Friday, 5 June 2015

Finally, Fayose survives impeachment plot

In this piece, TOLUWANI ENIOLA reviews the travails of the embattled 19 Ekiti All Progressives Congress lawmakers as their tenure ends today

As the tenure of the 4th House of Assembly in Ekiti State officially ends today, one person who will be breathing a deep sigh of relief is Governor Ayodele Fayose.

Having an understanding of the proverb, “Once bitten, twice shy,” Fayose, who was impeached by the 2nd Assembly on October 16, 2006, was desperate to ensure that history did not repeat itself. It was for this reason that when he took oath of office on October 16, 2014, his plan was to ensure a total control of the Assembly by all means.

Immediately after swearing to uphold the constitution, Fayose announced the defection of six lawmakers from the All Progressives Congress to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party. This implied that seven out of the 26 lawmakers were PDP members while the remaining 19 were members of the APC.

But the governor did not have control of the House since two- thirds majority of the Assembly (18) was still under the control of the APC and thus had the power to remove him from office.

Expectedly, fresh trouble began between the governor and members of the Assembly over issues relating to the budget and the screening of commissioners. Fayose alleged that the lawmakers demanded a bribe to screen his nominees and were scheming to remove him and his deputy from office so that the Speaker, Dr. Wale Omirin, could take over.

The lawmakers denied the allegations as the political atmosphere in the state continued to heat up. At a point, the governor even ordered the closure of the Speaker’s filling station in controversial circumstances.

However, the crisis reached a climax on November 17, 2014, when the seven PDP lawmakers secretly sat in the Assembly to pass the budget and screen Fayose’s nominees. The PDP lawmakers appointed the representative of Ikole Constituency II, Mr. Dele Olugbemi, as protem Speaker to preside over the plenary as early as 7am while armed policemen were stationed at the Assembly with an Armoured Personnel Carrier blocking the entrance to the Assembly to prevent the 19 APC lawmakers from entering the Assembly.

The PDP lawmakers cited the absence of the Speaker, Omirin, and his deputy, Taiwo Orisalade, as reasons for the appointment of the acting Speaker for the day’s business. For such a move to have been legal, the law required that at least 10 lawmakers must be present in the Assembly to form a quorum. While the PDP claimed that 10 lawmakers sat, the APC maintained that it was impossible for 10 lawmakers to have sat since there were only seven PDP lawmakers in the Assembly.

As the crisis continued, the 19 lawmakers were forced on self-exile while the seven PDP lawmakers in the Assembly were given police protection and were recognised by the Fayose-led government. The seven lawmakers subsequently impeached Omirin and his deputy just as Olugbemi was made the Speaker. The 19 lawmakers accused Fayose of sponsoring the crisis and threatened to impeach him but they were never allowed to sit.

There were concerns that the APC lawmakers might want to use “federal might” to unseat the governor who constantly attacked the personality of the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, during the presidential election campaign. The highpoint of the crisis bedevilling the 4th Assembly was last Tuesday when the 19 APC lawmakers failed to gain entry into the state to impeach Fayose. Roads leading to the state were blocked by thugs suspected to be loyal to Fayose. The lawmakers claimed the police failed to provide security for them to perform their constitutional duties.

Omirin, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Thursday took stock of the 4th Assembly and called for an end to what he described as “reign of terror and impunity” in Ekiti State.

Omirin said despite the crisis, the achievements of the 4th Assembly were unprecedented in the country, saying that out of the 150 bills that were passed into law in the history of the state, 72 were done during his tenure.

He said, “I have no regrets serving as Speaker. In fact, none of the 19 APC lawmakers have any regrets. Of the 150 bills that were passed into law in the history of the Assembly, 72 were done during our tenure. That made us the most productive lawmakers in the country. I read in the papers today that Nassarawa State passed 48 bills into law in four years. So, our achievements are unprecedented.”

Omirin, however, said the legislatives activities of the Assembly were marred by the leadership style of Fayose whom he accused of promoting impunity and disregarding the rule of law.

