Cecilia Onah, Lafia

Residents of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, recently experienced a controversial situation involving the immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ibrahim Abdullahi, who represents Umaisha/Ugya constituency, and Hon. Daniel Ogazi, who is representing Kokona East constituency in the Assembly.

The duo declared interest for the Speakership position of the 7th Assembly immediately after the 2023 general election was concluded, they started lobbying other members-elect to support their ambitions to lead the House for the next four years.

While Abdullahi is seeking for a third term as Speaker of the House, Ogazi is new to the game as it is his first time of declaring interest for the top position.

However, Ogazi was able to gather that the immediate past Speaker would enjoy the support of the All Progressives Congress in the state and other top government officials, so, he went ahead to collaborate with the members-elect under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and opposition political parties, to enable him have a upper hand during the Speakership election.

Nasarawa Assembly crisis deepens Hon. Daniel Ogazi being inaugurated as Speaker at the Assembly complex.

After the duo had lobbied the 24 members-elect, Rt. Hon. Abdullahi was able to get 10 of the members-elect who agreed to give him their votes, while Ogazi got 12 of them to his side.

The both contestants were however, still making efforts to woo the members-elect on both sides to themselves while preparing for the election.

As the day approached for the election and as it is usually done in other states of the federation, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, wrote a proclamation, informing the acting Clark of the House, Ibrahim Musa, that the election for a new Speaker and the inauguration of all the members-elect would hold on June 6, 2023.

However, it was shocking to the political players and many residents of the state that on the day the election was supposed to hold based on the proclamation, the acting Clark of the House of Assembly released a press statement, postponing the events of the day indefinitely.

He cited security issues as reason for the postponement but members-elect loyal to Ogazi’s camp and their supporters who came from across the 13 Local Government Areas of the state to witness the ceremony, were not happy with the development because they were already outside the Assembly complex when the postponement was announced.

The statement read “the Acting Clerk, Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Ibrahim Musa wishes to inform all Hon. Members – elect and the General public that based on Security advice, the scheduled inauguration of the first session of the 7th Assembly as directed by His Excellency the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State Engr. Abdullahi Sule is hereby postponed.

“In view of the above, a re-scheduled time will be communicated to all Hon. Members – elect and the general public. We regret any inconveniences this postponement may have caused.”

Immediately the postponement was made, there was heavy security presence at the House of Assembly complex to prevent any breakdown of law and order in the state capital.

The security operatives barricaded the entrance and prevented everyone, including the 13 members-elect loyal to Hon. Ogazi from gaining access into the assembly premises.

Speaking to Journalists at the assembly premises, Hon. Ogazi described the blocking of the entrance to the assembly complex as unfortunate and called on the government to rescind its decision to postpone the inauguration of the 7th assembly.

He said, “The 13 of us are here to perform our legitimate constitutional responsibility to elect the speaker and the deputy speaker. Unfortunately, the security men blocked the gate saying it’s an order from above.

“We are waiting for the authority to come and open the gate for us because we are supposed to be inaugurated today.

“Any responsible person knows that the governor has only one constitutional responsibility to perform which is to issue a proclamation to the House of Assembly which the clerk will receive and once that proclamation is issued, nobody has the right to utter such proclamation.

“In this case, a proclamation has been issued to the state House of Assembly and the clerk acknowledged the receipt of the proclamation and approved that our inauguration will be today, so nobody on earth can utter it.”

He , therefore called on Governor Abdullahi Sule to intervene in the matter and inaugurate the 7th assembly to enable lawmakers elect their speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

However, few hours later, the 10 members-elect loyal to the immediate past Speaker, Ibrahim Abdullahi, went to the State’s Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to conduct the election where they all voted for him as Speaker.

The Ogazi’s group were also able to gain entrance into the Assembly complex, where the 12 members-elect on his side, voted for him as the Speaker of the House.

Nasarawa Assembly crisis deepens Hon. Ibrahim Abdullahi being inaugurated as Speaker at the State Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

This situation which seem to be a big controversy means that the Nasarawa State House of Assembly now has two Speakers to oversee its functions, except for an external intervention on the matter.

Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Sule has said he will only recognize Rt. Hon. Ibrahim Abdullahi as the Speaker of the House of Assembly because of the leadership qualities he had shown since he was first elected as Speaker in the year 2015.

He also said Rt. Hon Abdullahi will be recognized by the state government because he was duly sworn-in by the acting Clark of the Assembly, adding that the number of votes he scored was not a concern.

