Human Rights lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo has added his voice to those against shutting down of the Edo State House of Assembly, by the House of Representatives, saying it is illegal and unconstitutional.
Ajulo added that the decision was ultra vires in accordance with Section 11 of the Constitution.
He spoke against the backdrop of the House of Representatives’ adoption of the report of its ad hoc committee on the crisis rocking Edo Assembly.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the House of Representatives had on Wednesday resolved and mandated the Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki to issue fresh proclamation for the state assembly within one week.
Also, the parliamentarians also resolved that all actions taken by the current Edo Assembly should be declared null and void, pending the proper investigation of the crisis.
The representatives had directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General, Department of the State Service to shut down Edo Assembly and provide adequate security to protect lives and property.
The lawmakers said that shutting down the assembly had become necessary to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect in Edo.
“On the heel of the above resolutions of the House of Representatives, it is imperative to beam the search light on the constitutional powers of the NASS in instances of this nature.
“Section 11 places the toga on NASS to make laws for any state House of Assembly where the latter is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in the state.
“The poser then is: Is the Edo Assembly unable to perform its functions in order to validly invoke the powers conferred on NASS pursuant to Section 11(4) of the Constitution?
“It is, therefore, unequivocal that the directives given by the lawmakers are unconstitutional and ultra vires,” Ajulo said.
According to him, the Constitution states that a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as it can hold a meeting and transact business.
“Flowing from the above, it is succinct to state that the section only envisages situations where the House of Assembly is unable to perform its functions.
” The NASS can only assume the position of the state assembly and make laws for the state only in such circumstance,” he said.
Ajulo said the literal interpretation of the Constitution provided that where the words of the constitution or statue were not ambiguous, they were to be given their literal interpretations.
He cited some cases which included Skye Bank vs Iwu (2017) LPELR-4259 (SC) and Dangana vs. Usman (2013) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1349) 50.
The rights activist said that the apex court in Tanko vs State (2009) LPELR 3136 (SC) on the supremacy of the Constitution held inter alia that:
“It is by it (the constitution) that the validity of any laws, rules or enactment for the governance of any part of the country will always be tested.
“It follows, therefore, that all powers; be they legislative, executive and judicial, must ultimately be traced or predicated on the constitution for the determination of their validity.
“It is pertinent to note that pursuant to Section 96 of the Constitution, the nine members of the Edo Assembly validly constituted the one-third quorum required for the sitting of the house.
“As such, NASS is precluded from making laws for the state as provided by Section 11(5) of the Constitution,” he said.
Ajulo added that such directive even required joint sitting of NASS to be valid and legal whenever it became necessary.
“On the second limb, assuming but without conceding that NASS has the powers to give such directives, the law provides for a joint sitting, not solely the Senate nor the House of Representatives.
“This is provided for in Section 11 and the required quorum shall be one-third of all the members of both Houses pursuant to section 54(2) of the Constitution,” he said.
On the validity of the proclamation made by Gov. Obaseki, pursuant to Section 105(3) of the Constitution and inauguration of the eight assembly, Ajulo said that only a court of law could determine that.
“The directives of the House of Representatives only amount to placing the cart before the horse.
“There is no gain saying that the lawmakers by its directive is assuming the role of the judiciary which is against the cardinal principle of separation of powers.
“The House of Representatives under the supervision of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, a progressive, seasoned parliamentarian and a lawyer cannot assume the toga of a national assembly without the joint or concurrent nod of the senate.
“It should be noted that Nigeria is not a banana republic, but a democratic society where rule of law must take its full course,” Ajulo said.