He said, “As far as I’m concerned, I know Fayose’s antecedents. He had the backing of the Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government. It was under Jonathan that the governors’ forum split and 16 was a majority while 19 was a minority. This culture of disrespect for democratic ethos reared its head in Ekiti when seven PDP lawmakers, with the backing of the Federal Government, “prevailed” over 19. How can Fayose use seven members of the Assembly to clear three commissioners and special advisers? How can he use seven lawmakers to dissolve council chairmen in the state and constitute an illegal caretaker committee to head the councils? The constitution says before you pass the budget, you require two-thirds, majority but Fayose went ahead with just seven members of the House to pass the 2015 budget.”

The medical doctor said the 19 APC lawmakers could have impeached Fayose on Tuesday but were not allowed to gain entry into the state. Omirin also claimed he called a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Sotonye Wakama, to provide the lawmakers security but the police boss said he could not guarantee them security. “Proceeding without police escort was tantamount to walking into a moving train,” he said.

Omirin also berated Fayose for paying the lawmakers’ peanuts out of N2o million the state government “owe lawmakers.”

Recounting his ordeal, he said, “Fayose denied us our entitlements. Our running grant is N1.2 million monthly which was not paid for seven months. Do the maths. Our severance allowance of N4 million each was also not paid. Fayose lied that N2 million each was paid into our accounts. How much is N2 million out of N20 million?”

The lawmakers, however, said what pained him was not Fayose’s refusal to pay the entitlements but denying the members their rights to perform their legislative duties.

Another APC lawmaker, Ayodeji Odu, also recounted his ordeal to our correspondent.

Odu, who represented Irepodun/Ifelodun Constituency II, said Fayose cannot get away with his “impeachable offences.” He spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview.

The lawyer said, “Ever since November last year, I have left my constituency and my legal business only to be sleeping at mosquito-infested hotels. I have been denied my constitutional rights and denied access to my state. Fayose can only run, he cannot hide. His victory is temporary. A leopard cannot change its spots. If he gets away with this, he will still commit impeachable offences. God does not sleep and justice will take its course.”

Odu said although the tenure of the 4th Assembly ends today, the lawmakers would use available means to get justice and ensure the payment of their entitlements.

He said, “Fayose lied that he has paid us our entitlements. He claimed he paid N2 million each into our accounts at WEMA Bank. The accounts, as you know, have issues because we took loans from the bank. Whatever he claimed to have paid was not even up to N20 million that he owes each of us. Whatever he claimed to have paid would have gone into the servicing of debts.”

Asked why the APC leadership and President Buhari could not assist the lawmakers to gain entry into the state and impeach Fayose on Tuesday, Odu said, “The impeachment failed because of the time constraint on our part. The APC leadership tried its best for us. We can now be thinking of petitioning the Presidency to intervene. President Buhari was inaugurated on May 29, a few days to the expiration of our tenure. It was too early for the President to make certain changes. The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, was installed by President Jonathan. The security agencies were planted by the previous government. On Tuesday, we were at Igbara Odo, trying to again entry into the state for hours. We called the police to provide security but they refused. Before you impeach a governor, you have to serve him a seven-day notice and the Chief Judge of the state would have to set up a panel. So, we had to back down.”

On his own part, Fayose described his relationship with the APC lawmakers as unfortunate. While bidding them farewell on Thursday, he said he had forgiven them for attempting to remove him from office.

Fayose, who said this in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, promised that the lawmakers would not be victimised after leaving office.

He said, “The last few months have been traumatic, especially this week. I was not given room to concentrate, but I had left the battle for God to fight. I told those planning to impeach me that they will succeed if they can impeach God.

“I did not bring myself back to power; my coming back after eight years was divine. I defeated the APC totally in all the elections, still they did not want to concede victory easily until when the Ekiti people rose to defend that June 21 mandate.

“I will now face the business of governance squarely.”

He explained that he would not waste time on revenge, noting that he was not ready to muscle anyone since God had given him victory in all of the battles that confronted him.

The governor, who praised the people of the state for preventing the lawmakers from gaining access to the complex, urged them to meet him at Ijigbo junction on Friday for a ‘victory walk’ to the complex where he will inaugurate the next Assembly which will comprise 26 members of the PDP.

- Punch

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