Edo crisis worsened on Tuesday as sixteen lawmakers-elect of the House of Assembly denied knowledge of its inauguration, insisting they were not invited to the inaugural ceremony, if there was any.
This is as the premises of the Assembly was on Tuesday taken over by security operatives following the inauguration of nine of the 24 members of the House on Monday by the Clerk of the Assembly, Alhaji Audu Omogbai.
The security presence was intended to prevent the breakdown of law and order as thugs were seen loitering around the precincts of the House of Assembly.
In spite of the presence of policemen and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC), the situation was still tensed as at the time of filing in this report.
Also on Tuesday, the political actors took their war to Golden Tulip Hotel, Benin, where the police had to intervene to restore sanity.
Addressing journalists in Benin City, Mr. Washington Osifo, spokesman for the 16 lawmakers-elect, said they would have been present at the inauguration if they were invited.
Osifo said the clerk called them about 5:30p.m on Monday to inform them that he had been invited to the Government House.
He said they were happy that the press conference made the governor to do what the constitution demands.
According to Osifo, “The clerk told us he will call back 30 minutes later but we didn’t hear from him again.
“Some of our brothers who were supposed to be at a meeting with us were absent. We called them and they were not picking their calls.
“About 9:30p.m, photographs began to filter into our phones suggesting that a kangaroo Assembly was being inaugurated.
“We were disappointed. One of us was spotted with a boxer-short and slippers taking oath of office. That was an offence in the hallowed chamber. They humiliated him.
“Two of them were also kidnapped to make up the nine members. But there can be no quorum until the House is properly inaugurated.
“What the law requires is inauguration of the entire members. They got four and said they had a quorum.
“It was for the clerk to announce or cause invitation to be sent to us. That was missing. They gave information of the inauguration only to those they wanted there at the inauguration. We would have been there.
“We have done the needful. We want to encourage Edo people to defend democracy and stand up for the right of men.
“We have 16 members present here. Others not here are still in shock after they were kidnapped. Two of them are still in shock. They are receiving treatment because their blood pressure went up.”
Two of the lawmakers, who were present at the inauguration ceremony, said they were abducted and forced to the Assembly premises to make up the number needed to form a quorum.
Eric Okaka elected to represent Owan East and Nosa Okunbor (Orhionmwon East) who spoke to newsmen said they were forcefully taken into the hallowed chamber of the House.
According to Okaka, “I didn’t know where they brought a suit from for me to wear. The oath-taking at the chamber was an illegal one. I am a child of the light.
“The inauguration was done under duress. I didn’t collect any money even though there was an attempt to offer me money but I refused.”
On Tuesday, while some of the thugs were busy keeping watch at the various gates of the House, another group named Concerned Youths of Edo State led by Kelly Uhunoma Okungbowa, stormed the Assembly premises with placards of various inscriptions, chanting songs of solidarity in support of Obaseki swearing in Frank Okiye as the Speaker of the 7th Assembly.
Frank Okiye, the newly elected speaker, assumed duty at the Assembly complex on Tuesday.
Okiye, who addressed newsmen at the complex, thanked members and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the confidence reposed in him.
“I am happy and very elated. Edo people, my party and the members of the House have found me worthy of the position as the speaker of the Edo House of Assembly. I’m not the best, but this responsibility is divine,” he said.
The speaker said other elected lawmakers, who were not at the inauguration ceremony, would be inaugurated as soon as they completed their documentation processes.
According to Okiye, “We adjourned sitting till July 17, 2019 to enable us do some administrative work, allocate offices to members, and get the system to function well.”
The Clerk of the House, Yahaya Omogbai, on Monday inaugurated nine out the 24 members-elect.
Omogbai, who ushered in the lawmakers into the chamber, read the letter of proclamation transmitted to the office of the Clerk by Governor Obaseki.
After reading the letter, the clerk proclaimed the seventh Assembly and members began the process of electing the House leadership.
Frank Okiye (APC, Esan North East Constituency I) was elected as the speaker, while Yekini Idiaye (APC, Akoko Edo Constituency I) was elected deputy speaker.
Despite the heavy presence of security personnel at the entrance to the Assembly complex, staff of the Assembly went about their normal duties.
The nine members inaugurated on Monday were Frank Okiye (Esan North East l), Yekini Idaiye (Akoko-Edo I), Nosayaba Okunbor (Orhionmwon East), Roland Asoro (Orhionmwon South), Marcus Onobun (Esan West), Uyi Ekhosuehi (Oredo East), Ephraim Aluebhosele (Igueben), Henry Okhuarobo (Ikpoba-Okha), and Eric Okaka (Owan East).
19 of the 24 members-elect had, on Monday, called on Obaseki to inaugurate the seventh Assembly following the expiration of the sixth Assembly on June 7.
The lawmakers, who made the call, while briefing newsmen in Benin, said they would resist any attempt by the governor to impose the leadership of the House.
When contacted, Anselm Ojezua, the state chairman of the APC in Edo, said he was happy with the developments as the speaker was the lawmaker recommended for the position by the party.
He also said since only eight members were needed to form a quorum, there was nothing to worry about since nine lawmakers were present on the day of inauguration.
“Why should I be worried? We have been anxious that the House should be inaugurated and that has been done. So, I am happy that it has happened.
“What I know is that eight of them are enough to form a quorum. So, if they have nine members, that is one more. Let me also add that yesterday, I was briefed by the clerk of the House.
“He told me that 10 members, as at the time the governor issued the letter of proclamation, had satisfied the requirements of declaring their assets out of the 24 members.
“This means only those 10 members are eligible to be sworn in. He said nine of them were sworn in, and they proceeded with the business of the House as provided in their rules and the constitution. How can I fault that?”
Also on Tuesday, Obaseki congratulated the newly-elected speaker, saying with the inauguration of the Assembly, all was set for the members to commence legislative activities and perform their responsibilities to engender development across the state.
According to him, “I congratulate the 7th Assembly on their inauguration and the election of Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye as speaker and Hon. Yekini Idiaye as deputy speaker. Their emergence, I am sure, will pave way for more development in the state.”