There is confusion at the Ondo State House of Assembly as 13 of the 26 members of the House suspended the Speaker, Jumoke Akindele, and her deputy, Fatai Olotu, on Friday night based on allegations of fraud.
This is coming with barely a month to the end of the tenure of the Olusegun Mimiko administration.
The members had trailed the assembly’s paymaster, Makanjuola Adesina, from a commercial bank in Akure, where he had gone to withdraw N15million on behalf of the house.
The members were said to have accosted him as he alighted his car at the premises of the Assembly and accused him of withdrawing the sum without parliamentary approval.
Mr. Adesina told the lawmakers that he had the approval of the Speaker to withdraw the said amount from the bank through a check duly signed by the Director of Accounts.
The lawmakers were said to have taken photographs of him as he carried the bag containing the N15 million.
But Ms. Akindele has declared that she remains the Speaker of the House, declaring her purported removal as a nullity.
She has rejected the allegations saying they were fabricated by her detractors.
The leader of the Assembly, Dayo Akinsoyinu, who was suspended alongside Ms. Akindele, has also spoken out saying the N15 million withdrawn by the paymaster was not fraud money, but followed due process.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the outgoing governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has waded into the crisis.
It was learnt that the aggrieved lawmakers have refused to shift grounds insisting on removing the Speaker.
Although they had planned to impeach the leadership, they changed their minds after realizing they did not have the required quorum of 18 lawmakers to prosecute the impeachment.
The lawmakers however went ahead to appoint their replacements: Malachi Coker was appointed acting speaker; Ayodele Arowole, acting deputy speaker and Olamide George, acting deputy majority leader.
But Mr. Adesida denied any wrongdoing in the transaction and expressed dismay that his normal routine duty had been misinterpreted by a section of the lawmakers.
“I was issued a cheque of Fifteen million naira (N15,000,000.00) by my boss, the Director of Accounts (DA)to cash it at Stanbic Bank which I presented and later cashed at about 4 p.m.,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“The DA instructed me to move the cash to the assembly complex as usual for further directive on how to disburse the cash through my office as slated in my official schedule of duty.
“But, the moment I left the bank, I noticed a car trailing me while I made a frantic effort to get to the Assembly complex to avoid being robbed by my assailants, which I later realised were honourable members on a mission to carry out an undisclosed assignment.
“Before I could move the said cash into my office, about thirteen members of the House, bombarded on my car and ordered me to carry the bag containing the cash from my car booth, while they were busy taking my pictures with the cash.
“I was molested, embarrassed, humiliated and treated like a common criminal for doing my daily routine and official duty. Their action cut me unaware because there was nothing strange or extraordinary about my activities of the day since it was the normal way my DA issue to me official duty that I carry to the letter.
“It is very painful that in the course of my duty as a law abiding senior public officer and Pay master of the House, I was man-handled, tortured, publicly ridiculed and subjected to a callous dehumanising treatment by the very people I serve as honourable members of the ODHA. For this, I demand my respect and fundamental rights as human and public servant.
“During this uproar at the premises of the Assembly complex that I began to listen to different untrue and corked stories about my involvement with the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Jumoke Akindele, and that she actually instructed me to bring the cash to her official residence.
“As a civil servant, I have never had any close relationship with the Speaker who is the political head of the House. I only take official instruction and directive from the Clerk of the House, through my DA who is the administrative head of the House. And as I write this, the said cash is safely locked away in the volt inside my office.”
The Ondo Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, said although crisis was an internal matter of the house, it was a product of “some people trying to throw spanners in the works,” of the assembly.
Asked if he thought the crisis was being instigated by the All Progressives Congress, APC, he said, “In politics, you cannot rule that out, it is possible.”
He said the action of the lawmakers was done in the evening on Friday outside the time the Assembly usually sits.
“The house usually sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so you cannot remove the leadership of the house on Friday,” Mr. Akinmade said.
“I believe that when they meet on Tuesday, they will be able to resolve the matters. They should be able to resolve the issue when they meet.”
The APC has responded to the allegations that it was involved in the removal of Ms. Akindele, saying the allegation was a mere distraction.
The publicity secretary of the party, Omo’oba Adesanya, told PREMIUM TIMES that the APC supports her removal because she was involved in fraud.
“It is ridiculous for the former Speaker to accuse the APC of instigating their removal,” he said.
“Is it the APC that asked them to withdraw N15million from the bank without the approval of the house?”
He said now the leadership has been removed, it was time for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to carry out an investigation into the matter and other acts of fraud perpetrated by the former Speaker.
He said he was not aware that the lawmakers did not form a quorum for the removal, arguing that 20 members of the house signed her removal.