Police seal off Kogi House of Assembly
• National Assembly takes over soon
Moving to stem the escalation of the crisis in the Kogi House of Assembly, the National Assembly yesterday effectively suspended its legislative functions when the police sealed off the chamber in Lokoja, the state capital.
The federal legislature embarked upon this course under the auspices of Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states that the National Assembly could take over the functions of any state assembly in a crisis.
The development was as a result of an earlier directive by the National Assembly after some days of dilly-dallying due to an unresolved leadership crisis in the house.
Towards the end of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the same step was taken by the National Assembly to curtail the crisis rocking the Rivers State legislature when the state’s political scene was in turmoil resulting in the closure of the Assembly complex for several months.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ifedayo Adedipe, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday, said the power of the federal legislature to take over the functions of state assemblies was inserted into the constitution to protect the country’s democracy.
According to him, “If the legislature of any constituent state of the federation is in crisis and the National Assembly did not do anything about it, the crisis could escalate and affect the whole country.
“Events around the political scene in Kogi State beginning with the handling of the election of last year and the attempts by five members to remove the speaker in a 20-member House of Assembly should not be allowed to continue if our democracy must prevail.
“With this, other state legislatures who don’t know why they are elected or to whom they should be loyal to, between the governors and the people that elected them, should learn a lesson that they are not in the chambers to do just anything that fancy them.”
The House of Representatives had earlier ordered the closure of the Assembly complex after its 10-man committee that investigated the crisis submitted its report and the Senate later concurred and ordered the inspector general of police to seal off the complex.
However for two weeks running that order seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as the faction loyal to Umah Imam was holding its session at the chambers.
By yesterday, the main entrance to the assembly complex was blocked by heavily armed policemen who were preventing members who were billed to conduct ministerial budget defence from accessing the complex.
The Guardian checks indicated that the road leading to the complex was also barricaded by armed policemen who subjected staff of the assembly to scrutiny and only allowed them access after confirmation of their employment status through their identity cards.
The factional speaker, Alhaji Umar Imam described the closure as illegal, saying that for the National Assembly to have gone ahead to seal off the complex despite that the matter was pending in court smacked of illegality.
Imam who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Ali, said the action of the National Assembly was aimed at stunting the growth of the state as all legislative businesses especially the passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill would be affected.
Efforts to get the state command of the Nigeria Police to confirm the development failed as the Public Relations Officer, Williams Aya in a text message said he was in a meeting.
Speaking on the closure, Mr. Aliyu Akuh, deputy to the embattled speaker Momoh-Jimoh Lawal said the crisis remained unresolved as an earlier directive to return to status quo ante by the House of Representatives was ignored by the five members.
He said it was an aberration for five out of the then 20 members of the assembly to impeach the speaker in whom the remaining 15 members had passed a vote of confidence .
Akuh said that the 15 members considered the action of the minority five members as an infringement on the constitution of the country, adding that in a good democratic setting such infringements must be challenged.
He indicated that the action of five members seeking to impeach a speaker in a house of 20 members was an anomaly, adding that worse of all some members’ names and signatures were forged and included as if they were part of them.
He said their faction had to go to the higher authority which is the National Assembly vested with the constitutional powers to intervene in such situations.
“The House of Representatives ordered the seal off and the Senate concurred ”, he said.
On the position of the law with the suit filed by the five members at the Federal High Court, Lokoja challenging the intervention of the National Assembly on the impasse, Akuh said there was no injunction or court order restraining the National Assembly.
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