– call for autonomy for state legislatures
– urge IGP to ensure peace, protection of legislative chamber
Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday condemned the burning of the Rivers State legislative chamber by yet to be identified persons.
The members also condemned the alleged interference of the executive arm of government in the affairs of the state legislature saying that the constitution guarantees the independence of the legislature.
This was as the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who called in from an official trip outside the country, urged President Bola Tinubu to call on the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to reopen the parliament and protect the lawmakers while they perform their duties.
Obasa said the parliament must not be made a victim of political crisis among gladiators as witnessed in Edo, where the roof of the chamber was removed by the governor, and other states where such had happened in the past.
“The constitution must be adhered to at all times. Since the crisis started in the office of the governor, then there is no reason to lock up the Assembly. Even if the lawmakers have issues, they should be allowed to resolve such among themselves without interference from the executive arm.
“The removal of the sitting Speaker behind the door should not be tolerated because it is against the constitution. While we understand that impeachments are democratic, the constitutional procedures must be followed whether for a Speaker or a governor.
“Where did the lawmakers have the sitting where the Speaker was removed and at what time did the sitting hold? How many members voted against the sitting Speaker? The Rivers governor, in saving his neck, must not sacrifice the House of Assembly or turn the legislators against themselves.
“Again, it should be of note that a governor has no power to remove the Chief Judge of a state without the two-third support from lawmakers. Just as the office of the governor or Chief Judge cannot be sealed up, a House of Assembly should not be sealed up,” he said.
Dr. Obasa called on the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas of the House of Representatives to urgently intervene to protect the Rivers Assembly and its members.
At plenary on Tuesday, members of the House also called on the governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, to adhere to the constitution by not meddling in the affairs of the House just as they further urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to rise up to the crisis.
The House urged the chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Rt. Hon. Debo Ogundoyin, to collaborate with his colleagues to condemn the act and fast-track the process of ensuring autonomy for state legislatures.
Raising the issue under ‘Matter of Urgent Public Importance’, Hon. Desmond Elliot, representative of Surulere 1, said the attack on the chamber was an attack on the sanctity of the parliament, which is very important to democracy.
“How was a new Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly elected? If due process was not followed, we have to condemn it.
“The crisis in Rivers did not emanate from the House of Assembly, so why should it be burnt or closed down?” he asked.
Speaking on the issue, Deputy Majority Leader Richard Kasunmu said reports had it that the governor stormed the House just as he wondered how the new Speaker emerged from a faction of just eight members.
While noting that the Lagos State House of Assembly has always led by example, he expressed worry over the safety of the mace, which he described as the symbol of authority.
Condemning the act, Hon. Adewale Temitope (Ifako-Ijaiye 1), said it was disturbing how eight members could elect a Speaker.
“It is becoming a norm for the executive to interfere in the affairs of the legislature. And where this continues, you are calling for anarchy. I call on my colleagues to come together and solve whatever issues they have among themselves so that they can continue to serve the people,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Mojisola Lasbat Meranda, who presided at the sitting, described the situation in Rivers as sad and heartbreaking.
“Our security agents should also ask questions because the Rivers Assembly is on the same street as the police command in the state. The parliament is the life of democratic government,” she noted.