The lingering leadership crisis at the Ondo State House of Assembly reached a new height on Friday as the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, recognised a factional leader of the house, Malachi Coker, as the Speaker of the house.
The governor, while observing protocols at the swearing-in of the Secretary to the State Government and the Chief of Staff to the State Governor, recognised Mr. Coker as the Speaker of the house.
Mr. Coker was elected speaker by 12 members of the house of the 26 members in the wake of a controversial impeachment of Jumoke Akindele and her deputy, Fatai Olotu.
Both factions had claimed authenticity during several meetings held with Governor Akeredolu, who had portrayed himself as neutral in the controversy.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr. Coker, elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was invited to the ceremony as speaker of the house despite the unresolved issues.
He arrived the Cocoa Hall of the Governor’s office, and took his seat on the high table almost an hour before the kick-off of the event.
As the governor stood up to make his remarks, and after recognising the deputy governor, mentioned “Mr. Speaker,” creating an air of uneasiness at the hall with some people arguing in hush tones.
Expectedly, the opposing faction, led by Ms. Akindele, promptly reacted to the development, describing it an error and a plot to subvert the leadership of the house.
A statement by the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Siji Akindiose, said the news of the “erroneous” recognition of Mr. Coker was received with shock and disappointment.
According to him, the recognition was ill-advised and an endorsement of illegality.
“The House of Assembly, under the law, remains under the leadership of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Jumoke Akindele and other principal officers of the House,” Mr. Akindiose said.
“The purported tactical recognition of Hon. Malachi Coker as Speaker by the protocol of the government is a setback for the ongoing reconciliation efforts of stakeholders in which Mr. Governor is a mediator.
“In line with our resolve to bring to an end the crisis in the Assembly, we have participated actively in the reconciliation process which led to the withdrawal of the case in court in deference to the intervention of the Governor.
“The intervention of the governor had also led to the stoppage of the plot by some members to hold an illegal sitting in the House last Tuesday.
“It is therefore strange to us to see that the protocol of the government would recognise a wrong person as Speaker of the House while reconciliation is ongoing.”
Mr. Akindiose also noted that his group viewed it as a suspicious plan to take advantage of the withdrawal of the court case, averring that they were in disagreement with a plot to subvert the constituted authority of an arm of the government.
“The constitution states that only two-third majority can change the leadership of the House of Assembly and that has not been followed by those who claim to have changed the leadership of the House,” he said.
“We therefore state unequivocally that Rt. Hon. Jumoke Akindele remains the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly. The leadership of the Assembly remains intact.
“However, we remain committed to the reconciliation process that will lead to the reopening of the Assembly chambers for lawmakers to carry out their constitutional duties,” he said.
The police in the state have prevented any of the faction from gaining access to the chambers of the assembly.
Police Spokesman, Femi Joseph, said the police were only interested in the resolution of the crisis.