The Kogi House of Assembly is in for another round of crisis.
This is following the suspension of nine members of the House over alleged terrorism and anti-party activities. This has not gone down well with the aggrieved lawmakers, who have vowed to fight back to reclaim their seats.
This is not the first time that the Kogi State House of Assembly has been enmeshed in crisis.
The Daily Post reports that the Kogi House of Assembly is not new to crisis.
Back in February 2016, five lawmakers out of a 20-member House sat and purportedly removed the then Speaker, Honourable Momoh Jimoh Lawal, who was said not to be in the good books of the state government.
Citing relevant sessions in the House rules, the lawmakers aired their views that five was greater than 15, insisting that they have formed a quorum to impeach a sitting Speaker and elect a new one. The coup against Lawal was led by the former lawmaker representing Igalamela Odolu Constituency, Friday Sanni Makama, who was also suspended and never returned to the chamber till the expiration of the 6th Assembly in Kogi State.
Although normalcy gradually returned to the House after the prolonged crisis, the emergence of Alfa Ahmed Imam as the successor of Hon. Momoh Jimoh Lawal didn’t last. Things fell apart between the imam and governor of Kogi State over consistent criticism of the Kogi State government. After much heat and to avoid impeachment, on August 4, 2017, Imam announced his resignation as Speaker, saying “I had to resign to save my life”. Prince Mathew Kolawole, a member representing Kabba Bunu, emerged as Speaker of the sixth Assembly in 2017, but issues of trust in the leadership continued to raise suspicion among members.
How commotion started in Kogi Seventh Assembly
The current crisis rocking the seventh Kogi State House of Assembly could be traced far back to June 17, 2023, when the Speaker of the House, Prince Mathew Kolawol, announced the impeachment of the then Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Muhammed, member representing Ankpa I state constituency.
The suspension of the number two citizen of the house is in response to a motion of urgent public importance read by Hon. Enema Paul, member representing the Dekina/Okura State Constituency.
The lawmaker said 17 lawmakers signed the impeachment of the then deputy speaker and the suspension of the three principal officers of the House.
The three principal officers removed from office and later suspended from the House are Bello Hassan Balogun (Majority Leader), representing Ajaokuta State Constituency; Idris Ndako (Deputy Majority Leader), representing Lokoja II; and Hon. Edoko Moses Ododo (Chief Whip).
The House, thereafter, announced Alfa Momoh Rabiu, a lawmaker representing Ankpa II, as the new Deputy Speaker.
Other new principal officers elected are Hon. Muktar Bajeh (Majority Leader), Umar Isah Tanimu (Deputy Majority Leader), Enema Paul (Deputy Chief Whip), and Ahmed Dahiru (Chief Whip).
Aggrieved lawmakers fight back
Following their suspension and removal from office, the aggrieved lawmakers fought back immediately, announcing the removal of Prince Mathew Kolawole as the Speaker of the House.
They accused Prince Kolawole of misconduct and money laundering running into millions of naira.
According to them, Kolawole’s alleged corrupt antecedents had led to the non-payment of members’ constitutional entitlements, gross corruption, and diversion of funds meant for the Assembly since 2019.
They also said the Speaker obtained a personal loan running into hundreds of millions of dollars using the Kogi State House of Assembly account to the detriment of other members.
The aggrieved lawmakers alleged that Kolawole diminished the integrity of fellow elected members by serially recording meetings and confidential conversations of members, which he used as a tool to blackmail members before Governor Yahaya Bello.
The statement reads, “Whereas the Kogi State House of Assembly has been embroiled in an ongoing messy crisis of confidence with the leadership style and corrupt antecedents and tendencies of the former/impeached Speaker, Mr. Mattew Kolawole, whose leadership of the Kogi State House of Assembly has led to the non-payment of members constitutional entitlements and gross corruption and diversion of funds meant for the Assembly since 2019.
“That the said Mr. Matthew Kolawole used the Kogi State House of Assembly account to collect a personal loan running into hundreds of millions of dollars to the detriment of members of the House.
“That the said Mr. Matthew Kolawole stepped on and diminished the integrity and status of fellow elected members by serially recording meetings and confidential conversations of members, with which he maliciously played for the Governor of Kogi State as a tool to blackmail members and destroy the trust and loyalty of members to the Governor over time.
“That all the undersigned 19 members, upon being perplexed and vexed at the obvious evil behavior and machinations of Mr. Mattew Kolawole, met and decided to constitutionally impeach the said Mattew Kolawole, to wit: signatures were collected, the said Mattew Kolawole was impeached, and a Speaker Pro Tempore was duly elected amongst members.
“The standing orders of the Kogi State House of Assembly state that Mondays and Fridays are meant for committee business and oversight functions and are not plenary days.
“For the business of plenary and, by extension, resolutions to be effected, a proclamation must be made a minimum of 48 hours before the date of the sitting.
“This then goes to the fact that all the activities of the intimidated and kidnapped members under the impeachment of Mr. Matthew Kolawole today, the 17th day of June, 2022, are null and void ab initio and cannot stand the test of legality.
“Finally, all undersigned members pledge their unalloyed loyalty to His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello, and the party that brought them all to power: the All Progressives Congress. APC.
