Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has been accused of some wrongdoings in a letter forwarded to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) by the 14 elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly who were not sworn in since the inauguration of the Assembly in 2019.
The faction forwarded a letter to the AGF through their counsel, Dr Ehiogie West-Idahosa of West Idahosa & Co., saying the governor’s action in not allowing them to be sworn in was unconstitutional. This, they said, underlined the disequilibrium in the political stability of the state and the resultant insecurity that had characterised the state.
The aggrieved lawmakers in the letter with the reference number WIC/AB/W2/1024/20 said contrary to the standard practice of inaugurating the House with possibly all members present, the governor, on June 17, 2019, chose to inaugurate the House at odd hours with only about nine members in attendance.
They further stated that the agents of the state Governor prevented them from attending the inauguration, noting that they had done everything possible to remedy the situation but to no avail till date.
The letter titled, ‘Urgent and nationalistic appeal to intervene in the restoration of constitutional democracy in the Edo State of Nigeria’, dated August 3, 2020, and signed by West-Idahosa, the principal partner, added, “Since then, the Assembly has been run by nine members for no justifiable reason whatsoever. By failing to inaugurate about 14 members-elect of the House, there is a huge social and political disequilibrium in the state.”
“The rule of law has been seriously eroded and replaced by strong-arm tactics in Edo State. This in itself is anti-democratic and ought not to be allowed in a democratic government such as the one operated in Nigeria.”
“Over 60 per cent of the population of Edo State are unrepresented in the House of Assembly and are therefore missing out on constituency projects, employment and other forms of government patronage. This has escalated poverty levels in such constituencies and there is a corresponding increase in crime and general insecurity in such areas.”
They said contrary to Section 109 (g) of the constitution (as altered), Obaseki dumped the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party even when there was no “nationally acknowledged” faction in the APC.
They pointed out that democracy is founded on majority rule but that the 17 lawmakers were unable to do their job.
The letter added, “It is undemocratic and unacceptable to any sovereign nation that the House of Assembly of one of the states making up the federation of Nigeria is operated by only seven members out of the 24 elected.”
They further stated that since the lawmakers were elected on the platform of the APC, it is legally and politically incorrect to allow a party with minority membership keep 17 members-elect out of the House.
They said since the proclamation of the House had been done and the inauguration of the House “purportedly effected”, it is left for members who have not taken an oath to be allowed to and carry out their duties in the interest of justice.
“There is no feature of the law which precludes the said honourable members from taking their oath with the cooperation of sworn-in members and the clerk of the House.”
They called on the AGF to intervene by restoring a functional House of Assembly in the state. The letter contained the names and numbers of the 17 members.
They said, “We therefore respectfully appeal to you as the Chief Law Officer of the federation to invoke your power pursuant to Section 150 of the 1999 constitution (as altered) to arrest the breakdown of constitutional democracy in Edo State by intervening to restore a functional House of Assembly in line with the provisions of Sections 90, 91, 101 and 104 of the 1999 constitution (as altered). Our clients shall be very obliged to have your intervention in order to save constitutional democracy in Edo State.”