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Edo 2020: More Drama sets in as election draws closer

NEWSMAN, Benin – With barely few weeks to September 19th gubernatorial election, more drama seem to be on high display as President Muhammadu Buhari has been dragged for endorsing the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Issues been played up include the fact that Ize-Iyamu is currently standing a corruption trial for alledged looting of N700, 000 hence the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) say he shouldn’t be backed up by President Buhari who has always declared his zero tolerance for corruption.

But the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu in a swift reply said “Pastor Ize-Iyamu is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside Lucky Imasuen, former deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, PDP Chairman in Edo State, and other leaders of the party in the state, Tony Aziegbemi and Efe Erimuoghae”.

“Under the country‘s laws, only the courts can convict. A suspect remains a suspect until conviction. But, if in the view of the PDP, a suspect is guilty as charged, then they must show examples by withdrawing the nomination of their governors and the party’s numerous senators and other legislators standing trial in various courts of the country” Shehu blasted.

– Obaseki threatens stiff penalties for perpetrators of violence-

Meanwhile, Edo Governor state governor Godwin Obaseki who is also gunning for a second term in office under the platform of the PDP has stated that he will not spare any individual or group of persons caught sponsoring or perpetrating violence with the intent on creating a sense of tension and crisis in and around the state.

“With heightened political activities, we are witnessing a very disturbing increase in the incidence of violence, vandalism and thuggery in the state. “Government will not stand idle and watch thugs overrun the state, cause chaos, and go scot-free, without consequences”, Obaseki said.

Similarly, The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has threatened to halt the governorship election in the state if violence persists.

But the APC’s Ize-Iyamu while responding to a question on violence in the state blamed Obaseki, who he claimed had threatened to deal with anybody due to the immunity he enjoys.

“It is the governor that has been beating the war drums. My billboards are being vandalised, nobody has touched their own. We wrote petitions to the Commissioner of Police, the Director DSS. They are the ones that want to make the state ungovernable. I am sure you heard the governor say that himself and his deputy have immunity and so they can deal with anybody. I don’t have immunity, I don’t want to go to jail and it is not in my character to deal with anyone”, Ize-Iyamu said.

-‘If PDP want violence, APC will give them’ – Oshiomhole-

Former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, while reacting on Arise television to Obaseki’s alleged threat to deal with APC members and supporters in the guise of dealing with trouble makers, said his party will respond accordingly if the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, decides to turn the September 19 governorship election into violence.

Governor Godwin Obaseki, had in June decamped from the APC to the PDP, having been disqualified by his former party, from seeking re-election allegedly for submitting questionable certificates.

“If they want violence, we will give them violence, we will meet violence with violence”, Oshiomhole said.

He added that governor Obaseki has not met the expectations of Edo people and regretted that he worked with Obaseki in 2016 without asking for his certificate, adding that he does not pose any threat to the APC candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the forthcoming governorship election neither is he even eligible to contest for the election.

-The Edo state assembly crisis-

The crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly over its inauguration worsened as 17 members removed the Speaker, Hon. Francis Okiye.
The removal, though in controversial circumstances, reflected the political divide between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his erstwhile godfather and predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, whose loyalists spearheaded the push aside of Okiye.

Hon. Victor Edoror, (Esan Central), replaced Okiye as the new speaker while Hon. Emma Agbaje (Akoko-Edo II), emerged deputy speaker.

The first sign of trouble emerged when a detachment of policemen last week swooped on the Assembly complex ostensibly to forestall a run on the chamber by unauthorized persons. But this would appear a decoy as 14 members, who had been refused entry since the convocation of the Assembly in June 2019 gathered in a secret place in Benin, reportedly swore to oaths of allegiance and office by the Deputy Clerk, Tom Efezokhae.  and thereafter, removed Okiye and installed Edoror.

The crisis arose from the proclamation of the Assembly by the governor in June 2019, with only 9 of the 24 members, holding its inaugural meeting where Okiye was elected speaker. The Assembly was subsequently shut for 14 days, This Day reported.

On July 11, 2019, the House of Representatives intervened and set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the crisis in the Assembly and requested the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to shut down the complex pending the outcome of its investigation.
The House later gave Obaseki an ultimatum to issue a fresh proclamation to enable all members of the Assembly to congregate to elect their leaders. The Senate on July 30 concurred with the request, but the governor ignored the ultimatum and refused to issue a fresh proclamation.

The matter moved to court on August 3, 2019 with the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt restraining Obaseki from issuing a fresh proclamation to the Edo State House of Assembly and on September 12, 2019, upheld the proclamation made by the governor and also stopped the National Assembly from taking over the functions of the Assembly.

Then, two of the 14 members loyal to Oshiomhole crossed over to the Obaseki group, while the remaining 12 abstained from the Assembly and refused to present themselves for inauguration, forcing the speaker to declare their seats vacant on December 4, 2019.

But on January 7, 2020 a Federal High Court stopped INEC from conducting bye-elections into the 12 seats declared vacant.

Investigations reveal that the push by the 17 lawmakers to remove Okiye was strengthened by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who gave the legal opinion that, enabled them to secure the police protection required to proceed on their course of action.

So, a contingent of policemen was seen to have taken over the legislative complex, barricading and denying access to the parliamentary building while the removal of the speaker was ongoing.

A photo showing the heavy security presence at the Edo state Assembly./ChannelsTV

The actions attracted outrage from the opposition parties as the PDP said “We condemn this notorious resort to self- help by the APC and their agents to forcibly take over power in Edo State through the back door. Our party has been informed that the plot is to use the illegal security operation to seize the processes of the House of Assembly and illegally inaugurate certain individuals whose seats have been lawfully declared vacant with plans to use them to pull down democratic structure in the state.”

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) also called on Buhari to immediately call Oshiomhole to order and stop the attempt to forcibly take over the Edo State House of Assembly by the police, saying
the attempt to use former members of Edo House of Assembly whose seats had been declared vacant to take over the House was an invitation to anarchy and treasonous.

Shortly after the emergence of the speaker, some persons were seen removing the roof of the building. In addition, heaps of sand and gravels were also tipped in front of the Assembly gate, probably to prevent people from gaining entry into the place.

A Photo Mixture of the Heap of gravels and persons seen at the top of the Edo State Assembly’s building, removing the roof./Google

The factional Speaker, Victor Edoror, in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, described the renovation of the Assembly as unnecessary, saying the 17 lawmakers would access it and sit there.

– We’re disappointed in roles of political actors in Edo State — US Embassy

The United States Embassy in Nigeria on Friday, expressed concern over allegations of interference by security forces in political matters ahead of the gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States.

“The United States supports a democratic process where the will of the Nigerian people is reflected in the results, and does not favour any party or candidate. We are concerned with reports of the deteriorating political climate in Edo State and are disappointed with the role played by some political actors in the state. We are especially concerned with allegations of interference by security forces in political matters, which we will continue to monitor closely in the run-up to gubernatorial elections in the state in September”, the embassy said via its twitter handle.

The embassy also stressed that it is disappointed with the role played by some political actors in Edo state adding that it is worried about the deteriorating political climate of the state.

“As we approach the 2020 off-cycle elections in Edo and Ondo, we urge all stakeholders to work towards a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful process. We encourage all stakeholders, including INEC, political parties, and the security services, to continue to improve the electoral process, U.S added.

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