BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE
There was tension at the Ekiti State House of Assembly on November 16 as aggrieved lawmakers were allegedly mobilized for a showdown over the choice of Speaker, Gboyega Aribisogan.
Since the death of the former Speaker, Funminiyi Afuye, on October 19, 2022, the Ekiti Assembly has been engulfed in crisis with the election of Aribisogan on November 15, 2022.
Aribisogan was elected as the new Speaker of the Assembly on November 15 after defeating Mrs. Olubunmi Adelugba from Emure-Ekiti in a keenly contested election.
However, following an alleged intelligence report over a planned invasion by some unidentified thugs, the Commissioner of Police, Adesina Moronkeji, reportedly ordered the Assembly to be shut, just as workers were ordered to return home.
Armed policemen were stationed at strategic locations in the House to prevent the purported invasion and breakdown of law and order.
Meanwhile, the newly-elected Speaker, during a telephone chat with journalists, had said there was no crisis in the Assembly.
He said: “The leadership of the police command in Ekiti State informed us this morning that they had verifiable intelligence about some hoodlums coming to attack the Assembly complex and to avoid breakdown of law and order, hence the need for their (police) presence.
“The police have promised to conduct an investigation on the matter and report to us before the close of work today (November 16).
“I want to encourage my colleagues and workers of the Assembly to be patient and bear with us, as normalcy will soon return to the House.”
Reacting to the development, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti Command, DSP Sunday Abutu, said they took prompt action by placing restrictions to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
Abutu had told members of the public not to entertain fear, saying the deployment was to safeguard the lives and government’s property over ominous signs that security was about to be breached at the Assembly’s complex.
The police spokesman said: “We acted on the security alert we received that some people were planning to invade the Assembly, and we owe it a duty to safeguard the life of the people and public utilities.
“We can’t wait or tarry and allow the life of workers of the Assembly to be threatened by any means. So, we took proactive measures by deploying our men there to secure the Assembly complex.
“Our people shouldn’t see our action as a big deal. No course for alarm. We are on top of the situation.”
“The situation is highly condemnable. This is particularly so because of the fact that the members of the House of Assembly said to have been suspended represent their constituencies in the legislative affairs of the State”
ARIBISOGAN CRIES OUT
On Monday, November 21, Aribisogan, called on Afe Babalola, SAN, Femi Falana, SAN, Wole Olaipekun, SAN and other prominent indigenes of the state to rise up and stop the looming political crisis in the state over undue interference in the election of the speaker of the House.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, ahead of his controversial removal back in Ekiti, Aribisogan, alleged that some personalities in his state who were not happy with his emergence as the Speaker were plotting to kill him and other lawmakers that voted for him.
Aribisogan specifically pointed the finger at a former Governor of the State as being the brain behind the plot and also sponsoring some lawmakers to remove him.
According to him, “the former Governor was against my emergence, despite my being loyal to him as the Majority Leader of the House when he was Governor.”
While calling on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to intervene and save democracy in Ekiti State, the Speaker further alleged that they were looking for the 15 members that voted for him, to be chased out of their communities and Ekiti State.
According to him, “I’m the newly elected Speaker of Ekiti state. I’m here to address you about the crisis in Ekiti State House of Assembly. About a few hours ago around 4:30 am, I was called by some of our members that seven out of the 25 members of the assembly have been taken to the House of Assembly by the Nigerian police to institute an impeachment process illegally so as to create a crisis in Ekiti State.
“I want to say that as I speak, the seven members are in the chambers of the state house of assembly.
“They have also gone ahead to kidnap the Clerk of the Sergeant at Arms. They have been there since 5:30 am conducting that illegal impeachment.
“The two of us contested for the seat. I scored 15, my opponent scored 10. I won and I was duly sworn in as Speaker. Things were normal and peaceful. We have tried as much as possible to dissuade the police from carrying out this dastardly act but the Commissioner of Police has insisted he has an order from former Governor Kayode Fayemi to flush out any member or staff of Ekiti State House of Assembly that dares enter the place.
“I’m telling the whole world that Ekiti State needs to be rescued democratically from former Governor Fayemi and his cohorts. Let me say this, they have planned assassination, thuggery and violence just to make sure that they destabilize the current administration of Governor Oyebanji.
“Some of us have decided to stand out and talk and say enough of the domination and oppression.”
He stated further, “We are calling on all leaders of APC both at the local, state and national level to rise to the occasion and rescue Ekiti State from the hands of former Governor Fayemi.
“Presently a team is prowling the city of Ado-Ekiti looking for the 15 members that voted for me. And they said they must be chased out of the communities and Ekiti wherever they find them.
“And even me, as it is now, they want to assassinate me. As I’m going back now but I’m not dissuaded, I’m going back to see whether they will carry out that dastardly act. I’m telling the press to be on guard because democracy is on trial in Ekiti.
“We will not sit and allow Ekiti to be thrown into confusion. We are calling on all the prominent people in Ekiti and clerics, to come to our rescue. We must not die; we must live; Ekiti must progress.
“They don’t want Governor Abiodun Oyebanji to talk; they even dissuaded him from appointing a Chief of Staff. All the appointments done so far were foisted on him by Governor Fayemi.
