The impeachment of the Ekiti House of Assembly Speaker, Gboyega Aribisogan, and installation of Hon. Bunmi Adelugba as his replacement, has ignited a serious crisis as the duo lay claim to the number one legislative seat. Correspondent Rasaq Ibrahim writes on the intense power play in the hallow chamber.
But on November 15, only four days after Afuye’s burial, 25 lawmakers convened at the Assembly to elect a new speaker. It was learnt ex-governor Kayode Fayemi alongside the All
Progressive Congress (APC) leadership in the state had met with the 25 lawmakers at his private residence in Ado-Ekiti without the knowledge of the governor, Biodun Oyebanji. At the meeting, it was said that Fayemi categorically mandated the lawmakers who are all members of the ruling APC to install Adelugba as the new speaker. The directives was said to have been rebuffed by Aribisogan.
In the election presided over by the clerk, Tola Esan, Aribisogan who was said to be enjoying Oyebanji’s support, defeated his only challenger Adelugba, by polling 15 votes against 10. The outcome of the election did not please the ex-governor and his loyalists. They refuse to recognise Aribisogan because they felt betrayed. Independent investigation by our reporter revealed that some lawmakers worked against Fayemi’s choice as a payback to the ex-governor for allegedly denying them return tickets to the Assembly despite their loyalty.
Following Aribisogan’s emergence signs of crisis started manifesting when it was reported that he could not gain access to speaker’s lodge, Office official vehicles, office and other paraphernalia of office. It was also said that he could not even have access to Governor Oyebanji and Fayemi. It was gathered that the governor denied Aribisogan access to his office not that he was against his emergence as but to avoid any confrontation with his former boss, Fayemi whose anointed candidate was roundly defeated.
Twenty-four hours after he was sworn in, the Police laid siege on the premise of the Assembly complex over claims that some persons were planning to attack the legislative building. The security personnel, drawn from the anti-riot squad, regular policemen and counter-terrorism unit were strategically stationed on the four routes leading to the state House of Assembly complex. Movement into the complex, located off Government Reserve Area, 3rd extension Ado metropolis was restricted as stop and search operations with increased checkpoint as patrol van were moving around the vicinity.
The situation created palpable fear in the Assembly complex as workers hurriedly left their offices for their homes to avoid being caught in the web. The Ekiti State Police Command’s spokesperson, Sunday Abutu, in defence of the action, said that the Police acted on intelligence gathered that some political thugs were planning to attack the Assembly. “We acted on a security alert we received that some people were planning to invade the assembly, and we owe it a duty to safeguard the lives of the people and public utilities. We took proactive measures to secure the Assembly complex by deploying our men there. There is no cause for alarm; we are on top of the situation.” he said.
Two days after, palpable tension rose as the police claimed that their men foiled attempt by some hoodlums to burn the Assembly. But, Aribisogan dismissed the police’s narratives, alleging it was a ploy by the security agents in cahoots with some powerful individuals to keep him out of the Assembly in a bid to foist another person on the lawmakers. He said, “The Assembly is not under siege. The police are thought to have done this because some disgruntled elements were planning to attack. The Commissioner of Police gave assurance that the House of Assembly would be reopened the following day (Thursday) when he would have concluded his investigation.
“But unfortunately, as I speak the house is still under lock and key. That is why we have decided to call on the Inspector General of Police to call on his people to allow the Assembly to function.” He accused Fayemi of being mastermind of the crisis in the Assembly out of sheer desperation to remove him as Speaker and inaugurate his preferred person, Adelugba. He said, “When Fayemi called us to his residence and said he wanted us to support Hon. Adelugba, I stood up to say that that could not be done by fiat or by imposition and that we had leaders that we had to consult and that we would get back to them.
“During the election on November 15, the majority of the Assembly members voted for me, but a few of them, who felt that perhaps I did not follow the former governor’s directive felt that they would make the place ungovernable.” he said. The embattled lawmaker also accused the ex-governor of sponsoring some of the lawmakers to impeach him. He said that the lawmakers loyal to Fayemi had perfected plans to impeach him during plenary. He said, “they don’t want democratic processes to take place in the Assembly, and these people are even with arms, saying they are going to assassinate the speaker, take over the place tomorrow (Monday) morning.”
According to Aribisogan, all his efforts to reach Fayemi since his emergence and sealing off of the Assembly have been futile. He said, “I still sent a text message to him on Saturday night but up till now, he has not done anything about it. But he has been calling our members to go and impeach me. As I speak with you, seven of our members are locked up in a guest house in Ado Ekiti in cahoots with some of his former aides for the planned impeachment.’’ Like he had preempted, the 10 lawmakers supporting Adelugba in cohort with their sponsors, in a deft political move, broke the ranks of the 15 lawmakers loyal to the Aribisogam by winning 7 members of the group to their sides to get a two-third majority required to impeach a speaker.
