Posted by Bisi Olaniyi, Yenagoa on
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was on Wednesday named the stateís acting governor.
His confirmation as acting governor followed the adoption by the House of Assembly of a letter in which the embattled Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, asked for a 120-day leave to enable him have a thorough "rest" in London.
THE PUNCH exclusively reported on Monday that the deputy governor would before the end of this week take over the governance of the state until the money laundering case involving Alamieyeseigha was disposed of by a London court.
During a 107-minute sitting, a member, Mr. Dein Benadoumene, presented the letter by Alamieyeseigha through a motion.
The motion, which was seconded by Mr. Nelson Belief, had the support of all the 13 legislators in attendance, except Mr. Ofoni Williams.
Williams argued that it was procedurally wrong for the House to confirm Jonathan as acting governor.
He was however overruled by the new Speaker, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi.
While introducing the motion, Benadoumene, invoked the provision of Section 190 of the Constitution, arguing that the written request for leave by Alamieyeseigha, was made through the speaker.
Section 190 says, "Whenever the governor transmits to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to the Speaker a written declaration to the contrary, such functions shall be discharged by the deputy governor as acting governor."
Benadoumene further stated that the governorís letter was in line with the constitutional provision.
He said, "I hereby move that this honourable House do resolve to honour the said written declaration of the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State and transmit same to the deputy governor, for him to take office as acting governor."
The Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Steve Ereboh, cited Section 187 of the Constitution, to buttress the fact that having Jonathan as acting governor was in order.
After debating the motion, the speaker called for a voice vote, with majority of the lawmakers supporting the confirmation of the deputy governor as acting governor.
Fielding questions from journalists after the sitting, Ebebi said that the governor would not apply for an extension of the leave when the 120 days expired.
When asked what would happen if Alamieyeseigha failed to return after January 1, 2006, the speaker said, "What should happen (impeachment) will happen.
"You know that the 120 days is unusual, but because of the peculiar circumstances. It is our fervent hope that he will come back within the 120 days.
"The validity of the number of days has not even been discussed. We have only dealt with the acting governor issue, but if the members feel that we should also discuss the matter (impeachment), then we will discuss it. I cannot dictate to them.
"The governorís letter is effective from September 1, 2005. I have not seen anything in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria about the number of days a governor can be away. Some people are saying 90 or 60 days, but I know it is unusual for somebody to be away for 120 days."
Ebebi claimed that he saw a copy of the governorís letter last week, with the impeached Speaker, Mr. Boyelayefa Debekeme.
He said that he advised that the letter be treated in the House in order to move the state forward, but Debekeme kept "dribbling us."
While reacting to the resolution by 14 of the lawmakers, led by the former speaker and his former deputy, Mr. Foingha Jephthah, that their impeachment was illegal, Ebebi said it should be discountenanced.
The new speaker reiterated that the impeachment was done with the support of the members of the House.
The PUNCH, Thursday, November 17, 2005