state House of Assembly announced the impeachment of the Speaker, Frank Okiye. The members, who belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC), elected Mr. Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central constituency, as new speaker. Edoror was a former Deputy Speaker and later Speaker of the House during the tenure of the former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, as governor of the state.
The “election,” which signalled that more troubles are brewing in the state, took place at a plenary session held at an undisclosed location. Seventeen of the 19 members in attendance during the proceedings had shortly after the sitting proceeded to the Edo State Police Command where they met the Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo.
Thereafter, they met with the Director of Department of State Services (DSS). But in a swift reaction when contacted last night, Okiye said: “It (his impeachment) is a non-issue and I don’t want to respond to it.” New Telegraph reports that Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko Edo Constituency II, was also elected as the Deputy Speaker of the 7th Assembly. The development followed the inauguration of all the members-elect, who also pledged their allegiance to the APC governorship candidate in the September 19 gubernatorial election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
In his address, Edoror, who is the newly elected Speaker, said the Assembly would focus on its legislative duties and not pursue the impeachment of any member of the executive. Edoror, who described the unfolding development as “no victor, no vanquished,” called for unity and togetherness.
He, however, asked the Inspector-General of Police, Edo State Commissioner of Police and other security agencies to eject the thugs who had allegedly invaded the Assembly complex in Benin to allow for a rancourfree plenary today. A motion for the impeachment of Okiye was moved by Mr. Sunday Aghedo, (APC Ovia South West constituency). The motion, which was signed by 17 of the 19 lawmakers, was seconded by Mr. Ohio Ezomo (APC, Owan West). Mr. Washington Osifo (APC, Uhunmwonde) called for the nomination of Edoror as Speaker and it was seconded by Mr. Eric Okaka (APC, Owan East). Mr. Chris Okaeben (APC, Oredo West) also moved the motion to elect Mr. Emmanuel Agbaje (APC, Akoko-Edo II) who acted as Speaker ex-tempore and was later elected as Deputy Speaker.
It was gathered that 12 out of the 14 members who were not sworn in last year took their oaths administered by Deputy Clerk of the House, Mr. Tom Efezokhae. Our correspondent learnt that 17 members attended the plenary after which Hon. Ohio moved for adjournment.
The speaker announced that plenary would resume on Friday, 7th August (today). Earlier in the day, tension had heightened as teams of security agents drafted from various commands laid siege to Anthony Enahoro legislature in Benin, the state capital.
The hordes of security operatives were at the complex to protect the area from any invasion following speculation of alleged plot by APC forces to deploy special force from the headquarters of the Nigeria Police in Abuja to take over the legislature.
This was as Governor Godwin Obaseki said yesterday that there was no cause for alarm over the alleged plan by opposition groups. But Obaseki made a quick return to Benin City from Edo North where he had been since Monday for his on-going re-election campaign across the 18 local government areas of the state. He was accompanied to the Assembly complex by the state Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu.
Thousands of youths and members of the ruling Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) stormed the House in solidarity for the governor. The battle-ready youths, armed with placards, had chanted solidarity songs even as they took over the area. However, it was learnt that a Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) team deployed from Abuja had, in the early hours of yesterday, chased away policemen guarding the House of Assembly complex.
Teams of the anti-riot police, State Security Services (SSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and plain-cloth operatives were on ground with scores of patrol vehicles. Activities of the security agencies were coordinated by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of Operations, Mr. Ajala. Already, heaps of sand have been used to block the entrance gate of the Assembly. The Anthony Enahoro legislature is currently undergoing renovation. Members of the House have since relocated to the Osadebay Avenue Government House due to the ongoing renovation exercise. Addressing newsmen outside the legislative complex, the ‘impeached’ Speaker, Okiye, said: “It is our responsibility to defend the state House of Assembly and that is exactly what we have demonstrated.
“For the records, I am happy his excellency is here. We were inundated with various rumours and all kinds of threat calls last night. If you recall yesterday (Wednesday) in our sitting, we acted on a very reliable intelligence report that these people from Abuja were coming to invade the House to take over the sov-ereignty of the House and sacred nature of the House and we made it clear to the public. “Unfortunately, the former deputy speaker was the one of the cohorts to be used and members were not comfortable with that.
I don’t have the control; members raised a motion that his office must be changed.” It would be recalled that out of the 10 lawmakers inaugurated by Governor Obaseki on June 17, 2019, five are with the governor while the other five are with APC. Both sides in the battle for the control of the House are reportedly making frantic moves to take firm control of the state Assembly. Okiye had yesterday ordered security personnel deployed to guard the legislative complex not to allow anybody to enter the premises pending when renovation work within the area is completed.
He stated this when he conducted other members of the House round the complex to assess the level of work in the area. As at 2p.m. yesterday, the roof of the House of Assembly building was removed as part of the renovation exercise. Also, heaps of sand have been deposited at the two main entrance gates on the airport road, close to the palace of Oba of Benin, just a few meters to the Assembly complex and on the ring road end of the area. But the opposition APC lawmakers said the measure was aimed at preventing them from gaining entrance into the hallowed chambers.