“After the death of our late speaker, they issued a directive that they should go and vote Hon. Adenugba at the meeting. I stood and said we have a constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a Standing Order.
“We can’t go ahead and do without consulting the constituency and looking at the constitution. But the former Governor said he had given his order and if anything contrary to his order happened, he would get back at me. Because we went through that democratic way of electing a new speaker, it has become a headache for him.
“That’s why this is happening. I have never offended him; I served him for four years and was loyal to him to the end as the Majority Leader.
“Yesterday, I was on Channels TV and called on the IG of the police to intervene; as I speak I’m going to meet him to seek protection for all of our members who are being harassed.
“I am calling on the likes of Chief Afe Babalola SAN, Chief Femi Falana SAN, Chief Wole Olanipekun, traditional rulers, religious leaders and the good people of our state to do something before it is too late, Èkìtì is not a Banana Republic.”
Shortly after his press conference in Abuja, the lawmakers impeached Aribisogan as the Speaker and elected Olubunmi Adelugba as the new Speaker.
The members of the assembly also suspended Aribisogan indefinitely.
17 out of the 25 lawmakers impeached Aribisogan and elected Adelugba as the new Speaker of the Assembly.
The impeached Speaker and six others were suspended without pay with immediate effect.
They were also barred from 1.5km radius of the premises of the House of Assembly Complex
They were to hand over properties of the government in their possession to the Clerk of the House.
Apart from Aribisogan, other suspended members are Tajudeen Akingbolu; Goke Olajide; Yemisi Ayokunle; Adeyemi Raphael Ajibade; Kemi Balogun and Tope Ogunleye.
FAYEMI, OYEBANJI DENY INVOLVEMENT
Shortly after the outburst by Aribisogan, former Governor Kayode Fayemi denied playing any role in the impeachment of Aribisogan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja by his media office through Ahmad Sajoh, Fayemi said claims by Aribisogan that he (Fayemi) masterminded his impeachment were untrue.
Sajoh said, “We note the allegation by the former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mr. Gboyega Aribisogan, that his impeachment was masterminded by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past governor of the state.
“We wish to clarify that Dr Fayemi had nothing to do with the removal of the former Speaker by his peers as this was the internal arrangement of the State House of Assembly.
“We wish to note that even as governor, Dr. Fayemi did not interfere with the independence of the House and respected the principle of separation of powers where the House had the freedom to decide on their internal affairs,” he said.
Governor Biodun Oyebanji equally denied any involvement in the factional crisis rocking the state House of Assembly.
Oyebanji applauded all the leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the state over their swift intervention in resolving the bedlam, which he described as a “family affair”.
While playing host to the new Speaker of the Assembly, Olubunmi Adelugba, and the party’s leadership in Ado-Ekiti, Oyebanji described the crisis “as a family affair and one of the beauty of democracy”, denying insinuations in some quarters that he was meddling in the affairs of the House.
He appreciated the lawmakers for their civility, saying “You have justified the confidence your various constituencies reposed in you, by doing the right thing at the appropriate time.”
Oyebanji assured the new Speaker of his support, reminding her of the need to accelerate action on the passage of the 2023 budget.
The event which was held at the Governor’s Office was attended by the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Monisade Afuye; Secretary to the State Government, Dr (Mrs) Abibat Adubiaro, as well as the Special Advisers to the Governor, including Jide Awe, among others.
Presenting the new Speaker amidst cheers in the presence of 17 other members of the assembly, the Deputy Speaker, Akeem Jamiu, described the crisis that broke out in the house in the last few days as an embarrassment, not only to the members of the APC, but to the people of Ekiti State.
He said the House has corrected what he called the anomaly that dogged the leadership change, rendering their assurance that the House under the new leadership would continue to maintain peace, as well as align with its constitutional duties.
The new Speaker, Adelugba, appreciated all the members of the House and other APC executive members over her emergence as the new Speaker of the House.
She described the process that led to her emergence as peaceful, promising to always maintain allegiance to the people of the state.
Consequently, a new set of principal officers emerged in the Ekiti Assembly, following the change of guards.
The principal officers are Hakeem Jamiu who retained his position as Deputy Speaker, while Oyekola Bode-Adeoye is the new Leader of Government Business.
A statement by Adelugba in Ado Ekiti also listed Adeoye Aribasoye as the Chief Whip; Abiodun Fawekun as Deputy Leader, and Ayodeji Ajayi is the Deputy Chief Whip.
IMPEACHMENT IS POLITICAL RASCALITY – LEGAL ICONS
However, prominent lawyers of Ekiti origin, including Afe Babalola (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) have described the purported impeachment of Aribisogan as political rascality.
In a lengthy statement on Wednesday, which was also jointly signed by Dele Adesina (SAN), Olu Daramola (SAN), Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) and Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), the lawyers alleged illegality in the so-called ‘election’ of Olubunmi Adelugba as the new speaker.
While Babalola is the Founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti and former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council of the University of Lagos; Olanipekun is a former Attorney-General of the old Ondo State and past President of the Nigerian Bar Association as well as a former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the University of Ibadan.