“We hereby adopt the following resolutions for their removal and suspension as follows:
“That it be resolved: and it is so resolved that Rt. Hon. (Prince) Matthew Kolawole is hereby removed or impeached as the speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly with effect from today, Monday, the 13th day of July, 2022, in accordance with Section 92 (2) (C) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and suspended from the House pending the final report from the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges upon investigation of the allegations bordering on gross misconduct in accordance with Order 10 Rule 65 Sub 12, of the Kogi State House of Assembly standing rules,
“For avoidance of doubt, Section 92(2)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, provides that: “The Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly shall vacate his or her offices if they are removed from office by a resolution of the House of Assembly by the votes of not less than a two-thirds majority of the members of the House.”
The lawmakers who had said the impeachment took effect from Monday, June 13, 2022, claimed in a statement issued to journalists that the speaker’s impeachment was undersigned by 19 lawmakers, including Ahmed Mohammed, the deputy speaker, and Bello Abdullahi, the majority leader. The names of the lawmakers who purportedly signed the impeachment letter are as follows:
We didn’t impeach Speaker
However, some lawmakers, who were reported to have signed the impeachment of Prince Mathew Kolawole, debunked removing the Kabba/Bunu lawmaker. The assembly members distanced themselves from the alleged signatures collected to impeach the Speaker.
The position of some of the lawmakers came a few days after the then suspended former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Mohammed, representing Akpa I, and two other former principal officers, Hon. Bello Hassan Abdullahi (Ajaokuta) and Moses Odoo (Dekina/Biraidu), purportedly came up with a letter stating that Prince Mathew Kolawole has been impeached as Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly.
The lawmakers during the House plenary said they collected signatures to pass a vote of confidence in Governor Yahaya Bello’s presidential ambitions and not to impeach the Speaker.
Why we recalled suspended members- Kogi Assembly
Just in January, the Kogi State House of Assembly recalled the suspended principal officers back to the house. This actually happened barely a month before the 2023 general election.
The Assembly speaker, Kolawole, said the suspended lawmakers were recalled to foster peace and harmony among members as the seventh Assembly gradually comes to an end.
Reading the findings of the house committee on ethics and privileges, the committee chairman and Assembly Chief Whip, Ahmed Dahiru, said the suspended members were remorseful for their actions and should be recalled to perform legislative duties.
The recalled members are Ahmed Mohammed, who represents Ankpa I; Bello Hassan Balogun, who represents Ajaokuta State Constituency; Idris Ndako, who represents Lokoja II; and Hon. Edoko Moses Ododo.
Another Gale of suspension rock Kogi Assembly
However, just barely two months later, another gale of suspension has hit the Kogi State House of Assembly. On March 27th, 2023, nine lawmakers were suspended by the House over alleged anti-party activities and terrorism. The suspended lawmakers include Daniya Rayin of Bassa; Muktar Bajeh of Okehi; Kilani Olumo of Ijumu; Moses Akande of Ogori-Magongo; Lawi Ahmed of Okene I; Atule Igbunu of Ibaji; Suleiman Attajachi Musa of Idah; Aderonke Aro of Yagba West; and Bello Hassan Abdullahi of Ajaoku
But the suspended lawmakers are insisting that the latest development will not stand. In a chat with one of the lawmakers who never wanted his name to be mentioned, he said the Speaker of the House is dancing to the script of some high-profile people in Kogi State.
The lawmaker said, “Kolawole keeps dancing to the tune of his pay masters. He should not forget that this is just temporary. He should not forget that there is light after the tunnel. "We shall overcome."
I was told to deliver my constituency during the election—Ijumu lawmaker fingers Kogi Govt.
Meanwhile, the Member representing Ijumu in the Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Olusola Kilani, has petitioned the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, over what he called unfounded and ridiculous allegations of terrorism and electoral violence leveled against him.
Recall that Governor Bello had earlier, through a letter sent to the State House of Assembly and read by the Speaker, tagged Hon. Kilani and eight (8) others (Members of the State House of Assembly) as terrorists or engaging in terrorism.
But in a petition by Hon. Olusola Kilani, written by O.M. Atoyebu SAN & Partner, of Omaplex Law Firm, the lawmaker said the governor has perfected a plan and hatched a clandestine move to set the machinery of Kogi State Government against him in a bad light as a terrorist to settle political scores, especially given the grave penal and social consequences which the allegations carry in present-day Nigeria.
The motive behind the unfounded allegations to label him a terrorist, as Hon. Olusola noted in the petition, is because of the just concluded election in which the Governor mandated him, the lawmaker, and other mentioned members of the State House of Assembly to deliver their respective constituencies at all costs, whether by legal or illegal” means, which the lawmaker said he rebuffed as a law-abiding citizen and ardent follower of Mr. President’s stance and insistence on having a free and fair election.
The lawmaker said it is instructive to note that the Assembly, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Mathew Kolawole as Speaker, acted out the script of the governor even without a basis for proof. He said the allegations against him were because of his failure to circumvent the electoral act against the wishes of the people by ensuring victory at all costs in his constituency for the APC candidate in the just concluded 2023 House of Assembly Polls.
The lawmaker, who said the governor was miffed by his patriotic acts, said the latter vowed to deal ruthlessly and politically with him, hence his letter to the speaker, which was acted upon and led to his suspension.
Meanwhile, neither the Kogi State Government nor the State Assembly have yet to comment on the matter as of the time of filing this report.