Luke, Ituen, Ntuen & Tobi
* As plans by hoodlums to attack Speaker, others fail
* We’re still monitoring the complex – Police
By Itoro BASSEY
The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, on Monday, declared vacant the seats of five lawmakers namely Idongesit Ituen, Nse Ntuen, Gabriel Toby, Victor Udofia and Otobong Ndem who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) recently.
Ituen, Ntuen, Toby, Udofia, and Ndem who represented Itu, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo/Ika, Ikono and Mkpat Enin state constituencies respectively, had defected from the PDP recently without stating reasons.
Propellerng.com gathered that the defected lawmakers had moved to join former Senate Minority Leader, Godswil Akpabio, who defected from the PDP to APC in August, after they lost their bid to get second term tickets from their constituencies in the October primaries of the PDP.
Idongesit Ituen, in particular, had earlier preempted the action of his colleagues by first proceeding to court to stop his impending sack but lost as an Uyo Federal High Court not only declined his request, but also ordered the Speaker, Mr Onofiok Luke, and the House to stop recognising him as member of the legislature.
Declaring their seats vacant on the floor of the assembly, Speaker Luke said that the lawmakers lost their seats in the legislature having defected from the PDP to APC before the expiration of the four-year term for which they were elected to serve, as provided in Section 109 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The speaker further directed the clerk, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the development officially to the relevant authorities.
Apart from declaring the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant, the House also passed a motion urging Governor Udom Emmanuel to name either the Akwa Ibom state University or the Ibom International Airpot after former Governor Victor Attah in commemoration of his 80th birthday scheduled to hold on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to stop the House from the expected declaration of seats of the defected lawmakers vacant; more than 900 suspected thugs believed to be sympathetic to Mr Ituen, the sacked lawmaker who represented Itu state constituency, invaded the Assembly complex early on Monday morning.
Apart from blocking the entrance to the Assembly, the hoodlums, made bonfires on the road leading to the complex and were forcefully stopped from entering the premises by a team of armed mobile policemen who mounted sentry around the Assembly complex.
The thugs could not stop members of the House, led by the Speaker from forcing their ways into the complex to hold the session which saw to the sacking of the five lawmakers.
The alleged plan by the hoodlums to invade the Assembly complex had leaked to the state chapter of the PDP which issued a statement through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ini Ememobong earlier.
The PDP’s statement had read, “We are in receipt of credible intelligence highlighting plans by the opposition APC to use thugs to invade the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and prevent the House from carrying out its legitimate business of lawmaking.
“The thugs, we have been reliably informed, are camped in Ikot Ekpene and will be conveyed in buses to Uyo.
“On arrival at Uyo, they will be dropped at different locations (Abak Road by Secretariat Junction, Itam Junction, Uyo Village Road by Ikpa Road) from where they are expected to board tricycles in pairs and head towards the Assembly.
“Another set of thugs are expected to accompany the ousted lawmaker, Mr. Idongesit Ituen to attempt to force his way into the Assembly. The motive of this invasion is to prevent the Speaker from declaring vacant the seat of the sacked legislator.
“This invasion has as its adjunct function, the creation of tension as a feeder to the desired invitation of ‘Federal might’ to close the assembly.
“However, the fact of the matter is that by the judgement of the Federal High Court, Uyo, delivered in a suit filed by the self-embattled lawmaker (former Honourable Ituen), the court held, inter alia, that by his defection, he had lost his seat and ipso facto restrained the Speaker or any of the official of the Assembly from recognizing or granting access to the said former legislator.
“The Speaker had upon receipt of the judgement issued a statement indicating his obedience of the court order. That having been done, the seat of the ousted assemblyman had become vacant by the operation of law.
“So, the intended invasion is unwarranted and in fact useless, as it’s aims are already defeated. The only available route for the former honourable member and his co-travellers is to obtain an order of a higher court vacating the judgement of the Federal High Court, Uyo which for all purposes is extant.
“We have alerted security agencies to prevent any attack on the symbol of democracy. The state’s Assembly must be protected and allowed to function properly without any distraction.”
John Abang, the state Commissioner of Police, who who led some of his officers to do an assessment of the situation, shortly after the plenary, affirmed that the house of assembly was threatened and that was why security men were deployed to the scene early.
“Definitely there was a threat and that was why we deployed personnel here. And because of the personnel deployed here, we were lucky that things didn’t get out of hand.
“So I’m happy with the situation, the area is still calm. We’re still monitoring the situation and we will remain here until we’re sure everything is stable”, Abang said.