MUHAMMAD TANKO SHITTU writes on the leadership tussle that tears Plateau lawmakers apart
In a controversial manner, some members of the Plateau State House of Assemby, led by the House Majority Leader Hon. Naa’anlong Daniel, sat early morning of that day and impeached former Speaker Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba, which action was swiftly rejected by other members led by Hon. Abok himself.
The impeachment saga which has polarised the 24-man Assembly, with new speaker Yakubu Yakson Sanda having the support of 11 others, while the former also have 11 others backing him, as was glaringly seen whenever the latter is holding plenary.
However, the Sanda led legislators, insisted that sixteen of the 24 lawmakers signed the impeachment of Abok, and that the plenary that impeached him met the constitutional provisions.
Event leading to impeachment
The impeachment saga reared its ugly head following a press conference by the Abok led legislators, having issued an ultimatum to Governor Simon Lalong, with an impeachment threat, as read by the House Committee Chairman on Information Hon. Philip Dasun.
The threat further soured the executive-legislative relationship, hence the lead way to Abok’s impeachment. Former Speaker Abok, and others, accused Lalong’s led executive of plotting his impeachment.
.However, Governor Simon Lalong, exenorated himself, saying the matter should not be put on his neck or the executive, alluding that the happening in the house was a result of “the dividends of autonomy in action where members are fully in charge of their affairs.
“Being one of those who struggled for autonomy and had the privilege of implementing it as the first governor in Nigeria, I dont have the capacity to interfere with the house.
“To do so will amount to violating the law we have fought hard to bring to reality,” he said.
Lalong, however, said the members have the right to hold their leadership accountable and demand for transparency.
“They can even change their leadership if they deem fit. That is what the members of the Plateau House demanded from the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Nuhu Abok who instead of providing answers of the huge monies collected by the legislature in the past six months since autonomy started, decided to start running helter-skelter recruiting sympathizers from ethnic, religious, political and civil society groups.
“This is a wrong thing to do because every problem of the House gets resolved on the floor of the House by the members especially now that they have full autonomy. No one should be blackmailed, including me,” Lalong said.
Former Speaker Abok, held a plenary at a private place in Zawan, where he insisted that he wasn’t impeached, he latter suspended six of the lawmakers, whom he accused of his impeachment.
Blueprint observed that the plenary held by Abok, used an, “unofficial,” mace of the House, with the house Clerk and Sergent at arms both absence at the venue.
However, day after Abok’s suspension of the six members, new speaker Yakubu Sanda, led 11 other members, sat at the hallowed chamber of the House, with the presence of , “official mace, Sergent at arm, Clerk of the House,” and also suspended six lawmakers including Abok.
The House leader, Naa’anlong Daniel, at a press conference, said; “We want to put it on record that due process was followed in the impeachment of the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Abok Ayuba, as provided in section 92, 2 (C) CFRN 1999 (As amended) that 16 out of the 24 members sign a resolution for his impeachment. This was complied with on the 28th October 2021.
“The public and members of the press should note that 17 members were present in the Chambers at the sitting on that day which is more than the required number that forms a quorum in any legislative business of a State House of Assembly.
“It is baseless and misleading to say that only eight numbers signed for the impeachment of the former Speaker, as been spread around in the social and mainstream media and by some individuals. The clerk of the House is in possession of the names of all members who were in the House on that day. Unfortunately, some members of the other side who were there and even addressed the press afterwards have been involved in misinforming the public. We want you to beware.”
According to Naa’anlong Daniel, the refusal by Abok to, “reconvene,” the house since August 2021, was one of their reasons for his impeachment, alleging that his, “dictatorial tendencies, (and) gross incompetence,” were other reasons that warranted the impeachment
“The former Speaker refused to reconvene the House because he was asked to render account of his financial activities in the house. Since then, he closed the house and refused to allow us to consider many crucial bills still pending. In fact, three times the governor approached the House to lay the 2022 appropriation bill but the former Speaker refused. It took a lot of pleading and begging for that to happen. Is it his father’s house or personal property?”
Hon Daniel alleged that the way and manner the former Speaker ran the house was more or less like his personal business venture, taking unilateral decisions, as against the funds Management Law, which stipulated that, Principal Officers, and financial Management Committee need to take collective decisions in regards to approvals or any important decision and Financial Management.
“Because he violated that law and was called to give account, he started running away and using other members who probably benefited from his misconduct to divide the house.
“All these matters mentioned above constitute gross incompetence, high handedness and financial recklessness, in the management of the house affairs which cost the former Speaker his seat,” he said.
The majority leader also accused the former speaker of using illegal mace and holding sitting outside the house.
“Soon after we impeached the former Speaker, he went and constructed a fake mace to convene a kangaroo sitting at an event centre in Zawan. This worsened his already bad case and made us to suspend him and some members who joined him in committing the infractions,” he said.
The impeachment unlike those of other houses across Nigeria, has attracted mixed reactions from within and outside Plateau state, and the House majority leader Naa’anlong described as; “External forces using the former speaker to destabilise the house and the state.”
