Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Some legal experts on Wednesday faulted the move by the Senate to take over the Edo State House of Assembly describing it as illegal and unconstitutional.
The Senate had directed Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the ‘proper’ inauguration of the House within one week.
This was after adopting a report presented by its ad hoc committee, which investigated the development in the state Assembly.
The Senate claimed that the process leading to the June 17, 2019 inauguration was improper and a breach of global parliamentary practice.
It also mandated the governor to properly inform all the 24 members of the Assembly through adverts in print and electronic media.
In the event that a new proclamation is not issued as stated within a period of one week, the National Assembly is at liberty to invoke Section 11(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended,” the Senate declared.
But reacting to the decision of the Senate, a constitutional lawyer Shola Adeyemi, said the Senate has no such powers to interfere in the matter unless and until there is a complete breakdown of law and order necessitating the president to declare an emergency in the state.
“If I were the governor, I will continue governing and go to court until everything goes down. I don’t see it as a matter of emergency; it is a matter of the majority of the House. Remember what happened between Saraki and Buhari. If they had the required number, as stipulated by the rule, that is the end of it. But if they did not, then they should do it again,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, a human rights activist, Stanley Maxwell, said he is in serious doubts if the Senate has any such supervisory powers over the governor or the Asembly.
He noted that if there is such an order on the governor, then the Senate has acted ultra vires regarding their powers under Section 11(4)&(5) of the 1999 Constitution.
“This particular section of the constitution, which vests powers in the National Assembly as a whole to take over the affairs of a state House of Assembly, can only be activated in instances when the Asembly of a state is unable to meet or sit.
Clearly, they cannot order the governor to re-proclaim the house, just as they can’t exercise the powers of the state House of Assembly to remove the governor. In the event, the unilateral action of the Senate beside the House of Representatives is illegal and unconstitutional in my view.”
In his contributions, a professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Benin, Benin City, Edoba Omoregie, said he believes the provisions of section 11 (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution could only best be interpreted in the following context, legally:
“By looking at the entire section 11, and its entire five subsections. Section 11 deals with public safety and public order, and essential supplies to maintain and secure normalcy. Therefore, section 11 (4) and (5) only relates to when law and order have broken down in a state, which situation prevents the House of Assembly from meeting and engaging in legislative business. Is this the situation in Edo State today? The reports seem not to suggest this as the case. On the contrary, the House of Assembly of the state has been sitting and engaging in legislative business.
“Section 11 (4) and (5) has no link with the issue of the propriety of the inauguration of a state Assembly. The two subsections presuppose that there is an existing Assmbly that has been prevented from functioning due to a breakdown of law and order in the state, not just in the Assembly alone.”