Malachi Coker, a factional Acting Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, on Monday said the police had sealed the Assembly over its leadership crisis.
Mr. Coker told the News Agency of Nigeria in Akure that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ordered indefinite closure of the Assembly.
Some members of the Assembly had on January 27 impeached the Speaker, Jumoke Akindele, and some other principal officers over allegation of N15 million fraud.
The N15 million was allegedly found on the Assembly’s Pay Master, Makanjuola Adesina, who told the lawmakers that it was withdrawn on the instruction of the Speaker for a project which he failed to disclose.
Mr. Coker told NAN that the Assembly had adjourned sitting indefinitely following the police action.
“For now, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, has directed that the Assembly should be locked.
“On Friday, February 3, the police brought a warrant that the Assembly should be locked indefinitely and that was after the House had adjourned its sitting at a plenary held on Thursday, February 2.
“We hope the police will not be bias in their actions by allowing the impeached speaker’s faction to have access into the Assembly,’’ he said.
On the impeachment of the Speaker and other principal officers, Mr. Coker said that 20 out of the 26 members of the Assembly signed the impeachment notice.
“For clarification, it takes 18 members to sign the impeachment notice, while 10 members can sit in the Assembly to pronounce it and this time around 20 members signed the impeachment notice.
“About seven members backed out after they had signed the impeachment notice following pressure from the power that be.
“We all plan the impeachment together, but as human beings, some claimed they were not in the Assembly when the impeachment was to be carried out,’’ the acting speaker said.
He appealed to members of the Assembly to come together and work for the interest of the state and not for individual’s interest or pecuniary gains.
Ms. Akindele has rejected her removal and said she still enjoys the support of 13 of the 26 members of the Assembly. She said her removal did not follow due process and she still remained the speaker.
Mr. Akindele and her supporters are loyalists of outgoing governor Olusegun Mimiko while the other lawmakers are said to enjoy the support of the incoming government of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
The spokesperson for Mr. Coker’s faction of the Assembly, Ogundeji Iroju, had on Sunday maintained that Ms. Akindele remained sacked as Speaker of the state House of Assembly.
Mr. Iroju, however, said in spite of the crisis, the house was prepared to receive the budget to be presented by Mr. Mimiko.
There had been reports that Mr. Iroju and his camp removed the speaker so as to block any budget presentation by Mr. Mimiko.
“You will recall that Akindele was impeached about 10 months ago, but the governor appealed to us to stop the impeachment moves while we believed the former Speaker will turn a new leave,” said Mr. Iroju.
“However, we have elected a new Speaker and two other principal officers this time around to replace all the impeached officers.”
He said the house waited for the governor to come and present the budget last Monday, but he failed to turn up.
“We are waiting for Mimiko to come and present his budget because we know that if the budget is passed into law, it will have great positive impact on the lives of the masses,” he stated.
On efforts by the party and the governor to resolve the crisis, Mr. Iroju said “this is purely House of Assembly affairs not a party issue. We are defending the mandate of the people and not about party because the people voted for us and not only PDP members.
“This is a legislative issue and nobody can impose a Speaker on us. We are only worried why the governor is insisting that Akindele should continue as the speaker despite the allegation levelled against her.”
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former deputy governor of Ondo State, Ali Olanusi, has warned Mr. Mimiko to stop meddling in the affairs of the Assembly.
Mr. Olanusi, who stated this in Akure, said the governor should be reminded that the legislature is a separate but equal arm of government that is neither inferior nor subservient to the Executive.
The former deputy governor was impeached by the same group of lawmakers in 2015., after he fell out with Mimiko and defected to the APC.
He called on the governor to respect the decision of the lawmakers, urging him to emulate President Muhammadu Buhari, who did not meddle into the choice of the Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives.
“Mimiko should not be bothered by the change of leadership in the house, it is the responsibility of the members to pick the Speaker,” he said.
“The change of leadership should not affect the presentation of budget, once the lawmakers form a quorum.”
The Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, expressed hope that the matter would soon be resolved and the budget would be presented to the house.
He said talks were ongoing among the lawmakers and the situation would soon return to normal.
He resisted the fact that the budget presentation at this time was necessary to provide an easy transition for the incoming government, arguing that it was in the interest of the new administration to have a working budget as soon as it takes over power.
“The current administration has the constitutional power to spend 75 per cent of the last budget within six months and we really do not have issues with the budget, besides making the incoming government comfortable,” he said.
He said those opposing the presentation of the budget were ignorant of the workings of government, noting that it was the governor’s constitutional duty to present the estimates before the house.
“it will take nothing less three months for the incoming government to prepare a budget for the state when it comes in,” Mr. Akinmade said.
“Having a ready budget as it comes in will help the incoming government begin work immediately.”