Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bayelsa Speaker bows to pressure, swears in opposition lawmakers

Mr. Kombowei Benson

At last, the Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Kombowei Benson, on Thursday, bowed to pressure and swore in the three opposition lawmakers after about four months in limbo.

The three lawmakers inaugurated at the hallowed chamber of the House are Watson Belemote of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, representing Brass Constituency 2; Gibson Munalayefa of the Labour Party for Ogbia Constituency 2 and Gabriel Ogbara of African Democratic Congress for Ogbia Constituency 3.

Their swearing-in came after the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, declared them winners of their various constituencies about four months ago.

Prior to their inauguration on Thursday, the refusal of the Peoples Democratic Party-dominated Assembly under the leadership of Benson had generated public outrage.

Human rights groups, the media, the general public and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had expressed concern over the extreme rascality and impunity of the House to disobey appellate court’s judgement.

Speculation was also rife that the Speaker’s volte-face towards the inauguration of the affected lawmakers was at the behest of Governor Seriake Dickson.

But the Bayelsa State Government had in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Chief Jonathan Obueibite, dissociated Dickson from the alleged controversy.

“The Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson, has never interfered with the affairs of the state House of Assembly. The State Assembly is not subject to the unilateral control of the state executive,” Obuebite had said.

During the Thursday plenary, Benson announced the names of the three opposition legislators and asked them to come to the front to take their oath of allegiance.

He said the Independent National Electoral Commission having forwarded the names of the three persons to the House of Assembly, it was only constitutional and customary that they swore them in to enable them to take their proper place in hallowed chamber.

They were eventually sworn in about 12.30pm and thereafter, the Speaker directed the Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms to show them their seats.

Benson said that with the inauguration of the three lawmakers, the House was now complete for the business of lawmaking in the chamber.

He congratulated the newly sworn in members of the House and advised their constituents that nobody was out to victimise them.

He also dispelled insinuation that the Governor Dickson masterminded their not being sworn in the time they were supposed to be inaugurated, saying that the antagonism of the governor in the press was uncalled for.

The Speaker said, “In respect of today’s business, many issues and several writeups were raised. But the three members we are swearing in today have not made any enemies in this House. I, as a member of this great House, those who were there before them have no issues with any of them.

“But the record remains that this House is a lawmaking body and as we continue to make law for the betterment of the people of Bayelsa State, we have rules, guidelines and constitution that drive our activities.

“The leadership of this House has to discuss again and again and saw the need to bring you in because we felt the voice of the constitution is absent and the voice of good representation was not heard. That was how we made conclusion to bring you in.

“Therefore, the insinuation that the governor masterminded your not coming in or anything in the press was uncalled for.

“I want to specially congratulate you and believing that you are here for lawmaking and the constituents you represent should know that nobody was out there to victimise you. May God bless as you are welcome on board.”

With the swearing in of the three lawmakers, the number of opposition lawmakers has risen to five in a 24-member House.

The All Progressives Congress has one member,  the APGA has two members while the ADC two.

Source: The Punch

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