The Bayelsa State House of Assembly is at present enmeshed in a row over the ‘vacant’ seat of the Speaker, Kombowei Benson.
The development followed the second ruling of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, affirming the annulment of Benson’s election victory and the re-run election for his Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 fixed for March 5.
The appellate court had on December 9 annulled the Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 seat poll that returned Benson as winner of the House of Assembly election in April 2015.
Since the judgment, there has been claim and counter-claim as to the authentic ruling of the court.
The candidate for the All Progressives Congress, Ebifaghe Orunimighe, who dragged Benson to the appellate court, said the Speaker’s victory had been nullified but the Speaker insisted that the Orunimighe’s suit was dismissed.
The Speaker was said to have gone back to the court for stay of action but the appellate court in a ruling recently affirmed its first judgment that the election stood nullified and ordered a rerun for March 5.
It was learnt that the raging controversy in the Assembly was sparked off last week, following the outcome of a meeting between the Assembly members on the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party and the State Governor over the possible replacement for the Speaker.
It was learnt that though some members were identified as leading contenders to replace the sacked Speaker, the decision reached at the meeting with Governor that the status quo should be maintained was said to have thrown the House in a disarray.
It was further gathered that the implication of the decision at the meeting meant that the Speaker was allowed to sign the allocation for the Assembly even while preparing for a re-run election in the Constituency 4.
Some members of the State Assembly have described such arrangement as “odd”, saying that in the absence of a substantive speaker, a new Speaker expected to be elected should sign the necessary financial documents of the House.
They argued that if the 2016 Appropriation Bill was passed into law under the existing arrangement, the document might become null and void if challenged in a competent court of law.
Inside sources claimed that the decision of the Governor was seen as a reward to Benson for his loyalty and style of leadership in the House.
The decision was said to have created anger among members of the All Progressive Congress in the state.
It was gathered that while the APC Assembly candidate in the rescheduled election in the Constituency 4 election, Ebifaghe Orunimighe, was plotting to stop the Speaker from participating in the election.
Orunimighe said he had perfected steps to file contempt charges and perpetual injunction against the alleged refusal of Benson to honour Court of Appeal order.
Members of the APC in the state were said to be mounting pressure on the member of the House from Brass Constituency 2, Sunny Igoli, to write the Economic and Financial Crime Commission on the alleged criminal activities being perpetrated by the PDP and the Speaker.
An APC leader from Sagbama, Benah Orufagha, noted that the refusal of the House members to elect a substantive Speaker after it has been proved that Benson was sacked was wrong and unconstitutional.
“These PDP members should be recalled by their constituents. They have deliberately handed their independence to the executive and become its puppets.”