Drama played out on Thursday at the Edo State House of Assembly when dozens of heavily armed security operatives stormed the complex, leading to the eventual renovation of the complex.
As early as 8 am, police officers comprising operatives attached to the Police Mobile Force and Operation Thunderstorm occupied the complex in Benin City, the state capital.
They were later joined by personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), preventing entry into the Assembly premises.
Channels Television gathered that the move was purportedly to forestall an alleged plan to attack the facility by some unnamed persons.
A Desperate Opposition?
A short while after the police took over the complex, some supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo thronged the scene, chanting solidarity songs in support of the current leadership of the Assembly.
Amid the chanting by the supporters, Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is seeking re-election on the PDP platform, also arrived at the complex alongside the Speaker of the House, Frank Okiye, and went straight into the Assembly premises without resistance from the security operatives.
In his reaction, the governor condemned what he described as the desperation of his major opponent and his supporters for allegedly planning to take over the assembly complex and occupy it in order to disrupt the democratic process and rule of law.
He, however, affirmed his determination to ensure that the rule of law and one-man-one-vote was accomplished in the state.
Okiye, on his part, alleged that the police action was instigated from Abuja while the governor vowed to ensure the lawmakers and the people of the state were protected.
Invasion Turned Renovation
After addressing the supporters, Governor Obaseki left the scene while the police once again ordered the party supporters outside the complex, where they continued their solidarity dance.
Thereafter, tipper trucks drove to the complex where they off-loaded sand and gravel in front of the Assembly in what the government explained was part of ongoing reconstruction work at the complex.
Some unknown persons climbed the roof of the complex where they removed the mace.
Others believed to be construction workers were also seen removing the rooftop of the building in what appeared to be part of the renovation exercise.
When asked why taking such action, they said they were working on instructions from the appropriate authorities.
A Prototype Unveiled
Despite the unsettling events at the complex, the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, and Okiye inspected the ongoing work at the site where they unveiled a prototype for the rebuilding of the assembly.
The blockade of the Assembly complex as well as the removal of its rooftop, which seemed to be a new twist in the political sphere in Edo, have led to a war of words between the PDP and the All Progressives Congress.
In its reaction, the PDP described the taking over of the complex as illegal and a recipe for violence in the state.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told journalists at a news conference in Abuja that the police were working for the interest of the APC and not for the people of Edo State.
He also called on the Inspector-General of Police to pull out the security operatives from the complex, saying it could spark violence ahead of the governorship election.
Similarly, the Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, alleged that the move was part of the APC’s plot to distract the governor’s campaign train.
A Parallel Assembly
According to him, the APC is panic-stricken by the huge crowd of supporters in the campaign train of Governor Obaseki and has resorted to the “devilish plot to illegally hijack the legislature, inaugurate a parallel assembly and possibly impeach the governor”.
These allegations were, however, countered by the chairman of the State APC Media Campaign Council for the governorship election, John Mayaki.
He dismissed the claims by the Edo State government that the APC and its former National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, ferried police from Abuja to block the Edo Assembly complex, saying the party does not control the police.
On the other hand, Mayaki alleged that Governor Obaseki was responsible for numerous other sieges on the assembly complex.
He stressed that the state government and the PDP were in the best position to tell the world who sponsored the police blockade on the Assembly.
Mayaki also asked the governor to explain why a branch of government meant to carry out oversight functions and check the excesses of the executive arm has been holding plenary allegedly inside the Government House for months.
Thursday’s drama comes six weeks ahead of the governorship election in Edo State. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed September 16 to conduct the poll.
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