Sen. Jonah Jang, others bite
In that regards, former Governor Jonah Jang, berated both the lawmakers on the side of Yakubu Sanda, and the Lalong led Executive, saying in their desperation to remove the speaker, “they have resorted to using undue force in pushing forth their agenda which is not only unconstitutional but, shameful.”
“The Executive has tried, albeit unconvincingly, to wash its hands off of the disgraceful events in the House of Assembly but the more the governor and his handlers try to spin a story around the issue, the more glaring it becomes that the six members who staged an impeachment are only acting out a script for the governor, the hasty nature with which the governor hurriedly received a ‘new speaker’ knowing full well, being a lawyer, that what happened was an aberration, speak volumes,” Jang berated.
Similarly, the Senator representing Plateau North (PDP), Istifanus Gyang, took the debate to the senate chamber, wherein a resolution condemning the impeachment of Abok, via a motion moved by Gyang, tagged, “Disruption of Legislative Business in Plateau State House of Assembly: Need for early intervention by the Senate to avoid deterioration.”
In the same vein, the speakers conference, the Lagos State House of Assemby, former Senate President Bukola Saraki have seperately criticed the impeachment of Abok Ayuba.
Lalong, House Majority leader reacts
But the state government through its information and communications commissioner, Dan Manjang, described Jang as less qualified to preach any morality about democracy in the state.
He said the former governor is the, “least qualified to preach any morality about democracy in Plateau state and Nigeria because of his anti-democratic credentials, we deem it necessary to put the records straight and save the people of Plateau state and other discerning Nigerians from being whitewashed with false propaganda shrouded in sentiments.””There is no better case of pot calling kettle black than the infamous sermon by former Governor Jang who is either suffering from amnesia, or has come full circle in the act of deciet that he is attempting to fool the people including himself,” he said.
Hon. Manjang gave the synopsis of Jang’s record as governor with the Plateau State House of Assembly, having 4 different speakers within the the span of his 8 years in office.
“He enthroned and dethroned 4 different Speakers for the Plateau State House of Assembly in his reign of terror, impunity and high handedness.
“These included Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Goar, Rt. Hon. Istifanus Mwansat, Rt. Hon. John Clerk and Rt. Hon. Titus Alams.
“This remains one of the highest speakership turnout in the history of Plateau state and Nigeria at large.
“Is this the same person that has the effrontry to speak about impeachment and without any shred of evidence, input that His Excellency, Governor Lalong is behind it,” he asked.
Likewise, the Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly, Naa’anlong Daniel, said they noticed with utter disappointment that some external forces were using the former Speaker to achieve their political ends.
“Our conclusion is based on the fact that upon the removal of the former Speaker, he immediately congratulated the new Speaker Rt. Hon. Yakubu Sanda in a communication which is available.
“Similarly, he personally wrote a resignation letter and pleaded with the new Speaker to accept his resignation and give him soft landing so that the record of impeachment will not hang in his neck. While that was being considered, he was incited by those who want to exploit the situation and became hysteric.
“This escalated the situation leading to the security breach and destruction of some parts of the House. We advise those fuelling this matter to desist as they will be required to pay for their actions in due time,” he said.
Hon. Naa’anlong, was of the view that, they have noticed a wide reaction from various people who are either ignorant of the true situation or being partisan for their selfish political interests.
“We are calling the attention of Senator Jonah Jang, Senator I.D. Gyang, Hon. Musa Bagos as well as the Lagos State House of Assembly, Former Senate President Bukola Saraki and many others to always cross-check their facts, as their action and comments are misleading and not a true reflection of what transpired on the floor of the house.
“Similarly, we take exception to the comments of the former governor of Benue state, Senator Gabriel Suswam, who threw caution to the wind to use abusive language on Honourable members of the Plateau State House of Assembly,” he stressed.
Naa’anlong asked why are the PDP in the State the ones crying more than the bereaved, or is the former Speaker their member.
“As far as we are concerned, the former Speaker did not come to the House as Speaker. He was first among equals given the privilege to lead. When he lost confidence of his colleagues, he had to go. This is standard legislative practice,” he said.
Hon. Abok Ayuba reacts.
But on the contrary, Hon. Abok Ayuba, through his press secretary, Mr. Bulus Atang, said it wasn’t true that he has resigned as Speaker of the House.
“The fight on this is the Plateau fight, bigger than me and the twelve of us. I can’t do a letter and put a signature and stamp of (sic) received again. A letter that was not addressed (sic) to anyone in particular, if the said letter truly emanated from me, I wouldn’t be (sic) seen continuously contesting the illegallity.
“One would wonder (sic) why, if they had the letter as at 1st November, 2021 why are they bringing it out on 18th November, 2021. They would have been happy to produce it as early as possible.
“The crafter is doing this forgery as a distraction plan to win the sympathy of Plateau people.
“Their ambition has blinded their conscious and eyes from seeing the reality. Are they now saying, they impeached (sic) me or did I resign? Resign from what? This I beg for answer. Impeachment or resignation?” Abok asked.
Blueprint reports that, the Yakubu Sanda, faction has commenced plenary that gave confirmation to PLASIEC nominees, three new Commissioner nominees, as well as the 2022 budget defence, as requested Govenor Simon Lalong.