Kogi crisis deepens as Assembly Speaker’s security is withdrawn

Idris Wada

Accusing fingers are being pointed at the state governor, Idris Wada.

The embattled Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Abdullahi Bello, is in Abuja with some state lawmakers loyal to him, in order to garner support from members of the National Assembly over his impeachment, sources close to Mr. Bello have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr. Bello’s presence in Abuja is coming on a day the Kogi State House of Assembly is supposed to resume from its over one month recess for oversight functions.

The lawmakers had suspended plenary last month and agreed to resume sitting on Thursday, October 18.

On the day the lawmakers were meant to resume, the parliamentary building is sealed. The closure of the building is a reflection of the ongoing crisis in the Kogi House as well as the political machinations in the state, observers say.

 

The crisis

Some lawmakers believed to be doing the bidding of the state governor, Idris Wada, gathered at the Kogi parliament building on Tuesday morning, two days to the day the House had agreed to sit.

The lawmakers, who barred observers and journalist from witnessing their sitting, announced the impeachment of the speaker, his deputy, and 10 other principal officers of the House.

The number of lawmakers who sat on that day is still not clear. While the lawmakers claimed they had the constitutionally required majority- 17 lawmakers- the speaker has rejected the claim describing it as “illegal and unacceptable;” saying he has the support of 13 of the 25 members of the Kogi parliament.

On Wednesday, the speaker’s camp published a statement signed by 13 lawmakers denouncing the impeachment and describing it as illegal. They dared the pro-impeachment lawmakers to publish the names of those who attended the impeachment sitting saying they were a minority and could not be more than 12.

Before Mr. Bello’s purported impeachment, rumours had dribbled around about his rift with the state governor with several attempts being made to get the lawmakers to oust him.

It’s Wada’s fault

A former Kogi Federal lawmaker, Dino Melaiye, has fingered Mr. Wada as the mastermind of the Kogi assembly crisis.

Mr. Melaiye alleged that the governor paid the 12 members, who sat for the impeachment, in order to divide the House and stop the lawmakers from carrying out oversight functions meant to investigate the performance of the government over the past nine months.

“He (the governor) called them and gave them money not to undertake the oversight, but 13 of them refused to accept the money. The 12 that accepted decide to use a ‘Made in Taiwan’ mace to remove the 13 members,” Mr. Melaiye alleged.

We could not independently verify Mr. Melaye’s allegations.

But another source at the Kogi Government House corroborated his claim.

The source said on Tuesday morning, the 12 lawmakers had first gone to the governor’s office from where they were driven to the parliamentary building to impeach the speaker. The source was however not present at the meeting the lawmakers had with Mr. Wada and could not narrate what transpired.

 Lawmakers, Civil Society, condemn impeachment

The House of Representatives, at his sitting on Wednesday, waded into the purported impeachment of Mr. Bello.

Following a motion by Nicholas Ossai (PDP/ Delta), who condemned the ‘illegal” impeachment, the House set up a seven-man committee to look into the matter. The committee is headed by the Deputy Chief Whip, Ahmed Mohammed.

Activists and civil society groups have however called for the reversal of the impeachment.

The coordinator of the Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki, in a telephone interview described the ‘impeachment’ as illegal saying it was not done in tandem with constitutional provisions.

“Even when the entire Assembly resolved in the last six weeks or thereabout to embark on oversight functions and 2012 budget appraisal and were due to resume on 18th of October 2012; we wonder what necessitated this unfortunate development,” Mr. Miliki also stated in a statement.

The human rights lawyer is also set to file a case in court, on Friday, against the impeachment of Mr. Bello.

Speaker’s security withdrawn

The power the executive wields over security agencies has reflected in the Kogi crisis as despite the claim by Mr. Bello that he is still the Speaker, his security details have been withdrawn.

The withdrawal of Mr. Bello’s security detail is believed to be at the insistence of Mr. Wada who is yet to make a public statement on his role in the parliament’s crisis.

Whether Mr. Bello would return to office, or whether the 12 members would successfully have their way might be determined by the House of Reps intervention even as reports indicate that a party in the crisis might head for court tomorrow.


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