The 17 lawmakers, as early as 6am on November 21, who were conveyed to the Assembly by an 18-passenger bus held an emergency plenary presided over by the deputy speaker, Hakeem Jamiu and impeached Aribisogan and suspended him indefinitely for allegedly blocking the passage of the 2022 supplementary appropriation bill. Aribisgan was immediately replaced by Adelugba, his rival, as the speaker and the sacred oath of office and allegiance was subsequently administered on her.
The 17 lawmakers that carried out the impeachment process included: Toyin Lucas (Ado 1) Femi Akindele (Irepodun-Ifelodun 1), Teju Okuyiga (Gbonyin), Hon. Ayodeji Ajayi(ise/orun) Lateef Akanle (Ekiti East 2), Hon. Arugbo(Moba 2) , Hon. Babatunde Fawekun (Ido/Osi 1) Hon. Babatunde Joseph (Ekiti Southwest 2), Ademola Ojo (Ijero), Hon. Adeoye Aribasoye (Ikole constituency 2). Others are; Hon. Akin Oso(Ido/Osi 1), Hon. Reuben Awoyemi(Oye 2), Hon. Tunde Idowu (Ikere 2), Hon. Bode Oyekola(Ekiti West 2), the Deputy Speaker, Jamiu, and Adelugba.
Six other lawmakers were also slammed with suspension for compromising the process of the election that produced Aribisogan as the Speaker among other alleged unpatriotic and unparliamentary conduct capable of threatening the peace of the state. Aribisogan and the six lawmakers were also barred from vicinity of the House of Assembly Complex within the radius of 1.5km for their actions which, according to their colleagues, offend the provisions of the House Standing Rules and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The six lawmakers suspended and barred alongside the impeached Speaker are Hon. Tajudeen Akingbolu (Ekiti West 1), Hon. Tope Ogunleye (Ilejemeje), Hon. Ajibade Adeyemi (Moba 1), Adekemi Balogun (Ado 1), Yemisi Ayokunle (Ekiti Southwest 1) and Hon. Adegoke Olajide (Efon). Aribisogan and the suspended lawmaker were also barred from vicinity of the House of Assembly Complex within the radius of 1.5km for their actions which, according to their colleagues, offend the provisions of the House Standing Rules and the 1999 Constitution.
In a swift response Aribisogan described his removal by his opponents as a nullity, saying that he remains the leader of the Assembly in the face of law. He condemned the Gestapo manner at which his removal was allegedly done by lawmakers, saying such will be subjected to judicial scrutiny to save democracy from total collapse. Alluding to the action taken against him by the lawmakers as a flagrant violation of the extant rules and the Assembly’s Standing Order, the embattled lawmaker; said: “In view of the foregoing, we hereby call on the Government and people of Ekiti State and all constituted authorities to note that Hon. Olugboyega Aribisogan remains Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly.
“Ekiti people and the general public are invited to note that Order II, Rule 9 of the House Rules clearly prescribes that before the Speaker can be removed from office, he must be served with a formal notice of allegations and given 72 hours to respond. The unlawful assembly of today was so steeped in illegality that the disgruntled members did not care to pretend to comply with these rules in carrying out the purported impeachment of the speaker.”Aribisogan, who said the action of the lawmaker could not stand in the face of the law, expressed confidence that the court would declare the “kangaroo and illegal impeachment” as a criminal act.
He said he had instructed his lawyers to proceed with the matter in court. “Even if 24 of the 25 members of the Assembly were there, it would still have been illegal because they did not follow due process. Procedurally, it was wrong for them to have entered that place by 5.30am and conducted an impeachment by 6am. The Standing Order in Ekiti State House of Assembly said that the House shall meet by 10am for both parliamentary meetings and plenary sessions, not 6am. Then, the fact that the police had earlier sealed off the place, how they were able to gain entrance and conducted that kangaroo and illegal impeachment on Monday while the police were still claiming that they were protecting that place still remains a question they must answer,” Aribisogan said.
But Fayemi dismissed the allegations leveled by the impeached Speaker that he was behind his ordeal, saying that he was innocent and never meddled in the internal affairs of the assembly. The ex-governor in a statement issued by Ahmad Sajoh, said, “We wish to clarify that Fayemi had nothing to do with the removal of Aribisogan by his peers as this was the internal arrangement of the Assembly.
“We wish to note that even as governor, Fayemi did not interfere with the internal affairs and independence of the House and respected the principle of separation of powers where the House had the freedom to decide on its internal affairs.”
Apparently piqued by the bedlam rocking the Assembly and its looming effects on the polity, eminent senior lawyers of Ekiti origin led by Afe Babalola (SAN) faulted Aribisogan’s removal without following established constitution procedures and global practices. The legal icons, in a statement jointly signed, described as unacceptable and illegal the impeachment, saying the action as a coup d’etat against the state as well as a charade that withstand judicial scrutiny in all its measure.
