There was drama at the Edo State House of Assembly on Monday when the Speaker of the House, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, was impeached, following an impeachment notice signed by 16 out of the 24 members of the assembly.
Okonoboh was replaced with Mr. Kabiru Adjoto, while Mr. Victor Edoror emerged as his deputy.
The new leadership of the House said Okonoboh; his deputy, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie; and the House Major Leader, Mr. Foly Ogedengbe, were suspended for three months.
Since its inauguration in June 2015, the Edo State House of Assembly has been led by no fewer than four speakers.
But Ogedengbe rejected the impeachment, describing it as illegal, contending that the House did not form a quorum.
“An illegal impeachment was moved today by a group of 11 people parading themselves to be 16. But they did not have that number.
“The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly has made a pronouncement on those persons and they stand suspended; so, shall it be,” he added.
When asked if the development was related to an impeachment scare in May, Ogedengbe said, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
The House had only reconvened after 26 days of break for oversight functions when the incident occurred.
It was gathered that at the resumption of plenary on Monday, a member, Emmanuel Agbaje, read a letter on the floor of the House, passing a vote of no confidence in Okonoboh as the Speaker.
The member representing Etsako West II, Mr. Sylvanus Eruaga, was said to have, thereafter, asked Okonoboh to vacate the exalted seat of the Speaker, a development that was said to have led to a free-for-all among some of the lawmakers in the chambers.
Okonoboh was, however, said to have left the seat after much pressure, paving the way for Eruaga to sit as the Speaker pro tempore.
Efforts by another member of the House, Magnus Igbas, to prevent the removal of Okonoboh was vehemently resisted by some of his colleagues, who descended on him.
It was also learnt that Adjoto was later elected as the new Speaker, after he was nominated by Eruaga.
Staff members of the Assembly were locked out while the impeachment proceedings lasted.
There was also a heavy presence of security operatives with several police Hilux vans around the premises, so as to prevent further breakdown of law and order.
Addressing journalists, Adjoto said that the decision to effect a change in the leadership of the House became necessary following the alleged incompetence of Okonoboh.
The new Speaker accused his predecessor of desecrating the state parliament by running the House as a private affair.
But Okonoboh declined comments on the matter as he was led by his aides and security details into a waiting vehicle that sped off immediately at about 11.56am.
However, Adjoto explained, “But we discovered that for selfish reasons, the ex-Speaker would adjourn proceedings in the House, either because his wife was marking her birthday or his son was graduating from the Covenant University or the son is going to the NYSC camp and he wants to throw a party for his son. Between June and July, we have worked for just three weeks; he adjourned the House for more than six weeks.
“Today (Monday) is August 14, and we are just resuming. Then, the House is expected to adjourn again next week for another four weeks for the normal holiday. Is that a normal parliament? All of us came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’
“The institution deserves to be protected above the interest of an individual. The ex-Speaker’s wife, like I said earlier, has turned herself into the 25th member of the House of Assembly to the extent that anything we discussed at the executive session, the wife would hear and start calling our wives to tell them what was discussed.
“The wife uses the Speaker’s convoy as if she is Mr. Speaker and at random. The other day, the wife and the son took the convoy to the NYSC camp. When the soldiers and policemen there saw that it was coming, they all stood, hoping that they would see Mr. Speaker, only to see the wife and the son coming out of the vehicle. That is desecration of the parliament.”
Adjoto, who also accused Okonoboh of flouting due process by allegedly awarding contracts to himself, noted that the three-month suspension of the affected members would subsist to enable a committee chaired by Edoror to investigate their conduct.
He added, “Mr. Speaker is not supposed to be a contractor at all. But we discovered that he awards contracts to himself without due process. We have cautioned him several times but he refused to listen to our advice.
“He just came back from the United States of America where he claimed he visited eight states. He was telling us, joyfully, how he toured America, whereas, he shut down the House. We are not supposed to go on holidays, but because you were going to America to have a party for your son that graduated, you shut down the House, stopping us from working for Edo people.”
Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has held a peace meeting with warring members of the state House of Assembly over Okonoboh’s impeachment.
Present at the closed-door meeting, which was held at the state secretariat of the All Progressives Congress on Airport Road in Benin, were the Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; the state Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua; and other chieftains of the party.
Although Obaseki did not grant any interview after the meeting which lasted for about two hours and ended at about 5.35pm, the state chairman of the APC told journalists that consultations were still ongoing.
Ojezua said that deliberations on what transpired at the House of Assembly were still on, adding that the resolution would be made public at the appropriate time.
“Let me just say that we have started talking and hope that we can resolve the issue very soon,” he stated.
When asked if the change of leadership in the House of Assembly would remain, the APC Chairman said, “I said we are discussing. When we resolve, we will make a statement. When we finish, we will address the press.”