The Governor who was recently featured on a programme on Arise Television and monitored by our correspondent in Lafia said, “I have a preference, but it’s not compulsory. My choice is the person I have worked with for the last four years. Because I have worked with him. I met him as a speaker. I worked with him, and we had a very peaceful state.

“Nasarawa State is considered one of the most peaceful states, and it’s because of the kind of relationship I had with him. It is the same thing with the Chief Judge. I have a wonderful relationship with the CJ. The three arms of government in Nasarawa State have excellent working relationships.

“Politicians can sometimes create big things out of nothing. These two gentlemen that we are talking about, who are contesting against each other, they are the best of friends. They know each other much longer than I knew them. Now they are having problems between themselves because one wants the position of the other. But I do the best I can to stay away. I said if you agree with me, I would prefer to continue with this person, but I am not imposing him on you.

“I think executives have the right as human beings, as a governor, I am also a citizen of Nasarawa State. I have the right to say I prefer this rather than that. I want this other than that, especially in a situation where I will be the one to work with the people. So, I can say, based on what I know about you, I prefer this person to that. I have a choice. I am a human being, but it’s not compulsory.

“My preference for Rt. Hon. Ibrahim Abdullahi, foremost, is because he is mature. He demonstrated that yesterday. Secondly, he has been able to keep the house calm. Before he came, we had a house of assembly in Nasarawa State that are actually punching each other. Since I came in 2019, there has not been one time where we had any kinds of problems within the house, where people are punching each other. He has the respect of most of the members.

“Like today, we have 11 members of the assembly that are APC. Eight are with him in this same exercise that we are talking about. Before I had my preference, I had a discussion with the party and the party also chose him and said that it is the right person that we want. I consulted also with some of the major stakeholders in the state, and they said he is the right person. I didn’t just jump up and said this is the person I want, I made consultations. Then we called all the legislators from our party and told them this is who we want to be speaker and we want them to support him.

“I never wanted to get involved in their arguments about who does what or the other. But let us look at the legitimacy of swearing-in. The Governor usually writes a proclamation letter to the clerk. Once there is no assembly, the clerk is in charge. Only the clerk can swear in a speaker. The moment he inaugurates a speaker, the speaker will now turn around to inaugurate the other members.

“In Nasarawa State, we have the house of assembly and the former house of assembly. The clerk went and swore in these guys and brought them to my office. Some people are making noise about whether they are ten or eight. The quorum for the house of assembly is one-third. These people like you said were eleven. I followed the law. Who do you want me to recognize, the one sworn-in by the clerk or the one sworn-in by only God knows who?”

Our correspondent reports that only recently, the Rt. Hon. Ibrahim Abdullahi’s faction, inaugurated the only female legislature in the House of Assembly, Hajara Danyaro, and named its principal officers of during an emergency sitting of the House.

The Speaker said that the names of the principal officers were reached after due consultations with the State Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress and other relevant stakeholders in the state.

He said, “Honourable Members, the principal officers were possible after our meeting and due consultations with the State Working Committee of our great party, the APC and other relevant stakeholders in the State, While those of the minority parties were named by the minority caucus of the House.

“They are Hon. Mohammed Adamu Omadefu (APC- Keana), Majority Leader, Hon. Danladi Jatau (APC- Kokona West) , Deputy Majority Leader.

“Hon. Larry Ven Bawa (APC- Akwanga North) is the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Suleiman Yakubu Azara ( APC- Awe South) is the Deputy Chief Whip of the House.”

The Speaker also announced the House minority positions as; Hon. Musa Ibrahim Abubakar ( NNPP- Doma South) as Minority Leader and Hon. Musa Saidu Gude (SDP- Uke/ Karshi) as Deputy Minority Leader, while Hon. Solomon Akwashiki (SDP- Lafia Central) is the Minority Whip,” he added.

Rt. Hon. Abdullahi urged the principal officers to discharge their duties without fear or favour while calling on the people of the State to give their maximum support to Governor Abdullahi Sule to succeed.

After the inauguration and announcements were made, the Abdullahi’s faction approved the request of Governor Abdullahi Sule for the appointment of 20 Special Advisers, and proceeded for a recess of one month.

Speaking on the approval for the appointment of the Special Advisers, the Speaker explained that the speedy approval was to enable the Governor appoint the 20 Special Advisers that would assist him in achieving his administration’s good policies and programmes in the state.

