A former Edo State Governor, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, has denied giving the official vehicles attached to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly to the impeached Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Elizabeth Ativie, for her personal use.
Oshiomhole, who spoke in an interview with journalists in Iyamoh, Etsako West Local Government Area of the state, also advised the lawmaker representing Uhunmwode constituency to return the vehicles or face criminal prosecution for alleged fraud and stealing.
Ativie was a former Speaker of the House before willingly swapping her position with her deputy, Dr Justin Okonoboh, to balance the structure of political power across the three senatorial districts in the state, since she and the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, were from Edo South.
She was impeached with Okonoboh, who hails from Edo Central and the ex-Majority Leader, Mr. Foly Ogedengbe, for alleged misconduct. They were directed by the new Speaker, Mr Kabiru Adjoto, to return the official vehicles in their possession.
But Ativie, through her lawyer, told the House that the vehicles, a 2016 Lexus jeep, one Prado jeep and two Hilux vans, were given to her by the ex-governor for her personal use due to the sacrifice she made for the peace of the state.
The female lawmaker, who was suspended for three months, had also said that she registered the vehicles in her name and sold the Lexus jeep.
But Oshiomhole said, “Ativie has to return those vehicles and I believe that the government, whether the executive or legislative branch, has to follow the legal procedures to recover those vehicles, and if she has privatised them, charge her for stealing. I had a meeting, incidentally, with the members of the House few days after the change (impeachment) and I pointedly reminded her that she had to return those vehicles.
“You will not forget in a hurry that (for) everything that happens in the state, the governor is the person that everybody looks at, whether he knows about it or not. Even those who know that the governor does not know, it is very convenient to just blame him for everything.
“At the eve of the governorship election, the House had reasons to make a change which offset what we commonly refer to as the tripod. But once they made the change, the thing was either she resigned when the House realised that they agreed with the party that we needed to make an adjustment or they impeached the Speaker.
“And they were not ready to impeach her because they said it would not be fair to impeach her, though there were arguments that, after all, she was married to an Esan (Edo Central) man and, therefore, by marriage, she is Esan. But again you know that in Nigeria, it depends on what suits you. One of the concerns she raised was that now that she had the vehicles of the Speaker, if she had to resign and be made a Deputy Speaker, she would not be entitled to those four vehicles.”
He further explained that an agreement was reached at the meeting that she could use the four vehicles as the deputy speaker for as long as she occupied the office.
Oshiomhole, however, noted that the agreement did not mean that her successor would have four vehicles because the vehicles were meant for the office of the Speaker but “personal” to her as deputy speaker.
“How does that amount to asset transfer? I am not in a position to give out government assets. The car that Governor (Godwin) Obaseki is using now, incidentally, was one of my official cars. The one he is using in Abuja is the one I handed over. They are not my property. It is true that governors have powers but those powers are derived from law; the limits of those powers are also well-specified in law,” he added.
On the letter alleged to have been personally signed by him to transfer the vehicles to the suspended lawmaker, the ex-governor stated, “If it is anything done by me, I have told you what I did and I think it is very straightforward. First is that I never wrote her a letter donating government cars to her. No. I couldn’t have; it doesn’t make sense. I don’t even have such powers, even if I wish to and if I am going to donate government cars, I cannot donate cars belonging to the Edo State House of Assembly.”