By Jude Uyi Ediale
A press release by Committee of Benin Elders, published by Vanguard Newspaper of August 13,2019,page 24 and the legal opinion of Hon.Justice S O Uwaifo, a retired Supreme Court Judge, published by Punch newspaper of August 13,2019,page 34,justifying the controversial inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly require the interrogation of critical minds in Edo State in particular and Nigeria in general.
There is no doubt that the names listed as the authors of the press release in support of the questionable inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly-Chief( Prof) E.U. Emovon ,Hon(Justice) S. O. Uwaifo, Princess(Prof) Mrs.A. Emovon,Hon(Justice) I. O.Aluyi, Hon(Justice) J.O.Olubor, Prof.D.E.Agbonlahor, Emeritus Prof.R.O.Elaho,Emeritus Prof.A.A.E.Orhue,Prof.U.Edebiri,Brig-Gen(Dr) D.O.Ikponmwen,Maj-Gen S.E.Asemota and Maj-Gen C.O. Omoregie are eminently qualified Benin Elders. What is curious however, and the reason for the interrogation of their support is the complete absence of legal foundation for their decision.
The claim by the Elders that the inauguration of Edo State House Assembly is a Constitutional issue that should not be politicised is absolutely correct. Sadly, in a desperate search for reasons to support what is wrong , the Elders contradicted themselves by saying that the Party Caucus had in mind those to hold certain official positions in the House,and those who disagreed decided to stay away from the inauguration. Is inauguration of the House of Assembly a business of the Constitution or an activity of a political party?
Are these official positions of the House appointees of the political party or elective by members of the House? If they are appointees of the political party, why should members stay away from the inauguration of the House after the appointments have been made by the political party? If the official positions of the House are elective, why should the majority,(15) members-elect stay away from inauguration and allow (9) to elect the official positions? It will be interesting for these erudite Elders to tell Nigerians whether the inauguration of the House of Assembly is about the official positions of the House or a Constitutional enthrone of the State legislative Arm of Government.
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It is highly doubtful whether these Elders are aware of the date and time of the inauguration of the 7th Assembly of Edo State House of Assembly . Their press release stated that the Governor made a Proclamation letter on the 17th of July,2019 to the Clerk and the inauguration was done that same day by the Clerk of the House.
The controversial inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly was held in the late night of 17th June, 2019, not 17th July,2019. If their date is excused on typographical error, how can these Elders defend the legal propriety of inauguration of the House by the Clerk on the same day the Proclamation was issued by the Governor?Is the element of the Proclamation of a State House of Assembly a secret correspondence between the Governor and the Clerk of the House or a public announcement for the information of the Members-Elect and the general public as defined by Law, Public Policy and English Dictionary?
The claim that there is no Constitutional requirement for all Members-Elect to be present before inauguration, is not equally supported by any Constitutional provision that the inauguration of the House can take place without the invitation or notice to all Members-Elect.Those to be inaugurated are legally title holders that must be compulsorily invited to the inauguration.The issue of quorum can only be relevant if their is evidence of Proclamation and invitation of all Members-Elect for the inauguration. Any Member-Elect can be absent on his personal volition, but not to be criminally schemed out in order for an individual or a group of persons to achieve an unlawful objective. These Elders deliberately stabbed morality without any concern that those excluded from the inauguration are equally Edo sons that should be protected by these Elders to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
It is totally untrue for the Elders to say that the Business of Edo State House of Assembly had fully commenced and already functioning in the interest of Edo State.
The threat of declaring the seats of the Members-Elect that have not been inaugurated vacant because of the Constitutional requirement 100 legislative days is equally unfounded. A tenant cannot be default of a rent when the landlord has not given access into the apartment. It is sickening that the Members-Elect that have not be inaugurated should make themselves available to an illegal Speaker for swearing-in.
All the Elected Members of the House of Assembly are equal by rights and privileges . The first among equals or the Speaker can only exercise such right by voluntary consent and the election by majority members of the House. The man pretending to be Speaker was never elected by majority of the members of Edo State House of Assembly . He is presently presiding over nine members and 14 out of the 24 members of the House are challenging his authority and the illegal inauguration of the House in a Court of competent jurisdiction.
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The press release of these Benin Elders is self serving. The opinion of these Elders do not reflect the position of all good men and women of conscience in Edo State.The content of the press release should be ignored and the authors are at best seeking the attention of the Governor. Their role is supposed to be conciliatory instead of becoming advocates of illegality.
We unequivocally commend and encourage the National Assembly and the Judiciary to speedily resolve the crisis of Edo State House of Assembly in line with the Laws and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Edo people and the general public should ignore the press release of the Elders that lead to no peace.