He said, “His Excellency has sent request for the appointment of 20 Special Advisers that will assist him in the consolidation of his policies and programmes

“After extensive deliberation on His Excellency’s request, the request is hereby granted by this Honourable House.”

Rt. Hon Abdullahi assured of the House readiness to partner with the executive arm of government in order to ensure speedy development of the state.

In their separate contributions, Rt. Hon. Jacob Kudu ( APC- Nassarawa Eggon East), Hon. Danladi Jatau ( APC- Kokona West), Hon. Suleiman Azara ( APC- Awe South), Hon. Larry Ven Bawa ( APC- Akwanga North), Hon. Solomon Akwashiki (SDP- Lafia Central), Hon. Musa Ibrahim Abubakar( NNPP- Doma South), Hon. Hajara Danyaro (APC- Nasarawa Central), among others gave full support of the Assembly to approve the request of the Special Advisers.

The lawmakers said the appointment of the Special Advisers would ensure speedy development across the 13 Local Government Areas of the State.

Rt. Hon. Abdullahi further announced that Governor Abdullahi Sule had approved a total renovation of the assembly complex.

He said the effort of the Governor was in line with the State Government’s commitment to create an enabling environment for the lawmakers and other staff for effective service delivery, adding that the Ministry of Works would soon commence the work at the assembly complex.

“We are proceeding on recess which will commence from June 8, 2023 till July 10, 2023, to enable the Ministry of Works renovate the House as approved by His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Sule,” he said

Our correspondent reports that during the House proceedings, the Majority Leader, Hon. Mohammed Adamu-Omadefu (APC- Keana), moved a motion for the House to proceed on recess, while the Minority Leader, Hon. Musa Ibrahim-Abubakar ( NNPP- Doma South), seconded the motion.

Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State Police Command has sealed off the State House of Assembly complex to forestall any breakdown of law and order following the emergence of two Speakers of the 7th assembly in the state.

The State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ramhan Nansel in an interview with our correspondent in Lafia, said the Commissioner of Police, Maiyaki Baba, gave the directive following consultations with other security agencies in the state.

“No member from the two factions will be allowed entry into the Assembly complex until sanity is restored.

“Police armoured personnel carrier have been stationed at the main gate of the Assembly complex and our personnel have been deployed in their numbers to forestall any breakdown of law and order.

“The Commissioner of Police, Maiyaki Baba, is determined to keep Nasarawa State peaceful, so we will not allow any trouble maker to disturb the peace that we have been enjoying in this state,” he said.

Reacting to the situation, a renowned legal practitioner in the state, Barr. Ayiwulu Baba Ayiwulu, said having two Speakers in the state was unconstitutional, adding that the election held in the hallowed chamber of the assembly was the one recognized by the constitution of Nigeria.

He said, “This situation is not something we should be raising alarm about, it is something that we should have our records in provisions to the law, and to every wrong there is always a remedy provided and constituted by our various laws.

“In the instant position, the law that we have to obey is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, 2011 as amended and the provisions of sections 92, 94, and 98 thereof. It has laid down the principle of the present situation at hand. The provisions are clear and unambiguous. They derive their strength from section 1 of the constitution which states that anything done outside the provisions of the constitution to that extent is not allowed.

“If at all there is a Speaker known to the law, the Speaker known to the law is the one whose proceeding for election was conducted in the Hallowed chamber of the State Assembly, if at all there is anyone among them who made such qualification.

“What we are hearing from the background is that there are two Speakers. Daniel was elected at the State House of Assembly chamber and Abdullahi was elected at the Ministry for Local Government And Chieftaincy Affairs chamber. His own case was that, he was refused to gain access into the State House of Assembly chamber for the purpose of contesting election.

“We are not talking about the number of people who are elected or issues of majority or minority, but what we are concerned about is where was the election held, and how many persons voted is the second angle of the question to be addressed.

“So, since section 92, 94, and 98 has already made it clear the way and manner of conducting the State House of Assembly elections, then the one conducted at the hallowed chamber of the State House of Assembly on June 6th is the valid one and the one recognized by law. As far as I am concerned, we have one Speaker for the Nasarawa State House of Assembly.

“Since the constitution has provided the way of doing things, I will only advice that the valid one should proceed to court so that he can seek the interpretation of the sections 92, 94 and 98 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it relates to the factional election of the State House of Assembly in Nasarawa state.”