Ekiti legislature locked in impeachment saga

In this piece, KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE takes a look at the crisis rocking the Ekiti State House of Assembly

The tension pervading the Ekiti State House of Assembly started with a rumoured plan to impeach the Ekiti House of Assembly Speaker, Adewale Omirin. This was reported in a section of the media on October 12, 2014. The reports said the Speaker required a divine intervention to survive the onslaught, which had been perfected by the All Progressives Congress-dominated Assembly.

Many analysts had wondered why the lawmakers would want to remove Omirin, who is a member of the APC.

Also purportedly pencilled down for removal were the Deputy Speaker, Taiwo Orisalade; the Majority leader, Churchill Adedipe, the Chief Whip, Ade Ajayi, and other principal officers of the House.

It was learnt that the plot to impeach the Speaker was over who becomes the acting Governor in case the inauguration of the then Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, was stopped.

The Speaker, who responded to the rumour, denied the reports of leadership crisis in the House, saying the lawmakers were united and remained committed to the development of the state.

Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media, Wole Olujobi, Omirin described the rumour as a figment of the imagination of those peddling it. Two weeks after, the Speaker is still at the helms of affairs in the legislature.

On the day of Fayose’s inauguration, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party pulled a fast one by effecting the defection of six APC members to the PDP. The defectors are Olowo Ajiboye, representing Oye II; Adeboye Adeyinka, Ikole I; Abeni Olayinka, Ado II; Fatunbi Olajide, Moba II; Olugbemi Joseph, Ikole I and Adeojo Ayodele, Ekiti South-West II.

They were received by the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu. Before the defection, 25 of the 26 members of the Assembly belonged to the APC with only one, Oyedele Ajibola, belonging to the PDP.

News filtered in later in the day about a meeting between the PDP lawmakers and the governor. It was speculated that a plot to impeach the Speaker was hatched in a meeting between the governor and the few legislators.

Omirin subsequently declared a month recess for members of the assembly — a move many considered as an attempt to thwart the purported impeachment scheme.

But the Speaker, in a statement made available to journalists through Olujobi, said the recess was necessitated by the change in government. The statement said, “In line with the spirit of the moment culminating in the change of the personnel manning the Government of the State, the Ekiti State House of Assembly as a major player needs to appraise its position with a view to ensuring continuity in good governance within the state.

“The Rt. Hon. Speaker has therefore declared a month recess in the House which commences from the October 17, 2014.”

Olujobi alleged that seven lawmakers, including the six that defected from the APC to the PDP on Thursday, had decided to assert themselves by storming the House on Friday morning to announce a new Speaker.

He said, “This statement is to alert Ekiti people to those who are stoking the fire of crisis in Ekiti State. Some of the defected members are our brothers and sisters who should be in the vanguard of safeguarding the security and wellbeing of Ekiti people. Ekiti State is set for another crisis again as seven members plan to lord it over 19 members in a supremacy battle that will set the hands of the clock of progress in our state back.”

But Fayose described the recess declared by the Assembly as a plot to frustrate his government. He said the ordered closure of the Assembly by the Speaker was a ‘Plan B’ of the APC. Fayose, in a statement by his Special Assistant (Information and Social Media), Mr. Lere Olayinka, said the plan was to prevent him from making statutory appointments such as commissioners and special advisers as well as the presentation and passage of the 2015 Budget.

The statement reads, “After failing to realise his ambition of becoming Ekiti State acting Governor (hoping that Fayose’s inauguration would not hold), the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr. Wale Omirin, has ordered that Ekiti lawmakers should go on one month recess.

“The Speaker claimed that the seven PDP members in the House were plotting to impeach him and, for this, Ekiti must be held to ransom. For the avoidance doubt, there is no plan from the State Government to force the removal of the Speaker or anyone in the House of Assembly.”

Fayose said the removal of the Speaker and other principal officers of the House of Assembly was the prerogative of the lawmakers and not the duty of the executive arm of government.

Fayose claimed Omirin was only acting the ‘Plan B’ script of the APC, which is to “make Ekiti ungovernable for Fayose the way they made the state ungovernable for Segun Oni.” But the governor assured the people of Ekiti that the plan would fail like the previous plans to subvert the will of the masses.

