House of Assembly Crisis: APC, PDP fight dirty for A-Ibom’s soul
Akwa Ibom, arguably the country’s highest recipient of federal allocations alongside Rivers State has been in the sights of the APC. The state further came into play in early August when the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio announced his defection from the PDP to the APC. 2019: APC’s NWC axes Okorocha, Amosun’s men Udom-Akpabio When he defected, Akpabio went along with two members of the House of Assembly and two commissioners one of whom is his blood brother. Since that uncommon defection, the state has increasingly been the focus of political brinkmanship with the opposition APC in the state revving its acts with a determination to upset the incumbent PDP governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Emmanuel, a former banker, remarkably, had before now abided in the political shadows of his former mentor, Akpabio.
The defection of the former governor and emergence of Nsima Ekere, managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC as the governorship candidate of the APC in the state has meant that Emmanuel has his job of winning re-election well cut out. It is a challenge that the governor has remarkably taken with aplomb to the surprise of those who saw his easy disposition and deficit in image laundering as vulnerable spots to brighten the APC’s chances. Yesterday’s clash in the House of Assembly was inevitably , a direct outcome of the contention by the different political alliances. The face-off took shape after the lawmaker representing Akpabio’s state constituency, Nse Ntuen and another lawmaker, Gabriel Toby joined him on August 8 when he defected to the APC. Before then, the only member of the APC in the House, Asuqwo Archibong representing Urue /Owsong/Oruko state constituency had defected from the PDP. Following his defection, Ntuen, had last September gone to court to protect his seat as he feared that the PDP dominated House of Assembly could latch on to constitutional provisions to declare his seat vacant. That fear was perceptible given constitutional provisions that a member of a legislative house could lose his seat if he defects from the party platform he used for election , the only proviso being that his or her original party is factionalised.
The Speaker of the House, Onofiok Luke, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State were set as defendants in the suit. Speaker Luke had also filed a counter-claim, seeking for “a declaration that having defected from the PDP to APC before the expiration of the tenure of four years for which he was elected to serve, Ntuen has lost his seat in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. He also requested “An order of court directing Ituen to vacate the Itu State Constituency seat in the state House of Assembly with immediate effect The prayers included “An order of court restraining the Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly or any other person acting on his behalf (including the staff of the House of Assembly) from further recognising Ituen as a member of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
“An order of court directing INEC to immediately conduct a bye-election to fill the vacant seat of Itu State Constituency at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.” On Wednesday, November 14, the Federal High Court, Uyo gave its judgment in which it rejected all the reliefs sought by Ntuen and granted all the counter claims sought by the Speaker. As news of the judgment settled in Uyo, it caused apprehension. Meanwhile, three other members of the House had also defected from the PDP, swelling the ranks of the APC in the House to five in the 26 member House. Following the court order, the House had on Monday, November 19 sat and Speaker Luke acted on the order of the court and declared Ntuen’s seat vacant. The Speaker also declared the seats of the four others who had defected vacant. The action of the Speaker was bemoaned by the APC which alleged that the Speaker rushed to act in order to pre-empt a stay of execution of the order of the Federal High Court.
However, the governor’s special assistant on legal matters, Ndem Andem, in an interview on Inspiration 105.9 FM, Uyo said that as at the time of the declaration of the seats vacant on Monday, November 19 that the stay of execution had not been obtained by Ntuen. “Stay of execution cannot be granted on an action that has already been carried out,” Barrister Andem said. “The seat has already been deemed vacant, and stay of execution means that the status quo remains. What is the status quo? “The status quo is that the seats had on Monday been declared vacant as provided by the constitution of our country. Mr Idongesit Ituen, and his co-travellers remain former members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, except a higher court gives a contrary ruling in their favour ,” he added. The APC claimed that the House which does not traditionally seat on Monday sat in order to pre-empt the stay of execution. The developments in Akwa Ibom have unsurprisingly raised apprehension about the prospect of peace in the forthcoming General Election. An associate of Mr.
Ekere told Vanguard yesterday that at least 10 other members of the House were set to defect and that Mr. Luke was only acting to frustrate the inevitable. “10 members of the House are set to join the five who have defected,” he said yesterday as he accused members of the state executive council of orchestrating the violence in the House yesterday. That claim is also countered by insinuations from PDP stakeholders who accused the APC of working towards the agenda of stoking violence as a way of making the state ungovernable so that the governorship election would be postponed to allow for the concentration of forces that would allow the APC make headway. The two commissioners, who also defected from the PDP, included the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr Victor Antai and Commissioner for Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning, Mr Ibanga Akpabio. Vanguard