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Edo Assembly Crisis: Reps action is ultra vires their powers

There was heavy protest in Bénin City, the Edo State capital over the resolution of the House of Representatives to take over functions of the Edo House of Assembly if Governor Godwin Obaseki fails to issue a fresh proclamation letter for proper inauguration of the Assembly.

Speaking to ElombahNews on the actions of the House of Representatives over the Edo Assembly crisis, Mazi Afam Osuigwe, a legal luminary stated:

I’m a loss whether the House of Reps sought legal advice before resolving to advise the Governor of Edo State to issue another proclamation. First the Edo State House of Assembly does not need a Proclamation for its first sitting since the issuance of a Proclamation is not a condition for it to sit. The issuance of a Proclamation by a Governor is discretionary not mandatory for the sitting.

Secondly there resolution acknowledges that the House had commenced sitting after a Proclamation issued by the Governor. Having so commenced sitting the Governor lacks power to issue another Proclamation so the House can commence sitting afresh.

On the discretionary nature of a Proclamation by the State Governor, this is what the Supreme Court had to say in BALONWU V. GOV., ANAMBRA STATE 4-12-2009 (2009) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1172) 13, Per MOHAMMED, J.S.C.(P.36, paras. B-

“Starting with the provisions of Section 105 (1) of the Constition which I have earlier quoted in this judgment, the subsection is quite plain and clear. The section means exactly what it says. That is, a House of Assembly including the Appellants’ House of Assembly, shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date of the first sitting of the House. All what is required in applying the provisions of the subsection is to ascertain the date of the first sitting of the House in determining its tenure of four years prescribed by the subsection…….

In other words, whether or not there had been proclamations for the holding of the first session of the House of Assembly or for its dissolution by a person elected Governor of a State, that House stands dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from its first sitting. Proclamation for the holding of the first session of the House under Section 105(3), is not a condition precedent to the date of the first sitting of the House under Section 105(1) of the Constitution. It is indeed not true as argued by the Appellants that without proclamation by the Governor under Section 105(3) of the Constitution, the House of Assembly cannot function. The Constitution does not say so.

It is my considered view that the House of Assembly does not need the proclamation of the Governor before it commenced sitting provided the members have taken their Oath of Allegiance, Oath of office, and disclosed their assets. It is to be noted that these Oaths are administered by the Clerk of the House and not by the Governor. If the provision of Section 105 (3) is compulsory and mandatory before a House commences sitting a Governor faced with hostile House of Assembly where the opposition is in majority may frustrate the sitting of the House. Again it is my considered opinion that the power conferred on the Governor by virtue of Section 105(3) of the 1999 Constitution is only used when necessary. I completely agreed with the decision of the lower court that this appeal lacks merit”.

One couldn’t have say it better. APC needs to deploy political skills to solve the problem in the Edo House of Assembly. The directive that the House be sealed by security agencies is not only unconstitutional but also ultra vires the powers House of Reps.

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