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Government & Politics

Kogi Crisis Deepens as Police seal off Assembly

Solomon-Arase
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The crisis rocking the Kogi State House of Assembly assumed a new dimension on Wednesday when the complex was finally sealed off by security agents.

This followed the failure of the lawmakers to resolve the leadership crisis that has bedevilled the assembly in the last three months.

One of our correspondents who visited the assembly complex on Wednesday, observed that the main entrance to the building was blocked by armed policemen who prevented the lawmakers from accessing the building.

The lawmakers were to conduct budget defence on Wednesday.

The road leading to the complex was also barricaded by policemen who subjected workers of the assembly to scrutiny before allowing them in.

The security operatives claimed they were acting on instructions from the commissioner of police in the state and the Force Headquarters in Abuja.

Mr. Aliyu Akuh, deputy to the embattled Speaker, Momoh-Jimoh Lawal, said the crisis remained unresolved as an earlier directive to return to status quo ante by the House of Representatives was ignored by five members.

He said it was an aberration for five out of 20 members of the assembly to impeach the Speaker.

Akuh, who said the 15 remaining lawmakers considered the action of the minority as an infringement on the constitution, added that in a good democratic setting, such infringements could be challenged.

He said, “What happened with five members seeking to impeach a Speaker in an assembly of 20 members is an aberration and unheard of, and more so, that some members’ names and signatures were forged and included as being part of the plot.

“We had to go to the higher authority, which is the National Assembly, vested with the constitutional powers to intervene in such a situation. The House of Representatives ordered the seal off and it was concurred by the Senate.”

On the suit by the five members at the Federal High Court, Lokoja, challenging the intervention of the National Assembly on the impasse, Akuh said there was no order restraining the federal lawmakers from taking the decision.

The factional Speaker, Alhaji Umar Imam, described the seal off as illegal.

According to him, for the National Assembly to have gone ahead to close the assembly in spite of the fact that the matter is pending in court, smacked of illegality.

Imam, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Ali, said the action of the National Assembly was to frustrate legislative business in the state, especially the passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

Efforts to get the response of the police failed as the command’s Public Relations Officer, Williams Aya, in a text message, said he was in a meeting.

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But the state Governor, Yahaya Bello, on Wednesday denied the knowledge of the decision of the House of Representatives to take over the functions of the assembly.

Bello told State House correspondents that the state “lawmakers are sitting and there is peace in the state.”

The House of Representatives had on March 9 took over the functions of the assembly due to the crisis that engulfed it.

In taking the decision at a plenary, the House said its action was in line with the provision of section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, which allows it to take over the functions of any state assembly that is enmeshed in crisis.

In taking over the assembly’s functions, the House also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, to immediately seal off the assembly.

But Arase was quoted as saying that he was waiting for the advice of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), before he would carry out the lawmakers’ directive.

But Bello, who met behind closed doors with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kari, insisted that there was peace in the assembly.

He said, “My House (of Assembly) is sitting and we have absolute peace in Kogi State.

“I am not aware that the National Assembly is supposed to have taken over the state assembly. The state is absolutely in peace and legislative activities are ongoing.

“I have a Speaker that is sitting right now; so, I don’t know if there is any problem there.”

When asked if the Speaker he referred to was the one installed by five lawmakers, the governor said he was not aware that the assembly had two speakers.

Bello also confirmed that his administration had applied for financial bailout from the Federal Government, adding that the process was still ongoing.

He said the last administration in the state could not access the fund because the request was not properly made.

“We applied for it and it is under processing. Right now I have not get any bailout yet. I think the last administration did not go on with the process properly, which we are doing now to correct whatever was not done properly, so that we can access it for our people,” he said.

The governor urged the people of the state to remain calm and join him in the task of moving the state forward.

PUNCH


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