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How 14 Edo lawmakers won election but lost legislation

It is a well-known fact that the 14 Edo lawmakers campaigned vigorously across their various wards, spent their hard earned money, some might be probably indebted to banks, friends or family members and they eventually won their elections but they were not inaugurated.

They are likened to the biblical Moses who saw the Promised Land but was denied entrance.

One of the key components of government is the legislature. But the legislative assembly in Edo State has since been torn into two houses, with 10 members presently sitting in the house while 14 others have purportedly stayed away for almost two years.

The situation has, over the years, hindered development and stalled legislative progress for the respective constituencies in the state.

The crisis in the 7th Edo State House of Assembly dates back to June 17, 2019, when upon the governor’s proclamation of the House, some members-elect purportedly refused to subscribe to the oath of office as members, thus, leading to the controversial inauguration of 12 lawmakers.

Of the 24 members-elect in the house, only 12 completed their screening and documentation process and were inaugurated according to Frank Okiye, former Speaker that inaugurated the House.

But the aggrieved members contended that the Edo State House of Assembly consist of 24 lawmakers and cannot be inaugurated without the entire members of the Assembly. They claimed that the inauguration of the 7th Assembly took place at night of which they were not duly notified.

However, Yahaya Omogbai, Clerk of the House, said the 24 members-elect were duly notified of the inauguration and those that met the relevant requirements were duly sworn-in as the state lawmakers.

Omogbai said: “When we got the letter from the governor, we notified the members-elect but before the letter came, I had already briefed the members and sent letters and text messages to them. Those who acknowledged the message, I told them to make themselves available and I also told them what should be done by way of documentation.

“On the 17th in the morning, I sent out a notice telling them we are going to inaugurate the house by 3pm. Then, when we waited till that 3pm, on that day and most of them were not forthcoming, I tried calling most of them again but by 03.30pm we had 12 of them ready for the inauguration but three did not meet up with the requirement. So, the nine that submitted their certificate of asset declaration to me, we had to declare them and told them that we had to continue with inauguration.

Following refusal to present their certificates of return as part of conditions for their inauguration, and continued absence from the house, the seats of the 14 members-elect were declared vacant on December 4, 2019 by the leadership of the house.

Those affected are Victor Edoror (Esan Central Constituency), Washington Osifo (Uhunmwonde), Vincent Uwadiae (Ovia North East 2), Ugiagbe Dumez (Ovia North East 1) and Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South West).

Others are Crosby Eribo (Egor), Chris Okaeben (Oredo West), Kingsley Ugabi (Etsako East), Ganiyu Audu (Etsako West 1), Seidu Oshiomhole (Etsako West 2), Oshomah Ahmed (Etsako Central) and Michael Ohio-Ezomo (Owan West).

Also affected are Uyi Ekhosuehi (Oredo East) and Henry Okaka (Owan East), who were sworn-in but failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a calendar year.

While those sitting in the house include the speaker, Marcus Onobun, Frank Okiye,

Yekini Idiaye, Roland Asoro, Henry Okhuarobo, Emmanuel Agbaje, Nosayaba Okunbor, Ephraim Aluebhosele, Emmanuel Okoduwa and Sunday Ojiezele Osezua.

For others, who hadn’t been inaugurated since the proclamation of the House, the former speaker said “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.”

As the September 2020 governorship election in the state geared up, the situation festered and led to a parallel legislative House with two speakers, Frank Okiye and Victor Edoror.

Thereafter, 14 members whose seats had been declared vacant were sworn-in along three other lawmakers who had declared support for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-iyamu.

The purported inauguration, which took place at an undisclosed location in the state capital while the assembly complex was undergoing reconstruction, led to two assembly leaderships in the State.

At the inauguration, Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central constituency was elected speaker while Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko-Edo constituency emerged the deputy speaker.

Commenting on the emergence of two legislative Houses, a legal practitioner, Jonathan Enegide said there is a subsisting judgment and until a higher court set it aside, every other thing that takes place other than what has been the status quo will be an illegality.

Enegide added, “If those members-elect have not been properly inaugurated, that means they don’t have the power to hold any meeting for the purpose of legislative duties let alone impeaching or electing a Speaker. It is like putting in something on nothing and expecting it to stay there, it will fall. In other words, it is a progression in error.”

Prior to the inauguration, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in a judgment delivered on September 12, 2019, decided that Obaseki’s proclamation of the House of Assembly was lawful.

The court judgment affirmed that the Assembly was duly inaugurated and held that the Governor or any other person could not issue another proclamation.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the members-elect filed another suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, challenging the constitutionality of the declaration of their seats vacant, of which the suit is still pending.

However, the issue of the members-elect was recently brought to the fore in a congratulatory message sent by Ize-Iyamu, Edo State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the September 2020 election to Governor Godwin Obaseki over his victory at the Supreme Court.

Ize-Iyamu, while felicitating with the governor, urged him to consider resolving issues with the 14 lawmakers-elect of the state assembly for the benefit of the people.

The APC governorship candidate said Obaseki was in a “vantage position” to consider an out-of-court settlement of the issue, in the overall interest of our state.

“We are happy that all these cases have come to an end. Now that it is all over, please accept my congratulations. Your Excellency, for us in the APC, as the opposition party in the state, we have a duty to ensure that your government does the right thing always.

“Having said that, I want to appeal to you to kindly consider the pertinent issues of the 14 constituencies, including the two in your local government, Oredo and the two in your deputy’s local government, Etsako West, that are presently without representation at the Edo State Assembly,” Ize-Iyamu said.

On what Ize-Iyamu’s appeal portends for the House, Washington Osifo, one of the 14 members-elect in a telephone interview said: “For us, we contested and won the election and we’ve been shut out for almost two years. Our intention was to serve but this hasn’t come to reality because we’ve not been able to serve our people.”

He further said: “We are still desirous of serving our people but it is now entirely in the hands of the governor. I will not force him to do what he doesn’t want to do. An appeal has been made to him, and we have been appealing since 2019. If God touches his heart and he decides to listen this time, good, otherwise to God be the glory.

“Well, I sympathise with the people I represent, they know this is not my choice; my choice was to serve them and I am forever grateful for the mandate they gave to me. I hold it dearly and know someday I will show to them how grateful I am.”

Osifo, a lawmaker-elect representing Uhunmwonde constituency, said there can be no good development in an atmosphere of rancor, adding that he doesn’t harbor hostile intention against the governor.

For almost two years, the continued absence of the representatives has significantly affected their constituencies and has raised some eyebrows in the affected areas.

Reacting, Lucky Osaigbovo, a native of Uhunmwonde Local Government Area (one of the 14 constituencies without representation) said the lack of representation in the assembly has further retarded development in the area, particularly in health, education and agriculture.

“Uhunmwonde is the most underdeveloped council in Edo State. It is not because the people are not educated but because of poor representation in terms of listening to the voices of indigenes in the House that would attract development to the area,” he said.

Another resident, Lucky Isibor said the various constituencies are bereft of representation and lack voices of advocacy for the people, thereby compounding existing developmental challenges confronting the areas.

Joseph Momodu, a constituent of Etsako West, lamented that the member-elect in the constituency, who is among those not inaugurated, was not elected to join others in the crisis but to represent their interest in the House.

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