The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon Marcus Onobun and the Clerk of the House, Barrister Audu Yahaya Omogbai, were on Wednesday drilled for three hours by the investigative officers of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB at their corporate headquarters, Federal Secretariat, Abuja.
Onobun and Omogbai are currently being investigated by CCB for alleged betrayal of public trust. This followed a petition by the 14 Lawmakers-elect that were excluded from being inaugurated since June 2019.
The two principal officers of the Assembly who arrived at CCB office at 2:15pm with their lawyers, could not leave the conference room till 5:57pm.
Their invitation followed series of letters from the CCB for the principal officers of the House to explain why they should betray their public trust as enshrined in the act of CCB.
It would be recalled that about two years and eight months after their election in 2019, 14 members of the Edo State House of Assembly, last year stormed the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja demanding investigation of their exclusion by the Clerk of the Assembly, Audu Yahaya Omogbai.
While demanding that they should be returned to the legislature because, their constituencies have been suffering, they said the refusal of their inauguration was the height of injustice.
They called on the CCB to intervene and rescue democracy, but warned that “Edo will be a dirty reference point in years to come.”
The legislators who were received by the chairman of CCB, Prof Mohammed Isah, were led by a former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Victor Edohor and former Commissioner for Education, Washington Osifo.
Edohor said, “Your reputation gave birth to your engagement in CCB. Two years and six months, we have not been integrated into the House of Assembly. We, therefore, feel this is the right place to be.”
According to Osifo, the injustice unleashed on them must be corrected to avoid leaving negative history for posterity.
He said, “It is in the spirit of ensuring that people’s rights are not jeopardised that we are here.”
Osifo also gave an insight on how, on March 17, 2019, 24 members of the House of Assembly were nominated, having won election.
He said, “On June 17 2019, 10 days after the expiration of the life span of the last Assembly, Governor Godwin Obaseki failed to inaugurate us with a proclamation.”
The petition by the aggrieved legislators titled, “Complaint of gross abuse of powers and the precipitation of crisis at the Edo State House of Assembly by Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai – Clerk of the Edo State House of Assembly”, was dated November 16, 2021.
The document was signed by Victor Sabor Edoror, Esan Central; Crosby Eribo, Egor; Washington Osa Osifo, Uhunmwode;
Christopher Ewere Okaeben, Oredo West; Seid Oshiomhole, Etsako West 1; Michael Ohio Ezomo, Owan West and Sunday Aghedo, Ovia South West.
Other signatories were Abdul Ganiyu Audu, Etsako West; Dumez Ugiagbe, Ovia North East 1; Ahmed Oshomah, Etsako Central; Eric Okaka, Owan East; Vincent Uwadiae, Ovia North East 2; Kingsley Ugabi, Etsako East and Uyiosasere Ekhosuehi, Oredo East.
The petition read in part, “Although, the Edo State House of Assembly was purportedly “inaugurated” on June 17, 2019, by the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai, we were wrongfully and unconstitutionally excluded from the said “inauguration”, an act that has precipitated a constitutional crisis in the state where, the EDHA, contrary to the clear and unambiguous provisions of Section 91 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is presently constituted by a minority of 10 members to the exclusion of 14 members who constitute the majority.
“Sir, our major complaint is that the present impasse at the EDHA was caused deliberately and mischievously by Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai, the current Clerk of the House. This is because he violently violated the provisions of Articles 1 and 9 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers as contained in the 5th schedule to the constitution aforesaid.
“Specifically, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai, in gross abuse of his office and powers as the Clerk of the EDHA, deliberately and mischievously concealed the material information as to the date, venue and time of the inauguration of the 7th session of the EDHA from a majority of the then 15 members-elect of the House, whilst he conveyed this vital information to only seven members-elect of the EDHA, who at that material time were perceived to be loyal to the Governor of the state.
“This mischievous act of Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai led to the clandestine and nocturnal “inauguration” of the EDHA at about 9.30pm on the said June 17, 2019, with only seven out of the 24 members-elect of the House.
“Subsequently, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai, in further abuse of his powers and apparent display of conflict of his personal interest with that of state and national interest purportedly “presided” over the election of a Speaker and a Deputy-Speaker of the EDHA, from amongst the seven minority members of the House present on that day and at his behest. Not done with this shenanigan, he assisted the “Speaker” of the EDHA to selectively and pejoratively “inaugurate” three other members-elect of the EDHA, who in their words “retraced” their steps and became “loyal’ to the Governor of the state.
“Sir, whilst, we need not remind you about the provisions of Sections 1 and 9 of the Code of Conduct as revealed above, it is instructive that Alhaji Yahaya also abused his office by concealing the Assets Declaration Confirmation Slips submitted by the 14 of us member-elect, preparatory to our inauguration as members of the EDHA. This was ostensible to lend credence to the already rehearsed narrative between him and his pay-masters, that the reason we (14 members-elect) were excluded from the inauguration of the House was that we were yet to fill and submit our assets declaration forms. When this was patently a white lie.”
The members-elect demanded that “the clerk of the EDHA be investigated by your bureau for his gross abuse of his powers and apparent conflict of interest in the discharge of his constitutional duties as the Clerk of EDHA.”
The petitioners said, “We believe that his ignoble and uncharitable actions and inactions as outlined above is the immediate cause of the present crisis at the EDHA. We believe that as a public officer who swore to obey the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), he ought to have refrained from getting involved in the murky politics orchestrated by the Governor of Edo State at the EDHA.
“He failed woefully in his sacred duty to be objective, neutral and fair to all members-elect of the EDHA at its inception and infancy in 2019. This we believe ought to be investigated by your sacred institution.”
The CCB chairman in his response promised that the agency would investigate the allegation and make its findings public.
He said, “The CCB is an unbiased umpire. I assure you that we are going to look into your petition thoroughly and apply all that is necessary. Although you came with the press, investigations are meant to be confidential.
“I want to assure you that we will leave no stone unturned to make sure we get all the parties. We will ensure that all sides are heard and we’ll also reach out to all stakeholders.
“We will put our reports together and do the needful. We will not go into the political aspect, but whoever needs to be dealt with will be dealt with according”.