Beyond Makama: Another Storm in Kogi Assembly

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The House, on resumption from its recess on Tuesday, August 1 was thrown into confusion, following the invasion of the assembly by suspected thugs, who unleashed mayhem on some of the lawmakers and disrupted the plenary racing lawmakers to scamper for safety.

The hoodlums, after gaining entrance to the assembly premises, tried to force their way through the speaker’s entrance but were prevented by his orderlies.

They later went to the gallery from where they broke chairs and hurled them at the lawmakers.

The thugs reportedly descended on the member representing Igalamela/Odolu constituency, Friday Sani aka Makama, who was just resuming sitting after being reinstated by a state High Court.

Makama’s travails

Makama, who was at a time Majority Leader and vocal member of the House, was handed six months’ suspension on March 28 for allegedly engaging in anti-legislative activities by dragging the assembly to court.

Besides, his ordeal was also said to be a fallout of his alleged anti-government postures in the House, which Governor Yahaya Bello was reportedly not comfortable with.

The suspension followed a motion of urgent public importance moved by the member representing Ajaokuta Constituency, Hassan Abdullahi Bello, and seconded by Ahmed Mohammed.

In their contributions, members of the assembly said Sani Makama had always acted against the will of the House and, therefore, supported his suspension.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Makama had challenged the creation of additional principal officers in the aftermath of the defection of some PDP lawmakers to the APC, and the failure of the House to recognize him as the minority leader as recommended by his party, the PDP.

Sani Makama therefore,  filed a suit before the Kogi State High Court in Idah, seeking for a restraining order against two lawmakers – Minority Leader Godwin Osuyi (PDP, Ogori-Magongo) and the Deputy Minority Whip, Dr. Friday Alih (PDP, Ofu) from parading themselves as principal officers of the sixth assembly.

In the suit filed on March 27 against the Kogi State House of Assembly, the then speaker, Imam Ahmed, Godwin Osuyi, Governor Yahaya Bello, Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Kogi State, Accountant -General of Kogi State and the state government, Sani Makama through his Counsel, P.U Ogbadu Esq, averred that “illegality and impunity cannot be a cornerstone in the administration of government.”

The lawmaker in his prayers said the 1st and 4th defendants had no powers to unilaterally create additional principal offices/positions or any office/position at all in the 1st defendant’s Assembly when there is no provision in any law or the rules of the 1st defendant enabling the action.

Therefore, in his judgement delivered on June 29, Justice Henry Olusuyi of the Kogi State High Court, held that the suspension of the lawmaker was an act of “legislative insolence,” which will not be allowed in any competent court of jurisdiction.

The court maintained that the suspension of the first defendant (Sani), who came to seek redress in court was invalid, illegal and unconstitutional, noting that the claimant has the right to sue the first defendant (State Assembly) as he can only be suspended when found wanting in House Rule 37 to 39 which is not related to the case in view.

Justice Olusuyi, therefore, reinstated him and ordered that his entitlements as a member of the House be given to him.

Olusuyi also in his ruling reserved the right of the House or the party to appoint the principal officers of the Assembly, especially that of the minority leader; and therefore denied the claimant right to sought relief of judgement as the minority leader.

Following the judgment of the court, Makama resumed at the assembly on August 1, when suspected thugs invaded the House and unleashed mayhem on him.

He is said to be receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained during the fracas.

Speaker’s resignation and matters arising

Although the invasion of the assembly was widely believed to be targeted at Makama, but the unfolding development which saw the Speaker of the House, Umar Ahmed Imam, resigning from office under controversial circumstances shows that the whole scenario goes beyond Makama as a person.

Following Tuesday’s invasion, the speaker had announced an indefinite suspension of plenary but the order was hurriedly lifted 24 hours later, a development that saw Imam’s resignation and his subsequent replacement with the member representing Kabba-Bunu constituency, Matthew Kolawole.

It was, however, learnt from sources that Imam had to vacate his seat because of alleged “mounting plots by some external forces to have him impeached.”

The first speaker elected after the 2015 election, Momoh Jimoh Lawal, was equally forced to resign on July 26, 2016, after months of crises that rocked the house following the attempt to impeach him by five out of the then 23 members of the assembly.

He was thereafter replaced with Imam, who was recently said to have fallen out of favour with the powers-that-be in the state; leading to tension that has enveloped the assembly in the last few weeks.

A source close to the immediate past speaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said after the attack on the house on Tuesday, there were indications that Imam had also been pencilled down for attack by the hoodlums if he continued to lead the 25-member assembly.

“Those behind the crisis feel that the speaker has been too pro-people, and is supporting issues that have to do with the civil servants and speaking for the masses. They also feel that allowing Makama (Friday Sani) to resume sitting was an affront that may not let them achieve their aim in the house, “ he said.

Prior to the incident, the state House of Assembly had on Thursday, July 28 directed the state’s Accountant General, acting Head of Service, Commissioner for Finance and the Chairperson of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to appear before it, on Wednesday last week, to explain the accurate numbers of the state’s workforce that have been cleared and paid salaries from June 2015 till date.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Musa Jimoh Omiata (APC, Yagba East), who moved the motion, observed that most of the workers had claimed they were being owed as much as 15 months’ salary by the current administration.

Soon after he resigned, Imam had in his  letter read on the floor of the house, on Thursday, thanked his colleagues in the legislature and his constituents for the support he enjoyed from them in the last one year.

His resignation came exactly a week after the 25-member house passed a vote of confidence on him.

He, however, condemned Tuesday’s attack on the state assembly by thugs and called on security agencies in the state to bring the perpetrators to book.

“What transpired last Tuesday during plenary sitting; thugs desecrating the sanctity of this hallowed chamber, was undemocratic, a condemnable act of hooliganism and a criminal act and an attempted murder.

“This House should never have to experience a repeat of such barbaric acts. I still hope that the perpetrators will be brought to book,” he said.

‘Attack must be investigated’

Our correspondent reports that the house was in a pensive mood as the change in leadership was being effected.

Many members in their various contributions extolled the leadership prowess of the former speaker and urged the new leadership of the House to carry everybody along.

On his part, a civil right activist and Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Mr Idris Miliki, condemned the invasion of the house and called on relevant authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident.

“We call on the state government, under the leadership of Alhaji Yahaya Bello not to pretend that all is well in Kogi State and must act decisively as the father of the state to nip in the bud this kind of ugly incidence. Enough is enough. Kogi State cannot afford to continue to live in crisis,” Miliki said.

In the same vein, the Kogi State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, to order an investigation into the attack by those it described as “government sponsored thugs”.

The PDP in a statement signed by Dickson Achadu, its Director of Research and Documentation, lamented the level at which the state governor allegedly deployed government and security apparatuses to molest the innocent lawmaker.

But Governor Bello has denied having any hands in Tuesday’s attack at the state assembly as being alleged in some quarters.

Bello, who spoke through his Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, condemned the attack, describing it as the height of rascality and hooliganism.

He said even though what happened was purely an internal affair of the legislature which the executive should not be involved in, his administration would, however, not condone any act of thuggery.

The governor added that anyone found to have been involved in the invasion would be made to face the full wrath of the law.

According to Fanwo, the governor had ordered his Security Adviser, Navy Commander Jerry Omodara (rtd.), to  liaise with security operatives to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to book.

In the same vein, the Kogi State Police Commissioner, Mr Wilson Inalegwu, has ordered a full scale investigation into Tuesday’s invasion of the state assembly.

A statement issued by the Command’s Spokesman, Mr Williams Aya, said that the commissioner has also warned that anyone found culpable would be prosecuted.

Credits: Itodo Daniel Sule | Daily Trust

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