After the drama of the November 21 inconclusive governorship election, Kogi State, where two of Nigeria’s major rivers meet, is again offering the political tableau another drama with the narrative of an inconclusive impeachment!
Trouble started in the Kogi State House of Assembly last Wednesday when 17 of the 25 legislators allegedly signed up for the impeachment of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Momoh Jimoh Lawal. The Speaker was accused of among other things of “gross ineptitude and high-handedness”.
For about two weeks, some members of the Assembly were said to have met at a popular hotel in Lokoja to hatch the impeachment plot.
On Wednesday December 9, 2015, the cloud of uncertainty was lifted as about nine lawmakers rose on the floor of the House almost simultaneously to raise a motion in support of the speaker’s impeachment.
The lawmakers were led by Hon. Gabriel Osiyi of Ogori/Magongo Constituency and Hon. Matthew Kolawole Matthew of Kabba/Bunu Constituency who is also the Majority Leader of the House.
Violence erupted almost immediately as lawmakers loyal to the Speaker rose to attack his antagonists. As the fisticuffs ensued, a legislator rose to move a motion for the adjournment of the House, a request which was obliged hastily by the Speaker who promptly adjourned House sittings till February 3, 2016.
Immediately the adjournment was announced, the Sergeant-at-arms bolted away with the mace even as the legislators against the speaker protested and waited back to carry out the “impeachment of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Minority Leader”.
Thereafter, the remaining legislators who were about nine in number but claimed to have the signatures of 17 members for the impeachment, “elected” Hon. Gabriel Osiyi of Ogori/Magongo Constituency as the “new Speaker”.
Since then, Osiyi and Lawal have been in conflict over the appropriateness of the impeachment of Lawal and the election of Osiyi.
The Majority Leader of the House, Prince Kolawole who was in the lead in the move to remove the presiding officer told Vanguard that there was no going back on the impeachment, saying the Speaker lacks capacity to ensure effective leadership of the House.
According to the Majority Leader, the invasion of the Assembly complex by thugs is an admission of failure by the ousted Speaker. He said the House leadership will probe the invasion and the attack of the sponsored thugs on Assembly staff and journalists.
Giving his own version to Vanguard, Lawal said the purported impeachment was a ruse. He said the House had been adjourned till February 2016 before the “dissidents allegedly came up with forged signatures” to impeach him. He said the police and other security agencies have been contacted to probe the forgery.
His words: “Impeachment is a serious business and it has a process. You don’t just wake up one morning to say you have impeached a speaker.
“But apart from the process failure, they also carried out their illegal act after we had adjourned sitting till February 2016. There was no mace at the place they purportedly used their forged signatures to showcase their ignorance. As far as the House is concerned, I remain the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly”.
However, Hon. Gabriel Osiyi who was elected after Lawal’s removal that Wednesday affirmed that Lawal was legally impeached by 17 legislators.
He said Lawal as well as the Deputy Speaker and the Minority Leader, remain impeached.
To compound the confusion, the new Speaker has pledged to reconvene the House on Wednesday 16th December, 2015 against the earlier announcement by the embattled Speaker, Lawal, that the House had adjourned till February 2016.
Control of the House
The confusion in the House is exacerbated by the continuing loyalty of the House bureaucracy to Lawal. The clerk of the House and the Sergeant-at-arms are both said to be loyal to Lawal.
However, the entire scenario may witness a drastic reversal if the State Government has a hand in the entire scenario. As it is, the government has been exonerated from accusation of meddling with the crisis. Rather, accusing fingers have been pointed to the opposition party.
It is yet to be seen how the PDP-dominated House could be hijacked by the opposition. Moreover, the role played by the Majority Leader doesn’t suggest the APC has a hand in the impasse rocking the Kogi Assembly.