The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Ochei, along with 28 other members of the Assembly, has incurred the wrath of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for overriding his veto of the anti-kidnapping law.
Impeccable sources who confided in our reporter revealed that the romance between the legislators and the governor went sour on Wednesday when the House took the initiative to override the veto of the governor on the bill, which prescribes the death penalty for kidnapping. The House unanimously passed the bill in November last year but it was vetoed by the governor.
The “Delta State Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2012,” had last year generated controversy and bad blood between the legislature and the executive over the blatant refusal of the governor to asset to the bill.
Uduaghan had condemned the bill, saying that the death penalty was outdated, and proposed life sentence instead. That was ignored by the House, which then decided to override the veto.
At that day’s plenary, after the governor’s very lengthy letter was read out on the floor of the House by Mr. Ochei, the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole, chaired by the Speaker.
Dissatisfied with the explanation given by the governor for his veto, the legislators relied on section 100 sub-section 5 of the 1999 constitution, as amended. The section empowers the legislature to override the governor by a two-thirds majority.
A motion for the override of the veto was moved by the Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Monday Igbuya and immediately seconded by Mr. Joseph Oshevire.
The lawmakers swiftly voted to override the veto with 26 of the 29 members of the House, effectively making the bill the new law of the state.
Following the overwhelming vote, the Speaker directed the Clerk of the House to list the law in the state High Court, as it had taken effect from Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
Investigations revealed that 28 members of the House, excluding the Speaker, jointly sponsored the bill that was rejected by the governor. Surprisingly during the voting, the member representing Warri North constituency, Mrs. Irene Imilar, dramatically took her leave while the member representing Aniocha South constituency, Mrs. Amaechi Mrakpor, was absent.
Angered by the decision, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Charles Ajuyah, condemned the House, stressing that the death sentence is no longer fashionable world-wide.
At a press conference in Asaba, Ajuyah said his ministry had proposed two bills recommending stringent measures against kidnappers and armed robbers to enhance the administration of criminal justice in the State.
In his own reaction, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, said, “My fear is that this does not end up being a ‘dead letter law’ because as the governor of Edo State said lately, all those he has condemned to death are still waiting to be put to death as the country does not have any more public executioners.”
It would be recalled that Uduaghan, while reacting to a question posed to him during an interactive session, noted that there is already a death penalty.
“Every kidnapper is an armed robber. So, I don’t know why we are talking today of death penalty for kidnappers. Why do I have to sign another law for kidnappers? So, why this unnecessary debate about Uduaghan not agreeing to sign the death penalty for kidnappers and all that?”
Mr. Ochei had also some time ago expressed confidence about the proposed law. “There is no way the bill will not scale through. If by the time the bill is ready and the governor does not give assent, there is a constitutional provision of what to do and I am sure he cannot discountenance the opinion of 28 members of this House. So, I don’t want to pre-empt what it will come out as if the bill is passed into law. There is a process, the next process. If it is not assented to, you are asking me this question, then I can tell you, yes, we can invoke section 100 of the Constitution but until that time comes, I think it will be too hasty to say.”