My Dear Hon. Speaker, it is with great respect I decided to address this open letter to you because the issues concerns are of public interest, and I hope it will not come to you as a surprise, but, if it causes you any embarrassment or inconvenience, I sincerely apologised to you and the rest of your 359 members.
I am an Elder Statesman of 92years, and I have rendered my services to our great Country in various forms including being a Headmaster of Central Elementary and Modern Secondary School, Western Ijaw Divisional Council, Bomadi, as far back as 1955, when I was 28years old. Some of my former pupils are Ministers, Senators, Vice-Chancellors and Members of the National Assembly.
I have also served my Country as a Minister of Information with three distinguished Nigerians as my colleagues under General Yakubu Gowon, viz; Late General Murtala Mohammed, who was Minister of Communication, and later became Military Head of State in 1975; General Olusegun Obasanjo who was Minister of Works and Housing later became Head of State in 1976, and he was also elected President of Nigeria in1999, while Late Alhaji Shehu Shagari was then Minister of Finance, who later became elected President of Nigeria in 1979. I was also elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, therefore, I am a fulfilled Elder Statesman who has served his Country in Various capacities for over 60years, I have seen it all, and retired without blemish. I am therefore a stakeholder in this our Country, and in this capacity, I considered myself qualified to comment on any National issues affecting the welfare and peaceful co-existence of a united Nigeria.
2. I am painfully watched with great concern, the Legislative squabble in Edo State House of Assembly, and the rapidity without any due process the House of Representatives interfered in the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly. The power you have over States Houses of Assembly is Constitutional which must be exercised with due process. Part 2, section 1 of the 1999 Constitution as amended states clearly that, “the legislative power of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in the National Assembly for the Federation which is consist of a Senate and the House of Representative”. Sub-section 2 of the Constitution states as follows that, “the National Assembly shall have powers to make law for the peace, order and good Government of the federation or any part thereof for any matter included in the exclusive legislative list set out in part 1 of the second schedule to this Constitution”. Sub-section 3 further states as follows that; “the power of the National Assembly to make law for the peace, order and good Government of the federation with respect to any matter included in the exclusive legislative list shall save as otherwise provided in this Constitution to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States”. Section 11 of the Constitution provide that; “the National Assembly shall take over the affairs of a State House of Assembly only if there is a crisis in the House, and the House is unable to function”.
Section 11(4) states that; “At any time when any House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reasons of the situation prevailing in that State, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order peace, order and good government of that State with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the State:
Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the National Assembly power to remove the Governor or the Deputy Governor of the State from office”.
Also, section 11(5) states that; “For the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business”.
3. Mr. Speaker, having regard to the above Constitutional provisions, may I sincerely beg to make the following observations in respect of the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly since its inauguration, which followed the proclamation by the Governor of Edo State as required by law. Section 105(3) states that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the person elected as the Governor of a State shall have the power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the House of Assembly of the State concerned immediately after his being sworn in, or for its dissolution as provided in this section”. Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended refers to the National Assembly i.e. the Senate and the House of Representative as contained in the Constitution to be concise. The House of Representatives alone have no power or authority to interfere in the affairs of the Edo State House of Assembly as it is asserted to have done.
It is unconstitutional and of no legal effect. The Senate acting on the same subject stated that it has not completed its findings in the disagreement between the members of the Edo State House of Assembly, and it will soon come to the resolution of the matter which is at variance with the position already taken by your House. Simply put, it is only the Senate and the House of Representatives which form the National Assembly has the power or authority to interfere in the matter of the Edo State House of Assembly. The Senate cannot do it alone, and the House of Representatives cannot also do it alone. The two must act together.
4. The National Assembly must carry out its functions either in the making of Bills or passing of Resolutions which they do in carrying out such functions create issues that will affect the peace and welfare of the people. The rapidity with which the House of Representatives waded into the disagreement of members in Edo State House of Assembly has no doubt gone a long way to escalate the crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly and the State. If one may refresh his memory, the genesis of the so-called crisis was that 9 out of the 24 members were present when the House was inaugurated following the proclamation by the Governor. The legal meaning of proclamation is to declare formally or officially. There is no binding law or constitutional provision which says that all the 24 members; or that the majority of members must be present at the inauguration after the Governor has made his proclamation. The Constitution provides that, the House can perform its functions when one-third of the members are present. In the case of Edo State House of Assembly, 8 members form the quorum, therefore free and legally covered to perform their duties including the election of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker and to confirm Commissioners.
Mr. Speaker, let me draw you back to memory. In 2015 when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated, not all the Members of the National Assembly were present that faithful morning. There was an announcement that all elected APC members in the National Assembly should assemble at the International Conference Centre that very morning and Mr. President as the leader of APC, who has just returned from an overseas trip was to address the members at the meeting before going to the National Assembly for the inauguration. Meanwhile, some members of the National Assembly, instead of going to attend the meeting at the International Conference Centre gathered at the National Assembly for the inauguration of the House, and thereafter the former Senate President Bukola Saraki was elected President of the Senate, and a PDP Senator, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was thereafter elected as Deputy Senate President. Some of you including yourself ran from the APC meeting at the International Conference Centre, where the inauguration and the election of the principal officers were already taking place. You contested with Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who defeated you with the votes of PDP members who were in dominance position in the House because some of your members were still trapped at the International Conference Centre, including Senator Lawan, who is now the President of the Senate. Both the inauguration and the elections of President of the Senate, the Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker were accepted by your party and heaven did not fall.
In fact, what is happening in Edo State House of Assembly is exactly what happened during your time in the 8th National Assembly against living your inauguration.
5. The proclamation made by the Edo State Governor under Section 105(3) was valid and remain valid. It is only the court of law that can declare the said proclamation validly or invalid. I also observed your most respected House of Representatives referred copiously to the Supreme Court judgment in Ladoja’s case in Oyo State, was a precedent for you to declared that the hour of the inauguration of Edo State House of Assembly was irregular. Edo State House of Assembly at present is functioning properly, and in fact, has gone to court to challenge the action of the 16 elected members who were not present at the inauguration, who in fact, were not yet members of the Edo State House of Assembly, because, they were not been sworn in by the elected Speaker of the House. I understand and you are aware that the Edo State House of Assembly has taken the other members yet to be sworn into court, and get a court injunction, preventing the IGP and the Director of DSS not to interfere with the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly. Yet, you are directing the IGP to seal up the Edo State House of Assembly in contravention of the court order.
The 1999 Constitution as amended is very clear on this matter. Part 2 Section 8 states clearly as follows that; “Same as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of the legislative power by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of court of law and of Judicial Tribunal established by law and accordingly the National Assembly or House of Representatives shall not enact any law that ousts or purported to oust the jurisdiction of the court of law, or of a Judicial Tribunal established by law”. The National Assembly as always as a matter of practice refrain from discussing the matter that is already been dealt with by Court of law.
Finally, Mr. Speaker from the foregoing, I strongly advise you to retract your decision to shut-down the Edo State House of Assembly, asking the Governor to rescind his proclamation and to issue a new one. Your action is definitely against the provision of the Constitution under which you took an illegal and wrong decision, and is now creating more crisis in Edo State. It is now already creating disagreement between the House and the Senate. It is also affecting the relationship between the Edo State Executive Governor and the APC National leader and is still spreading.
Please, kindly accept the assurances of my best regards.
Thanks and God bless you.
SENATOR KIAGBODO CLARK OFR, CON.
MEMBER OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE 2ND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY