It was like a war situation in Niger State, where lawmakers had been at daggersdrawn with Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu. As at the time of filing this report, former speaker, Barrister Usman Adamu, was already a victim. In this report, HAMMED SALAWU records the intrigues that played out at the assembly complex. Excerpts:
Niger state House of Assembly has been embroiled in crisis lately. What started like a normal process to make the government toe the line, has snowballed into impeachment proceedings against the state governor, who was believed to be unnecessarily wicked towards the plight of the state lawmakers.
The governor was believed to be owing the legislators a whopping sum of 800 million naira in outstanding salaries and allowances, with no hope of getting same as the government activities wound down towards May 29.The scenario led to the lawmakers eager to take their destinies in their hands, as the executive session fashioned to address the issue fixed for Tuesday, the fifth of May, to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, the former speaker, Barrister Usman Adamu, who presided over the meeting, along with his principal officers, capitulated before the next day, fixed for the meeting. According to sources, they did not only renege, but also told the governor what transpired at the previous day meeting and what the lawmakers might be up to. Hence, as early as 6am on Tuesday, the gate to the House of Assembly was barricaded by stern looking security agents, who were ready to molest and embarrass anybody at sight. The lawmakers were denied access into the House, making them force their way into the premises. Angered by such betrayal from the principal officers, 19 out of 24 lawmakers impeached the speaker and his principal officers who were believed to be feeding fat on the travails of their colleagues.
Though the crisis was described as internal and has nothing to do with Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the impeached speaker warned the governor to guide his loins because he is the target and he, the speaker, was just being made a scape goat for an offence he did not commit.
Indication to the removal of the speaker emerged as early as 7:30am when all roads leading to the assembly complex were closed to both human and vehicular traffic with over 200 armed policemen and other security agents keeping vigil at assembly and preventing anybody from gaining entrance into the complex.
The assembly members however defied the presence of the armed security men at the gate and forced their way into the assembly complex after breaking the key and the chain used in locking the gate.
They threatened to resist any attempt by the security agents to prevent them from gaining entrance into the house and after hot exchanges, the law makers forced their way in.
After about an hour, the Sergeant at Arm arrived and the house settled down for the business of the day with 19 out of the 25 members of the assembly present.
The member representing Agaie constituency, Hon. Abdullahi Akwanu who is the House chairman on business and rules, told the house that after the House executive meeting on Monday, it was agreed that the House should sit for business today (Tuesday) but surprisingly, “no leader of the house, including the speaker is around for reason known to them”.
He then drew the attention of the house to order 8 of the House standing rule which provides that in the absence of the speaker from the House without any reason, a temporal speaker be appointed to enable the proceeding of the House.
Consequently, a motion was moved by Hon. Usman Dada, representing Bosso Constituency for the appointment of a speaker temporal and this was seconded by another member.
Hon. Isah Kawu, representing Bida 1 was immediately nominated for the position of the speaker pro-tempor by Hon. Abdullahi Akwanu and this was seconded by Hon. Jacob Maggi Gana, representing Lavun Constituency.
Thereafter, Gana told the house that the “refusal of the leadership of the house to show up today after it was agreed from its executive meeting on Monday has caused some level of embarrassment” and therefor moved for the removal of the leadership.
His motion was seconded by member representing Paikoro Constituency, Hon. Yusuf Kure. After sacking the leadership of the house, the speaker temporal then called for nomination for the new leadership of the house.
Hon. Gana immediately nominated the speaker protempor, Hon. Isah Kawu as the new speaker of the House, Hon. Bello Ahmed (Agwara) Deputy speaker, Hon. Yusuf Kure (Paikoro) Majority leader, while Hon. Sa’adatu Kolo(Mashegu) Chief Whip.
The new speaker was immediately sworn in by the Clerk of the House, Mallam Adamu Kagara
As proceedings continued in the Chamber, the impeached speaker, Barrister Adamu Usman was addressing the press at the IBB Press Centre, some metres away from the state House of Assembly, where he described his purported impeachment as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect.
The former speaker who was accompanied by his Deputy, Abdulrahaman Bala Gambo and other impeached principal officers of the house, insisted that he was still the speaker of the Niger state House of assembly.
According to him, “We are still the leaders of the House of Assembly. I am happy they did not accuse any of us of financial mismanagement as reason for our purported impeachment”.
He gave insight to why he was being impeached, saying that; “the executive has since the beginning of the year, starved the legislature of funds, including payment of allowances to members”.
He, however said that the leadership of the house has done everything humanly possible to let the executive realise that the House needs funds to keep the business of the house going but because of the economic situation in the country nothing has been done.
“Since January 2015, we have never received overhead cost because of problems associated with federation account. Everybody is aware. I do not control finance, as it comes I disburse. So, the impeachment beats my imagination.