In addition, Adesina is a past General Secretary of the NBA; Falana is the past President of the West African Bar Association, Akinlaja is a former Attorney-General of Ekiti State and Oyewole, SAN, is an ex-Attorney-General of the state.
The senior lawyers stressed that the situation in the Ekiti State House of Assembly should be of extremely grave concern to every decent and discerning mind.
The group stated that the imbroglio that is presently ravaging the Ekiti State House of Assembly has effectively denied the state the benefit of the constitutional responsibilities of the legislative house and will have dire consequences on the security and welfare of the people.
They contended that it is now plain that the elected speaker was not allowed to function in office, wondering at what point he committed any infraction of the constitution or of the House to warrant his supposed removal.
“The alleged suspension and stoppage of the salaries of the speaker and six other members of the House are no less misplaced, illegal, illegitimate, null and void.
“If care is not taken, and if all of us seal our lips, fold our arms and get relaxed on our seats and allow this rascality and impunity to go unchecked, in no distant future, the governor of the state would be impeached and forced out of office in like manner,” they argued.
According to them, the flagrant actions of the current political gladiators in Ekiti State House of Assembly and their instigator(s) show that they have no respect for the rule of law.
By their actions, the lawyers and elder statesmen argued, the errant lawmakers have demonstrated a penchant for political rascality, impunity, brazenness and recklessness of no mean measure.
“The purported impeachment of Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan as well as the announced suspension of seven members of the House is an exercise in utmost futility and, unquestionably, null and void.
“The situation is highly condemnable. This is particularly so because of the fact that the members of the House of Assembly said to have been suspended represent their constituencies in the legislative affairs of the State.
“When regard is had to the fact that the House is made up of 26 members (now 25, with the demise of Hon. Funminiyi Afuye), the purported suspension of seven members simply implies that more than a quarter of the membership of the House and the constituencies represented by them are now rendered impotent and nonfunctional,” the statement added.
Describing it as absolutely unwarranted, unjustified and condemnable, the group stated that by way of argument, the sponsors of the ‘charade’ and their cohorts in the House have foisted on the entire State a coup d’etat.
YOU’RE BIASED, EKITI APC KNOCKS LEGAL LUMINARIES
The crisis further snowballed on Friday as the All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State rejected the position of the legal icons from the state on the crisis, accusing them of being biased.
State APC Publicity Secretary, Segun Dipe, in a statement titled, ‘Response by Ekiti APC to the concerns of Aare Afe Babalola and six others on the EKHA brouhaha’, accused the senior lawyers of not having intervened in similar issues in the state in the past.
Dipe said, “By and large, the neutrality of these wise men is questionable and we are questioning it. Having relied majorly on the version of just a party in a matter is described as the proverbial wicked act by the elder(s) who judged based on one-sided narration.
“These elders have deliberately omitted reaching out to all other parties involved, which in this regard include the new Speaker, the parent political party, APC, and the notable party leaders they have alleged.
“It offends the rule of natural justice, equity and good conscience for them to have come to judgment on the statement of one party in what they referred to as a serious conflict capable of affecting the peace of the state they claimed to have loved so much.”
“By their actions, members of the cabal in the Assembly have shown a penchant for political rascality, brazenness and recklessness that endanger democracy”
HURIWA WANTS ARIBISOGAN REINSTATED
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, on Friday, also faulted the removal of Aribisogan as the Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly and his replacement by Olubunmi Adelugba.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said political rascality endangers democracy and political gladiators in Ekiti should not be allowed to have their selfish and autocratic ways.
Hence, it advised Aribisogan to pursue legal steps to get his mandate restored lawfully just as the Rights group urged the courts not to waste time in determining the matter should it be filed soon.
The group further backed the position of seven legal luminaries and Senior Advocates of Nigeria condemning Aribisogan’s removal as illegal and as one that didn’t follow due process.
HURIWA further slammed the Ekiti State House of Assembly for insisting that the impeachment of Aribisogan was legal when it was clear that it was illegal as Aribisogan was not allowed to be in office for one day to commit any infraction as the cabal in the Assembly accused him.
Onwubiko said: “The political rascality going on in the Ekiti State House of Assembly is totally condemnable and illegal. It should not be allowed to slide hence politicians will remove constitutionally installed Speakers at will because of personal vendetta and political witch-hunts.
“By their actions, members of the cabal in the Assembly have shown a penchant for political rascality, brazenness and recklessness that endanger democracy.
“Section 92 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is clear that once elected by the members of the House, as in the case of Aribisogan, the Speaker shall continue to be in the office all through that particular House except removed from office by a resolution of the House of Assembly by the votes of not less than 2/3 majority of the Assembly.
“The cabal claimed that Aribisogan committed infractions but how does a Speaker whose Assembly Complex was shut a day after he was inaugurated commit an infraction? When did he commit it? And was he given the opportunity to defend himself in line with the principle of fair hearing?
“HURIWA condemns this impeachment and backs the position of the prominent Ekiti senior lawyers because the constitutional steps that must necessarily be followed weren’t followed. We admonish the genuinely elected speaker now purportedly ‘impeached’ to head to court immediately and take back his mandate.”