Ondo: How nine lawmakers hijacked 26-member house

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The deputy speaker observed that the House had not committed any offence by suspending the lawmakers, saying that the nine lawmakers that sat formed two/third majority of the members of the House.

Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

For over three weeks now, the Ondo State House of Assembly has been embroiled in serious crisis occasioned by leadership tussle and struggle for the control of the House. In Fact, the House, once rated as one of the most peaceful in the country has turned to the House of commotion with two factions emerging and each with its principal officers including Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

READ ALSO: Ondo Assembly lifts suspension on 15 erring members

It started like a drama on Friday, November 9, when 15 lawmakers passed a vote of no confidence in the leadership of David Oleyelogun and his deputy, Ogundeji Iroju. They went ahead to impeach the duo alongside the majority leader of the House, alleging that they lack the ability to lead the House, since they have been allegedly involved in gross misconduct. This was the beginning of the crisis that bedeviled the House and since then efforts to settle the imbroglio have continued to hit the brick wall.

As it stands today, two persons are laying claim to the speakership of the state House of Assembly. They are: Mr. Olamide George who represents Akure North constituency leading 15 members and Mr. Oleyelogun who is allegedly loyal to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu leading nine out of the 26 members of the House.

The Oloyelogun faction of the House is however given recognition by the executive arm of government in the state and it is the only faction allowed to make use of the House of Assembly complex. Also, members of the George’s faction were barred from the Assembly complex and since the crisis started, they have not been allowed entry into their individual offices as suspected political thugs alleged to be members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) attempted to beat them to up, the last time they attempted to enter the assembly premises.

To this end, members of the George’s faction of the House have reportedly relocated to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, even as many of them have relocated members of their families to hidden places apparently for fear of being attacked. This has also caused tension in the state as many politicians loyal to them also live in apprehension, as a result of threat from the suspected political thugs.

Daily Sun gathered that the current political situation in the state has been heightened as a result of the crisis in the state House of Assembly and this is generating ripples in the political circle as nine members of the House loyal to Governor Akeredolu have taken over the control of the Assembly, and engaged in all parliamentary activities without considering the 15 members who are currently on alleged suspension going by the declaration of the Oleyelogun faction of the House.

Trouble was said to have started in the House of Assembly when the 15 lawmakers, many of whom were former members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) after Akeredolu emerged governor of the state in February 2017, passed a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the House. The lawmakers, it was gathered were promised automatic tickets for their second time but the party (APC) reneged on its promise and gave the tickets to other members of the party.

The aggrieved lawmakers felt uncomfortable with the decision of the leadership of the party and reportedly approached Governor Akeredolu who reportedly promised to intervene in the matter but also failed the lawmakers like the party failed them previously. This, it was gathered angered the lawmakers and therefore made them settle for the impeachment of Oleyelogun, a plot they eventually carried out.

Daily Sun gathered that before the impeachment was carried out, the lawmakers had met with the leaders of the APC in their various constituencies and some chieftains of the party who promised to intervene in the matter. Although the aggrieved lawmakers did not open up on the reasons behind their grievances, it was learnt that they were not given adequate recognition in the APC since their defection to the party about two years ago. The withdrawal of tickets from them by the party was therefore further evidence that they were not needed in the party, Daily Sun further learnt.

The George’s faction of the House had during a plenary presided over by a former speaker of the House; Mrs. Funke Akindele elected Mr. Abimbola Fajolu from Ile oluji/ Okeigbo constituency as the deputy speaker of the House. During the plenary, 18 members of the House allegedly signed the impeachment notice of Oloyelogun and Iroju but two lawmakers later withdrew claiming that their signatures were forged, a claim the faction had refuted.

George noted that the move was meant to correct the imbalances in the House and not to witch hunt the state government, just as he refuted allegation that they were being selfish, saying that the action was taken in the overall interest of the people of Ondo State.

With this development, it could be said that history was only repeating itself, as similar incident had occurred in the House before, when a member of the PDP, Mrs. Akindele was impeached after Governor Akeredolu emerged the governor of the state in February, 2017, thereby paving the way for Oleyelogun to emerge the speaker of the House.

Also, this year alone, the deputy speaker of Oleyelogun’s faction of the House, Mr. Iroju was impeached by the House before he was reinstated on the intervention of Governor Akeredolu and other leaders of the APC from both within and outside the state.

But in what appears a twist, nine members of the House loyal to Governor Akeredolu affirmed that the purported impeachment of the speaker, David Oleyelogun and his deputy, Ogundeji Iroju cannot stand.

During a plenary presided over by the embattled speaker, Oleyelogun , he accused the 15 lawmakers that signed the impeachment notice of both the speaker and deputy speaker of been ignorant of the law and violation of the House’s standing order. To this end, the House decided to order their suspension.

The nine members who attended the plenary out of the 26 lawmakers that make up the House claimed that they are in control of the parliament.

Oleyelogun, further described the action of the lawmakers who purportedly impeached him as an illegality, calling on security operatives to investigate and prosecute the 15 lawmakers behind the alleged forgery, arguing that the group led by George committed illegality in their purported impeachment, insisting that the 15 lawmakers remain suspended for their action.

Oleyelogun said the purported impeachment did not satisfy the constitutional requirements of the House, stressing that signatures collated were not up to 18 which represents the two-third majority required for the impeachment of both Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House.

“They claimed to have formed two/third as a condition to impeach the speaker and the deputy speaker, whereas they were less in number as Olajide and Oluyede were not part of the purported impeachment. The essential authorities of the House such as the original Mace or Gavel, standing order, book of oath and Proceedings were not honoured in the purported impeachment,” the embattled speaker said.

Since the crisis started, security personnel including armed police officers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC) appear to have taken over the House of Assembly complex as heavy presence of security men is always noticed in the Assembly complex, with many uniformed men patrolling the roads that lead to the complex.

As a result of the development, nine out of the 26 members of the Assembly loyal to Governor Akeredolu have dissolved all the standing committees of the House and also appointed three new principal officers.

The new principal officers are: Suleiman Maito (Majority Leader), Abayomi Akinruntan (Deputy Majority Leader) and Kazeem Suleiman (Parliamentary Secretary).

The deputy speaker of the House, Mr. Iroju, in a chat with Daily Sun observed that the House had not committed any offence by suspending the lawmakers, saying that the nine lawmakers that sat formed two/third majority of the members of the House.

Iroju who represents Odigbo state constituency said the House has remained peaceful since the suspension of the aggrieved members. He warned the suspended members against acts that could cause crisis within the House and the state at large.

To prove that the House was intact, Iroju hinted that the members have continued with the parliamentary business, adding that the amendment of the 2018 Appropriation Law was passed by the nine lawmakers recently, a development which he said became imperative to allow the state government execute some projects and also implement new policies which are beneficial to the people of the state.

But George claimed that the actions of the nine out of the 26 lawmakers should not be considered lawful, stressing that his faction has majority of the members of the House of Assembly, adding that Oleyelogun and Iroju had been impeached in the face of the law and whatever they do amounts to a nullity.

He said the lawmakers in his faction are not threatened by the suspension, saying that, “we are in control of the House and we stand by our action. We cannot be intimidated or frustrated by any individual in Ondo State as the state belongs to all of us and not some selected few people.”

READ ALSO: Ondo state speaker, deputy impeached

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