Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Former Minister of Information Chief Edwin Clark has described as illegal and unconstitutional the House of Representatives’ directive to Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a new proclamation within one week for the proper inauguration of the State House of Assembly.
Clark urged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to retract his order for the sake of peace.
The House had also directed the Inspector General of Police and Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) to shut down the State Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threats as alleged by some members-elect.
Clark drew attention to the fact that the House of Representatives alone cannot take action on such a matter as the constitution provides for a joint National Assembly action.
The former minister urged the National Assembly to wait for the court to interpret the cases cited in reaching their decisions.
The elderstatesman said as a stakeholder who has served the country in various capacities for over 60 years, including as senator, he is qualified to comment on federal issues affecting the welfare and peaceful co-existence of a united Nigeria.
“Those of us who have retired must speak out. The House of Representatives must retract their decision because it’s not backed by the constitution,” Clark said.
The only elder statesman cautioned: “The power you have over States Houses of Assembly is constitutional which must be exercised with due process.
“The House of Representatives alone has no power or authority to interfere in the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly as it is asserted to have done. It is unconstitutional and of no legal effect.
“The Senate, acting on the same subject, stated that it has not completed its findings in the disagreement between the members of the Edo State House of Assembly, and it will soon come to the resolution of the matter which is at variance with the position already taken by your House.
“Simply put: it is only the Senate and the House of Representatives which form the National Assembly that has the power or authority to interfere in the matter of the Edo State House of Assembly. The Senate cannot do it alone, and the House of Representatives cannot also do it alone. The two must act together.
“The National Assembly must carry out its functions either in the making of bills or passing of resolutions which, in carrying out such functions, should not create issues that will affect the peace and welfare of the people.
“The rapidity with which the House of Representatives waded into the disagreement of members in Edo State House of Assembly has no doubt gone a long way to escalate the crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly and the State.”
Clark recalled that the Edo Assembly crisis started with the inauguration of nine of the 24 elected members following the proclamation by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
He explained: “The legal meaning of proclamation is to declare formally or officially. There is no binding law or constitutional provision which says that all the 24 members or that the majority of members must be present at the inauguration, after the governor has made his proclamation.
“The Constitution provides that the House can perform its functions when one-third of the members are present. In the case of Edo State House of Assembly, eight members form the quorum; it is, therefore, free and legally covered to perform their duties, including the election of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, and to confirm Commissioners.”
Clark added that what happened in the Edo Legislature was not different from the election of principal officers of the National Assembly in 2015 when Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, even when most members of the National Assembly were not in attendance at the session.
He further said: “Both the inauguration and the elections of President of the Senate, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker were accepted by your party and heaven did not fall.
“In fact, what is happening in Edo State House of Assembly is exactly what happened during your time in the 8th National Assembly…
“The proclamation made by the Edo State Governor under Section 105(3) was valid and remains valid. It is only the court of law that can declare the said proclamation valid or invalid.
“I also observed your most respected House of Representatives referred copiously to the Supreme Court judgement in Ladoja’s case in Oyo State, which was a precedent for you to declare that the hour of inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly was irregular.
“Edo State House of Assembly at present is functioning properly and, in fact, has gone to court to challenge the action of the 16 elected members who were not present at the inauguration, who in fact were not yet members of the Edo State House of Assembly, because they have not been sworn in by the elected Speaker of the House.
“I understand and you are aware that the Edo State House of Assembly has taken the other members yet to be sworn in to court, and gotten a court injunction preventing the IGP and the Director of DSS not to interfere with the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly.
“Yet, you are directing the IGP to seal up the Edo State House of Assembly in contravention of the court order.”
The elder statesman admonished that the National Assembly always as a matter of practice refrained from discussing the matter that were already being dealt with by a court of law
Concluding, Clark addressed Speaker of the House of Assembly Femi Gbajabiamila, stating: “Mr Speaker, from the foregoing, I strongly advice you to retract your decision to shut-down the Edo State House of Assembly, asking the Governor to rescind his proclamation and to issue a new one.
“Your action is definitely against the provision of the Constitution under which you took an illegal and wrong decision, and is now creating more crisis in Edo State.
“It is now already creating disagreement between the House and the Senate. It is also affecting the relationship between the Edo State Executive Governor and the APC National leader, and is still spreading.”