In the midst of the crisis among the three arms of government in Kogi state, the speaker of the state assembly, Rt Hon Matthew Kolawole, in a chat with SALIHU OYIBO and some journalists, exonerated the assembly from the travails of the Chief Judge of the state.
In the history of Kabba/Bunu constituency, you are the first person to be re-elected. What is the secret?
Actually, this is the first time in the political history of Kabba/Bunu state Constituency for a candidate to be re-elected. However, my success was not on a platter of gold but as a result of mutual relationship with the people of my constituency. Since I was elected in 2015, I have refused to distance myself from my people. I share in their joy and sorrow. My closeness to the people enables me to know what they lack and to the best of my ability, I was able to provide relief for some of them. For example, I organise several programmes like empowerment, skills acquisition, scholarship, quiz competition, widow empowerments and sinking of boreholes in all the wards. All of these paved ways for my re-election and I give glory to God Almighty.
The assembly has been facing the challenge of power which affects sittings. What effort are you putting in place to surmount the problem?
Yes, we could not sit sometimes ago because we had problem with our alternative power source which has been there for 11 years. We have been servicing it but in recent times, it became unserviceable. So, I contacted the governor who said they should give us one from the Government House unfortunately, that was also not readily available. The governor has directed me to write for a brand new generator which I have done and by the time we have a new power source, the problem of power would be a thing of the past. The governor has also directed that the Government House line coming from Zango should be stepped down at the assembly to permanently solve the problem of power supply.
Is it true that you spent the sum of N14 million on the repairs of the generator?
How can I spend N14 million to repair one generator? The only money we spent on the generator a few months ago was just N450, 000.
This allegation is one of political gimmicks of those doing it. As far as I am concerned, there is no iota of truth in it; my hands are clean.
The executive, legislature and judiciary conflict is getting messier. What exactly went wrong?
On the issue of judiciary, we did not just dabble into it. The SSG wrote to us reporting what happened between the executive and the judiciary concerning the pay parade otherwise known as Table Payment.
When the letter came to me, I read it on the floor and equally set up a seven-man ad-hoc committee to look into the matter and report back to the House within one week. Remember, we have three arms and two are having frictions and the third one is being contacted to mediate. While we were making concerted effort to mediate, we received an order from the High Court in Koton-Karfe restraining us from going further from where we were on the matter. The order restrained the committee from doing anything. They were on strike yet they passed an order and the same court cannot be used to attend to other issues. As a body that respects order, we decided not to go into the matter again. I want to say it here that the executive cannot use us against the Judiciary. If we agree that the executive should use us, one day, the judiciary will be used against us too. The House is a body established by the constitution which says the House of Assembly shall have power to set up a committee and shall report all their findings back to the House and that was why we have various committees. The same constitution equally gave power to the National Assembly to have various committees. So, the committees in the House of Assembly was established by law and allowed to function. It is on this premise the House committee on Public Account went into their oversight functions and came back with their reports and one of the report was that they wrote letter to the Chief Judge on three different occasions to appear before the committee of which he refused to honour and the same letter was passed to the Chief Registrar and he also refused to honour. To me, such act is an affront on the assembly. Again, whatever findings the Auditor General has, they don’t have the power to execute it but must report to the House. In the area of judiciary, the body refused to appear before the committee and the recommendation of the committee was that the Chief Judge, having ignored the House and disrespect the House, is seen as misconduct which gave rise to the recommendation we made on the floor because we have the right to do so. Section 292 of the constitution says a Chief Judge cannot be removed unless he is incapacitated or he reached a retirement age or due to gross misconduct and the misconduct. So, it does not cost the Chief Judge anything to come forward and defend the indictment. Our decision was based on the committee report that the Chief Judge and the Chief Registrar refused to honour the invitations.
We did not in any way go against the court order; it was purely on the ad hoc committee set up and I have not seen or heard any where in this country where a committee of the House was stopped from performing its functions. We did not touch the issue of pay parade or the impasse between the executive and the Judiciary; it was purely on the report of the committee.
Why is the report coming about the same time there was crisis between the executive and the judiciary?
Well, we did not plan it to be so and I don’t have the power to stop the committee from carrying out their oversight functions. The report we have today in the assembly is 2015/2016 and 2017/2018 has not come. It is very unfortunate that the report came when there was crisis but there is nothing we can do.
INEC just released time-table for governorship election. Some people say the governor has not performed to warrant re-election. What is your view?
Whenever people say Governor Yahaya Bello has not lived up to expectations, I wonder because the governor has tried his best and it is not easy to govern a state especially where there is paucity of funds. This administration inherited a lot of things especially in the area of maladministration and so many things came up before Governor Bello came and he has done a lot to stabilise the state. Lokoja is very neat today compared to the past; there are ongoing road projects across the three senatorial districts. In the area of agriculture, the giant rice project at Omi dam when completed can conveniently employed over 10,000 youths. Already over 2,000 youths are working there despite the fact that the project is not completed.