“Whatever you see today is illegal because the Mace is under my custody. So whatever decision they took today (Tuesday), it is illegal”.
Beside this, the speaker disclosed that there was a court injunction from the state high court, signed by the Chief Judge, Justice Fati Lamin Abubakar, restraining the Defendants (21 other members) jointly and severally from setting in motion any process of impeachment pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“I, the Speaker, my deputy, the Chief Whip and the Majority Leader are still in charge. There are grudges that government had not done anything for them as expected. We are making efforts to see what we can do about it. But we are hearing that they carried out an impeachment without any offence.
Speaking on the Governor, Adamu said; “what it means now, is that the Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu should get himself prepared because I advised him before hand on this matter. So, anything that comes out of it, he should get prepared”.
Debunking the governor’s connection in the whole episode in a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the Governor, Mr. Israel A. Ebije, he intimated that speculations over impeachment moves against the Governor is false and should be treated as such.
He further stated that the governor enjoys robust relationship with the House of Assembly. He said shortly after alleged impeachment of the speaker, Rt Hon. Adamu Usman, those parading themselves as new leadership led by Hon. Isah Kawu met with the governor to explain their action and pledged their continuous support.
Ebije said the healthy relationship between the Governor and the lawmakers has made Niger state one of the best with high turnover of new laws. He added that Governor Aliyu has worked with the lawmakers, establishing and sustaining robust partnership to deliver dividend of democracy to people of the state since 2007.
He also said that in the past eight years, Aliyu has been able to commission projects, curbed unemployment and poverty rates in the state with policies which have received endorsements of the lawmakers with resounding accolades from within and outside the country.
“Let me debunk speculations over alleged impeachment threat against Governor Aliyu. The speculation is sponsored by mischief and should be discarded for what it is. The Governor has enjoyed robust relationship with the House and that has not changed.”
“The action of the House is internal and the decision to change leadership has no other ulterior motive more than the change of leadership which they have allegedly done. Let me therefore call on supporters of Governor Aliyu within and outside the country to remain calm.”
The spokesman of the Governor therefore urged the feuding lawmakers to resolve their problems immediately. He said the law and constitution should always be consulted when and if they must further decide on the ongoing crisis in the House.
Contrary to the confidence exuded by the governor’s media aide, the impeachment debacle was real! The governor, at about 6.30pm on Wednesday, had to run to the court to seek an injunction at the State High Court 5, to stop any impeachment proceedings against him by the state lawmakers.
In a suit number NSHC/MN/54/2015, Hon. Justice Idris MJ EVUTI of the High Court 5, granted an order of interim injunction restraining the Speaker and the House jointly and severally from setting in Motion any process of impeachment of Applicant (Gov. Aliyu), pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
“Upon hearing, Mr. Rotmi Ojo, learned counsel to the Applicant, move this application brought by way of Exparte Motion and careful perusal of the affidavit in support of deposed to by Abdullahi Bawa Wase of the Ministry of Justice, Niger state for an order of interim injunction against the defendants”.
The court also granted an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves or their servants, agents, privies, assign successor or otherwise howsoever described from accepting any nomination of any purported candidate for the position of Acting governor of Niger state or howsoever described from assuming the plaintiff’s position pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
All parties in the matter were “ordered to maintain status quo ante bellum, the position the parties were in before the cause of action arose pending the h
It was a drama of the absurd at the commencement of hostility among the lawmakers, with the police taking side as indicated by their action against journalist and members of the public, who had reasons to be at the “war front “. Men and Officers of the Nigerian Police Force molested Journalists who were carrying out their legitimate duties at the Niger state House of Assembly.
The Police had in the early hours of Tuesday morning locked the gate to prevent the coming in or going out by members and staff of the House.
This, supposedly, was to prevent the members from forming a quorum to move for the impeachment of the state governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu.
It was reliably gathered that the Niger state Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) Emmanuel Olokor, ordered that nobody be allowed in or out of the premises as there were feelers that the Mace was nowhere to be found.
But when the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, Abdullahi Kagara got to the gate, the Police men who barricaded the gate opened for him and started pushing Journalists who tried to walk in too.
The DPO in charge of the Assembly, ASP Thomas Louis rushed in and hit the NTA, Reporter Suleiman Kodogi, Samson Alfa a reporter with Standard Newspapers.
John Ogiji of the Guardian Newspapers got his phone smashed after the pictures he had snapped were deleted by a Police officer. The Punch Correspondent Enyioha Opara also lost his wristwatch during the scuffle.
When the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, led by the Secretary Abu Nmodu intervened, the efforts were in futility as all Journalists remained locked out on the instruction of the ACP (Operations).
Nmodu said “we, the NUJ condemn in totality this harassment and intimidation by the Police on Journalists that are going about their legitimate duties.
“It is unfortunate that this is coming barely 2 days after we marked the World Press Freedom Day”.