Signatories to the statements include foremost legal icon, Femi Falana (SAN); ex-President Nigeria Bar Association, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), former NBA Secretary General, Mr Dele Adesina (SAN), Mr. Olu Daramola (SAN), former Attorney Generals of Ekiti State, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) and Gboyega Oyewole (SAN). They asked the lawmakers to respect the constitution and be guided by the rule of law in all their actions, stating that the democratic ethos and ideals must not be sacrificed on the altar of politics. The senior Advocates who insisted that Aribisogan remained the speaker in the face of law and that the actions of the Olubunmi Adelugba group to remove him was a nullity, asserted that she could not continue as speaker.
The lawyers warned those they describe as godfathers in Ekiti politics to be wary of their actions and stop indulging in act that could ignite serious crisis or trigger instability in the state. They said , “Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba cannot continue in office as Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, and we plead with her to honourably stop parading, presenting or holding herself out as the speaker of the state, as her so-doing constitutes not just an illegality and unconstitutionality, but also a perseverance in such an unlawful enterprise.
“In like manner, we plead with the members of the House of Assembly to allow all principal officers of the House, including the Deputy Speaker, the Chief Whip, the Majority Leader etc., continue in office, without making any attempt to impeach or replace any of them.” They queried how Aribisogan could have committed an infraction since the Assembly was sealed by the police the morning after his inauguration, asked if he was confronted with the allegations against him to warrant his suspension. They stated, “The alleged suspension and stoppage of the salaries of the speaker and six other members of the House are no less misplaced, illegal, illegitimate, null, and void.
“If care is not taken, and if all of us seal our lips, fold our arms and get relaxed on our seats and allow this rascality and impunity to go unchecked, in no distant future, the governor of the state would be impeached and forced out of office in like manner. This is absolutely unwarranted, unjustified and condemnable. By way of argument, the sponsors of the charade and their cohorts in the House have foisted on the entire state a coup d’état, in the sense that the suspension of more than one quarter of the members of the House equally translates to the fact that members of their constituencies have also been suspended from the state.”
The legal icons urged the Governor, Biodun Oyebanji to cautiously watch his back, saying that keeping silence to this alleged rascality and reckless abuse of power could boomerang and embolden the lawmakers to go after him in the future. “As lawyers, we do not want to swallow hook, line and sinker the grapevine information and tales being peddled about for the reasons underscoring the crisis at hand, among the political gladiators in the state. Be that as it may, we plead with our humble and respected governor to appreciate the fact that having been sworn in as the governor of the state, he automatically translates to the Chief Executive Officer of the State, and by extension, the buck stops at his table.
“His silence in the face of the apparent threat to peace, order, good governance and harmony in the state is not the best, to put it mildly and respectfully. Truth be told, he is the one, rather than the political marauders that will be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the State.” They advised the House to appreciate “the inviolate nature of the sovereignty of the legislative House and stop hobnobbing with outsiders or powers-that- be to usurp the powers and jurisdiction, rights and privileges, constitutionally and democratically conferred on them.”
But, the Ekiti State House of Assembly disagreed with the position of the senior lawyers. The lawmakers, who said the opinion of the 7 senior advocates was laced with bias and sentiments. The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Adeoye Aribasoye, in a statement, said, “We wish to let the reading public know that members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly feel a sense of injustice by the one-sided opinion and biased intervention of the legal luminaries who are also elder statesmen. The principle of justice all over the world is that all sides to a conflict must be heard and it is only then that justice can be seen to have been done.” “It is unfortunate that our elder statesmen did not hear from the side of the new Speaker and the remaining 16 members who impeached the former speaker, Rt. Hon. Aribisogan and elected Rt. Hon. Adelugba.
“The advice of the legal luminaries that Rt. Hon. Adelugba, who was duly elected by 17 members, should stop parading herself as the speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly is unwarranted and we believe this is based on wrong information by the impeached Speaker. The House has neither breached any section of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria nor its own standing rules concerning the impeachment of Rt. Hon. Aribisogan and the election of Rt. Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba on Monday, November 21, 2022. Rt. Hon. Aribisogan was duly served an impeachment notice and was thereafter impeached by 2/3rd members of the whole house.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Rt. Hon. Adelugba remains the validly elected speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly and she enjoys the support of overwhelming majority of the honourable members, party leadership and the government of Ekiti State.” However, keen watchers of the events in the state averred that the ongoing crisis runs really deep, beyond what is seen on the surface as an ordinary power tussle among the lawmakers but a cold war for political liberation and survival.
Story by THE NATION
Photos by WNTNEWS