Being Text of a Press Conference by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) on the Political imbroglio in Ogun State on Wednesday, 22nd September, 2010.
Gentlemen of the Press,
On September 6, 2010, news emanated from Ogun State about the dawn “sitting” of 9 members out of the 26-member Ogun State House of Assembly, sacking the leadership of the House and suspending all members of the G-15. The “new” leadership immediately approved the N100b bond, cleared a commissioner nominee, ratified the nominees for the State Independent Electoral Commission, passed the supplementary budget and revoked the earlier suspension of two Honorable members of the House among other resolutions at the meeting. Most of these issues have been at the heart of the protracted disagreement between the executive and legislative arms of the State Government.
The SNG took its time in responding to the development given the widening dimensions of acrimony that has characterised the odious politics being played in the State in the last few years. We do not step into any issue without getting the facts involved.
We were eventually approached by the G15 and they presented their case in writing. We of course would not pass judgement on a dispute without hearing from both sides. We therefore gave room to the other side who also presented their case in writing. There were also oral presentations from both the G-15 and the G-11.
After a careful consideration of all the issues put before us, we came to the following conclusions:
- 1. The major issue for us in the event of September 6, 2010 is the legality or otherwise of the sitting of the G11. In their presentation to us, the G11 maintained their sitting was legal. On pages 6 and 7 of the said presentation, the G11 wrote:
“We also want to emphasize the legality of the House sitting of Monday 6 September, 2010. We carefully took into cognisance the constitutionality of our action and hereby state that it was a legal and valid Parliamentary exercise.
For the avoidance of doubt,i. Section 95 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states: “At any sitting of a House of Assembly, the Speaker of that House shall preside, and in his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall preside”ii. “In the absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House, such member of the House as the House may elect for that purpose shall preside”iii. Section 96 (1) “The quorum of the House shall be ONE THIRD OF ALL THE ELECTED MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE”iv.In the same vein, ORDER XV (1) of the House also states that “The quorum of the House shall not be less than ONE THIRD OF ALL THE ELECTED MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE”
For emphasis, one third of the 26 –member House is NINE. The Constitution was silent on whether it includes the Speaker/Presiding Officer or not.v. Our House sitting on Monday was at the chambers of the Ogun State House of Assembly, with the Assembly Mace (which is domiciled within the Assembly Complex and of which the Clerk is the Custodian), with the Clerk and the Staff of the Ogun State House of Assembly and with the required quorum.vi.The sitting was duly conveyed in the manner that we normally convey our meetings but the G15 arrogantly did not show up”.Sound as this argument may appear, it is clear both from Section 95 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the House Rules, that the Clerk of the House can only convey a meeting of the House on the instruction of the Speaker especially when the house has adjourned sitting in the chambers sine die as the house did on 3rd August 2010. See order 5 rules 3(1 – 3) of the House Rules quoted below:
3 (1) whenever the House shall stand adjourned sine die and it is presented to The Speaker by the Majority and or Minority leaders of the House that the House shall meet on a certain day, at a certain time, then, the Speaker shall give notice accordingly and the House shall meet at the date and time stated in the notice.
(2) whenever the House stands adjourned either to a date fixed by the Standing Orders of the House or to a date determined under paragraph (1) of this rule and it is presented by the Majority and or Minority Leaders of the House to the Speaker, that public interest require that the House should meet on an earlier or later date or time than that on which it stands adjourned. The Speaker may give notice accordingly and the House shall meet at the date and time stated in the notice.
(3) Whenever the Speaker shall have given notice in accordance with either of the two preceding paragraphs, the Clerk shall communicate the terms of the notice to each member.
“In as much as the G11 could not make plain that the meeting of September 6 was conveyed by the Speaker directing the Clerk of the House in line with the above rules, it is our considered opinion that the sitting of September 6 is not according to the law and therefore both the sitting and decisions cum legislative actions carried out are invalid. Besides, the statement made by the G-11 in their presentation to SNG dated 16th September 2010 that “the sitting was duly conveyed in the manner that we normally convey our meetings but the G15 arrogantly did not show up” is absolutely illogical; in that neither the speaker nor any member of the G-15 was at the sitting of September 6, 2010. Had due process been followed, the Speaker, who, in law should convey such a meeting ought to have been present. The conspicuous absence of the Speaker and other members of the G-15 at the said sitting is a clear indication that the sitting was not duly conveyed in the manner prescribed by law. The G-11 therefore knew that the sitting was not duly conveyed and were being clever by half by the statement… “but the G15 arrogantly did not show up.”
While we concede that no arm of government should be allowed to paralyse another, we view the recent action as a rape of democracy, an outright violation of the rule of law and parliamentary principle which forbids the Minority to “overthrow” the majority.
- 2. The sad event of September 6 is a continuation of the outlawry of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) which in the last 11 years has made nonsense of the rule of law through promotion of gangsterism and violent violation of the laws of the land under the “doctrine of family affair”. Over the years, we have seen the abduction of a sitting Governor in Anambra, the “impeachment” of a governor in Plateau State with 5 law makers, abduction of lawmakers by the EFCC to impeach Governors, wanton perpetration of arson in Anambra by high profile thugs within the PDP to mention just a few.In all of these the ruling PDP has not been responsible enough to stand on the side of the laws of the land. It has rather emboldened some of its brazen members to continue in their waywardness in the name of playing politics.
- 3. The most heart rending in all these is the sinful silence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan on this crude assault against democracy in Ogun State. It is an everlasting testimony to the fickleness of human memory that a man at the receiving end of impunity six months ago, which made Nigerians to rise and say “Enough is Enough” to the then cabal, can afford to play politics with the crisis of impunity in Ogun State.The President of Nigeria is expected to defend the rule of law at all times according to his oath of office. Regrettably in this case, the President appears to be giving the impression that the constitution is negotiable especially in this season of political horse trading.
- 4. We must not also hide our feelings that the National assembly has maintained a criminal silence on the debacle in Ogun State. The only Institution that separates democracy from dictatorship is the Parliament. It is therefore embarrassing that a ‘coup’ would be staged against the parliament in a state and the National assembly will be mute for 16 days running; whether or not they are in recess.There is a clear failure of leadership in Nigeria today and if care is not taken, the inactions of those who should ordinarily act can lead to unpleasant consequences.
In order to preserve constitutional rule in Ogun State and ensure that this dangerous precedent is not allowed to stand, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) is asking that the following be done within TWO WEEKS:
- 1. Return to Status quo ante with the leadership in place in the Ogun State House of Assembly before the unfortunate event of September 6;
- 2. The President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should unseal the Ogun State House of Assembly so that normal legislative business can resume;
- 3. The Speaker be allowed to call the meeting of the whole House where all related issues can be resolved and lasting peace ensured in the Ogun State House of Assembly and the state at large. With trustful give and take, this is still possible.
Finally, our intervention in Ogun crisis is plainly on the side of the Constitution and the rule of law, the same way we were guided in breaking the logjam that the nation was forced into between November 2009 and March 2010.
We are fully persuaded that no person or group of persons must be allowed to raise themselves above the law.
The words of Felix Frankfurter readily come to mind at times like this:
“Civil liberty means liberties for those we like, those we don’t like and even the ones that we detest”.
Thank you all.
Dr Tunde Bakare,
Convener, Save Nigeria Group.