The statement also noted that the refusal of Omirin to attend Fayose’s inauguration was a clear demonstration of a lack of understanding of his position as the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly. “We, therefore, wish to counsel the Speaker to see himself more as representing the collective interest of the people of Ekiti State, not that of the APC and he should act in accordance with the desires of the people.”

But the Assembly on Monday resumed work four days after commencing the recess. The Assembly started with the parliamentary where it set the agenda for the week.

Olujobi said the resumption was in the overriding public interest.

He said all the 26 members of the State House of Assembly had been contacted on the new development, assuring that the sitting of the lawmakers would not be crisis-laden as feared.

The PUNCH learnt on Monday that the Fayose camp had been looking for ways to lobby the APC legislators. According to a member of the Assembly, who craved anonymity, one of such offers is the plan to write off the legislators’ car loans.

“The governor has promised to write off the car loans we obtained to appease us. He has also promised to give us better packages than those offered by Fayemi,” the lawmaker said.

But the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, said he was not aware of any meeting between the governor and the lawmakers.

He said, “It is not true that his Excellency met with members of the House of Assembly. If he had not met them, how did he make the offer? The governor is concerned with governance. If anyone had met them, it would be at the party level.”

The Speaker denied that the governor met with the lawmakers. Speaking through Olujobi, he said, “It is not true. The Assembly called off the strike because it didn’t want to send a wrong signal that it is out to frustrate the new government. The report is not true. The governor did not meet any lawmaker. They were at the Assembly today.” An APC member representing Ijero State Constituency, Mrs. Omowumi Ogunlola, also debunked the allegation. She said, “It is a cheap blackmail. He (Fayose) can’t have any more lawmakers from the Assembly again. The worst that can happen is that the defected members would return to the APC.

The lawmaker also denied that they were given car loans by the ex-Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

“We have our official cars that were monetised and we are paying back. By February next year, we would have finished paying. It is all lies. We went back to the office today because we felt we should be on ground. It is our prerogative to go to recess or not. Nobody went to him (Fayose). We are almost through with the payment. We were not given any loan.”

The bickering between the governor and the Speaker gathered momentum on Wednesday when he accused Fayose of ordering the closure of his filling station.

The State Government had on Tuesday shut four filling stations in Ado Ekiti. They included T. Five Integrated Service Filling Station belonging to the Speaker.

According to a statement by Adelusi, the step was taken to prevent “unimaginable fire accident with attendant fatalities.”

“The owners of the affected petrol stations are to report at the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development with letters of approval,” the statement said.

But reacting to the closure on Wednesday, the Speaker alleged that the Governor gave the order in order to intimidate him.

The Speaker, in a statement made available by Olujobi, vowed not to “buckle under undue political pressure to abandon his party for the Peoples Democratic Party for selfish and pecuniary motives.”

Omirin claimed that he fulfilled all necessary environmental laws in the location of the filling station and got the necessary approval, wondering why the governor would start victimising those who do not share his political belief.

The statement quoted the Speaker as saying that another Assembly member, Dele Olugbemi, had told him two days after Fayose’s inauguration that he (the governor) had made up his mind to shut his filling station over his (Omirin) refusal to join PDP.

Olugbemi was among the six APC members that defected to the PDP on the day of the inauguration.

Omirin recalled that he had earlier promised the governor that the House of Assembly would work with him in the interest of Ekiti people to deliver the dividends of democracy.

He said, “I called the governor to confirm what the honourable member told me about the plan to close my filling station. The governor denied any such plan, swearing that he would not pursue any victimisation agenda against opponents.

“But only yesterday the governor ordered the closure of the filling station, citing environmental factor.”

He warned that attacks on the opponents, particularly lawmakers, would smear the relationship between the executive and legislature.

But Fayose’s media aide denied that the decision to shut the Speaker’s filling station and others had any political undertone.

In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Adelusi maintained that “Those filling stations sealed off by the Ministry of Physical and Urban Planning contravened environmental laws.

“They were sited within residential areas. They are not supposed to be within residential areas. They are not the only filling stations in the state capital. If they didn’t comply with the environmental laws, the law should take its course. It has no political undertone. Four filling stations were sealed off but it is an ongoing thing. The exercise will take place throughout the state. It is to sanitise the state and prevent fire outbreak,” he said.

Copyright PUNCH.