There was pandemonium at the Edo State House of Assembly on Tuesday when suspected thugs invaded the complex, shooting sporadically and injuring six persons, following the impeachment of the Speaker, Mr. Victor Edoror, and his deputy, Mr. Bright Osayande, by 16 members of the House for alleged misconduct.
It was learnt that trouble started when the Majority Leader, Mr. Folly Ogedegbe, moved the motion for the impeachment of the Speaker and his deputy for alleged gross misconduct, which was seconded by Mr. Gani Audu (Etsako West I).
One of the lawmakers, Mr. Patrick Iluobe, was later appointed to preside over the business of the day where the member representing Uhunmwode constituency, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie, was appointed as the first female speaker of the House of Assembly, while Dr. Joseph Okonoboh (Igueben constituency), was appointed as her deputy.
Immediately the new speaker was sworn in, Edoror and Osayande were said to have walked into the chamber allegedly in company of some thugs who shot sporadically and left the workers and some journalists to scamper into safety.
A combined team of security operatives from the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps dispersed the thugs with tear gas canisters.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, was later sighted at the assembly complex.
Efforts to get his reaction were, however, unsuccessful.
Call put across to his telephone number rang out while he had yet to respond to a text message sent to his number as of the time of filing the report.
While briefing journalists shortly after the incident, the pro-Ativie lawmakers told journalists that the members could no longer tolerate the alleged highhandedness of Edoror, whom they claimed “ate government money the way the endangered red squirrel eats palm nut.”
They also accused him of allegedly having six pending cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, adding that a five-member committee, led by Kabiru Adjoto (Akoko Edo I) had been set up to investigate his alleged financial recklessness, as Speaker from June 2015 to May 3, 2016.
Adjoto, who spoke on their behalf, said, ”We, the members of the Edo State House of Assembly, 16 of us, followed due process to impeach the former Speaker, Mr. Victor Edoror, for reasons stated herein.
“Mr. Victor Edoror is a Speaker that is violently corrupt. He was a speaker that ate government money the way the endangered red squirrel eats palm nut; as he’s eating one, he is looking at the other one to eat.
“He is violently dictatorial; because of that, we came together as honourable members; we are a 24-member House. Sixteen members signed the impeachment of the former Speaker, which constitutes two-third of 24. We have here the list of the 16 members that signed the impeachment notice in their own handwriting.”
He added, “So, we have a new Speaker, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie, who is the member representing Uhunmwode constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly.”
“We have equally impeached the former deputy speaker, Mr. Bright Osayande, for the same reasons adduced before now (and) replaced by Justin Okonobo, member representing Igueben constituency.”
On her part, Ativie, who alleged that the thugs were supporters of Edoror, also noted that he (Edoror) had been suspended.
The state House of Assembly had on March 8, 2016, adjourned indefinitely following a shouting match among the lawmakers, which led to a rowdy session.
Edoror had also been ordered by a Federal High Court in Benin to explain why he should not be committed to prison for his alleged refusal to swear in a Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Mr. Sylvanus Eruaga, as the member representing Etsako West II constituency, where the governor hails from.
Eruaga was later sworn in.
However, Ativie said that she would provide a robust, corrupt-free and inclusive leadership which would facilitate the development of the people.
She said, “Well, it was the impeached Speaker that brought hoodlums to the place (Assembly) to disturb us but we refused to be intimidated and we went through normal processes even before he came in with his thugs and that is the reason why we have suspended him.
“As the new Speaker, we are going to have a very robust house; a House that is not corrupt, a House that will bring about laws that bring development to our people. I will give my people qualitative leadership; every member will be an inclusive member of the House, not an exclusive member.”
But Edoror, accompanied by six other members, later held a session in the chamber, where the plenary was adjourned to Wednesday to enable the members to hold a closed door meeting in order to “strategise and look at the differences that is in the mind of every member, so that we can put everything to a halt.”
He also said that the House would set up a committee to look into the matter.
While briefing journalists in his office, Edoror described his alleged impeachment as fictitious.
He also dismissed the claim by the pro-Ativie lawmakers that he allegedly sponsored the invasion of thugs into the Assembly complex.
However, Edoror said, “They (pro-Ativie members) don’t have the numbers” to impeach him.
He also denied the allegations levelled against him and maintained that the leadership of the Assembly remained while the issues would be “put to rest.”
A correspondent of The Nation newspaper, Mr. Osagie Otabor, who was assaulted by the thugs explained that one of the youths had accused him of being sent by one of the pro-Ativie lawmakers.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Prince Kassim Afegbua, could not be reached to get the state government’s reaction.
But the leadership of the APC in the state, which said that it had not been briefed on the matter, described the incident as “part of democracy.”
The state Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Godwin Erhahon, said, “Well so far, it’s part of democracy. They are mere allegations until they are proved by a competent authority.
“It has just happened today and we are yet to be briefed by both the Speaker and the House. They should remain peaceful and law abiding.”
When asked if the party would intervene, Erhahon said, “Well, it depends. We will consult.”