Leadership crisis rocks Bayelsa Assembly
crisis is brewing in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly following the impeachment of its Speaker, Konbowei Benson, on Monday June 4, over alleged gross misconduct. Police trucks with stern-looking personnel have condoned off the entrance to the Assembly complex in Yenagoa. The complex is still under lock and key as confusion pervades the Leadership of the House.
Benson insists that he remains the Speaker, even as majority of the legislators have drifted to the camp of the new Speaker, Fini Angaye. The new Speaker said that the House has effected a change in its leadership. The scheduled peace meeting between Governor Seriake Dickson and the lawmakers could not hold due to undisclosed reasons. Dickson said he would not dabble into the Assembly crisis.
It was learnt that the embattled former Speaker had met with Governor Dickson on how to settle the crisis. Already, there are indications that the ex-Speaker may challenge his removal in court.
Benson, who represents Southern Ijaw Constituency IV in the House, had travelled abroad for a medical check-up for over a week and returned to the state capital on the day he was impeached.
The lawmakers defied the heavy rains to send their former Speaker packing. Journalists and Information Officers were barred from covering the impeachment proceedings. Only two television cameramen were allowed to record the proceedings.
National Mirror was reliably informed that 11 out of the 24 lawmakers in the House impeached Benson who is believed to be engaged in a running battle with his colleagues, while a source in the Assembly said 17 members have so far signed the impeachment notice.
Benson was elected as Speaker of the House in February this year shortly after Dickson was sworn in as the chief executive of the state.
A member of the House, Monday Oo, temporarily presided over the sitting, as another lawmaker, Obedient Emotor from Ogbia constituency moved a motion for the impeachment of Benson as the Speaker.
Against this backdrop, the House elected Angaye, a former Deputy Speaker of the House as the new Speaker. Angaye is the sixth Speaker of the House. He represents Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituency II in the State House of Assembly.
Angaye used to be a political son of the former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Timi Alaibe. Incidentally, Alaibe during the harmonization process in 2007 nominated him as a member of the Assembly. As fate would have it, Angaye switched to the former Governor Timipre Sylva’s political camp when the Okpoamaborn politician was in power. From all indications the new Speaker may have settled with Dickson and Alaibe to enable him get the Speaker’s job.
Reliable sources in the Assembly alleged that Governor Dickson may have a hand in the sacking of the embattled former Speaker. Indications had earlier emerged that the former Speaker may have fallen out of favour with the governor and other principal officers in government.
But, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs to the Governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, denied Dickson’s alleged involvement in the impeachment saga, saying that the Assembly has the right to decide what suits them. He said the sacking of Benson was entirely the Assembly affair.
Investigation by National Mirror revealed that Benson’s sins were that he was not carrying along members of the House and he was dividing the lawmakers. It was also learnt that the colleagues of the erstwhile Speaker were not comfortable with his Leadership style.
It was further learnt that trouble started for the ex-Speaker during his thanksgiving service at a pentecostal church in Yenagoa a fortnight ago. At the event which had the wife of the President, Patience Jonathan among other dignitaries in attendance, Benson had opened up in the congregation that Governor Dickson, wife of the President, Chief of Staff, Government House, Diekivie Ikiogha and other prominent politicians in the state were instrumental to his election as Speaker of the House. Benson’s remark did not go down well with his colleagues. The former Speaker later issued a press statement denying making such comments.
In an interview with journalists shortly after his election as the new Speaker, Angaye said the Assembly has effected a change in its leadership. Angaye, however, declined to disclose the “sins” of the former Speaker, but noted that members of the House came out in their large number to effect the change.
He said: “I am a leader; as a leader, you need not complain about your fellow members. When members say this is their problem and they want to effect a change, you have no option other than to obey the position of the members. That was why they have made me the new Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.”
He expressed his appreciation to the lawmakers for giving him the opportunity to serve and promised to discharge his duties to the state diligently. “I have now become their servants; I will continue to serve them. If I go astray they should correct me. I will work with the Assembly as a body. That is the only way the Assembly can move forward,” he noted.
But, in his reaction, the Senior Special Assistant to the former Speaker, Piriye Kiriyamo, said the impeachment of his boss was an illegality. The media aide insisted that Benson remains the Speaker of the House as the procedure of removing him was questionable.
His words: “What happened here is an illegality. The sym of the Assembly, the mace, was not there during the purported impeachment exercise. The House was originally adjourned till Tuesday, June 5. The Acting Speaker and Deputy Speaker, Ateki, presided over the proceedings of the House since the Speaker was indisposed.
“We suddenly saw this drama; the public and press galleries were closed. It was a commando style of take-over. The proper procedure was not taken. What happened here was surprising. The main gate, which is the entrance to the Assembly complex, was condoned off on the orders of the State Commissioner of Police. Later it was relaxed and condoned off again.”
Kiyaramo in an interview with National Mirror said as at the time the impeachment was being carried out, his boss was on his way back to the state.
The embattled former Speaker also insisted that only 11 legislators out of the 24 members in the House effected his purported impeachment without the presence of a mace. He noted that the lawmakers sat without the sym of authority which is the mace. Benson said the action of the lawmakers did not comply with the standing orders of the House which requires two-third majority to effect his impeachment, describing it as a nullity.
Benson challenged the 11 lawmakers that carried out the purported impeachment exercise to provide proof of evidence to the contrary, if they had two-third majority of members during the sitting to impeach him.
According to the former Speaker, the lawmakers at the illegal sitting were Abraham Ingobere, Agatha Goma, Victor Perezi, Fini Angaye, Azia Omekwe, Obedient Emotor, Walaman Igrubia, Nestor Binabo, Monday Bobou, Daniel Igali and Gentle Emelah.
Benson alleged that his impeachment was instigated to fuel crisis between the state legislature and the executive arm of government to the detriment of the anticipated infrastructural development in the state. He maintained that the action of the lawmakers did not comply with Order 44 of the Standing Orders of the House making it a nullity.
Benson, in a statement made available to National Mirror, gave an account of what transpired. According to him, “The House had earlier adjourned from its sitting last Wednesday, May 30, to Tuesday, June 5 to enable it transmit previously passed bills to the governor for his assent. While most of the members who travelled, were on their way back to the state, 11 members led by the former Acting Governor of the state, Mr. Nestor Binabo forcefully made their way into the hallowed chamber of the House, claiming to have received directives from the state governor to hold an emergency session on that fateful Monday to consider what they described as matters of urgent public importance.
“However, being blind-folded by their desperation to unseat the Speaker, before he returned from his medical trip abroad, they went ahead to sit without the sym of authority in the House, being the mace. This is contrary to the tradition and practice in every parliament, the world over, meaning that whatever decision taken on the sacred floor of the House on that Monday amounted to an exercise in futility.”
According to the former Speaker, the constitution of the nation provided that before a Speaker or his deputy could be removed, there must be two-third majority of members present on the floor of the House, being 16 lawmakers.
Assembly sources told our correspondent that the House may not know peace following the early exit of the former Speaker.
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