Tension has gripped residents of Benin City, the Edo State capital, following the insistence yesterday by a factional group of 17 members of the state House of Assembly opposed to the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to sit in the legislative premises despite the ongoing renovation of the complex.
The 17 are presumed to be loyal to Oshiomhole.
The speaker of the faction loyal to the governor, Hon. Frank Okiye, had earlier declared the seats of the 12 lawmakers-elect vacant.
But the governor played down the lawmakers’ action, saying the decisions arising from any of their sittings would not be binding on him and the state government.
Also yesterday, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court ordered the National Rescue Mission (NRM) to paste the court processes of the suit seeking to disqualify the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his running mate, Mr. Audu Ganiyu, on the party’s national headquarters in Abuja.
At their sitting last week, the 17 pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers had claimed to have elected Hon. Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central State Constituency, as speaker and Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko-Edo I, as deputy speaker.
However, the governor, Okiye, with the seven other members, and the Deputy Governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu, had prevented the takeover of the Assembly by the 17 lawmakers, saying the place is under renovation.
The roof of the building was removed while heaps of sand and gravels for the renovation were dumped at the entrance gate of the Assembly.
The governor and his camp also described the actions of the pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers as illegal, adding that the matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction.
But Edoror yesterday said they would sit today and also continue to sit even if the entire building was taken away.
He said the House of Assembly belongs to the people, adding that being the custodian of that arm of government, he is duty-bound to provide the leadership and choose where to sit.
“Even when that part of the chamber has been bulldozed, we will continue to go there,” he said, adding: “Whether they destroy all of it or not, we will take our sittings there. No man born of a woman can prevent us.”
Reacting to the allegation that they planned to remove the governor, Edoror accused the governor of destroying the building to prevent them from accessing the premises.
He said: “But let me tell you, we are not there to remove anybody. We only want to access the place so as to give our people quality representation and good governance.
“Removal of the governor is not a tea party and it is not even part of the agenda except they want to make it so. What they are doing is to prevent us from sitting on the pretext that we want to remove the governor. That is far from the truth.
“That Assembly was renovated two years ago under Hon. Kabiru Adjoto’s leadership. How can it now go for another renovation exercise? It is all geared towards causing confusion.”
But Obaseki dismissed the plans by the pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers to sit today, saying they are not members of the legislature and no decision taken by them will be accepted.
The governor’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, who spoke on behalf of his principal, said: “They are not members of the House and so I cannot accept anything from them.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Edo State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Mr. Chidi Nwabuzor, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), said the constitutional role of the police is to ensure the protection of lives and property, stressing that the police would remain neutral.
“The police are apolitical. We remain neutral so as to play our constitutional role effectively. We are not for any of the political parties. Our job as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to ensure the protection of lives and property and that is exactly what we are doing,” Nwabuzor added.
However, efforts to reach Okiye proved abortive as he did not take his calls or respond to a text message sent to him at press time.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had earlier asked the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to provide police protection for the 17 APC lawmakers.