The immediate past Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has asked for the prosecution of the State House Speaker, Mrs Elizabeth Ativie, if indeed she registered or sold vehicles given to her as Speaker of the House.
Speaking to journalists at his Iyamho country home, Wednesday, Oshiomhole said Ativie was only asked to use the vehicles as Deputy Speaker and not to convert them to her personal property.
He said Ativie should be prosecuted if it was true she actually registered the vehicles in her name and sold one of them.
The former Governor denied that he ever gave the former Speaker the vehicles as gift, saying he lacked the power to give out vehicles belonging to the Assembly.
He denied writing a letter in which he expressly transfered ownership of the vehicles to her, adding that if she refuses to hand over the four vehicles in her possession, she should be charged and prosecuted for stealing.
Following her impeachment alongside other principal officers of Assembly, August 14, the former Deputy Speaker had refused to return four vehicles attached to her office.
She had told the new leadership of the Assembly headed by Hon. Kabiru Adjoto that the vehicles were given to her by Oshiomhole as compensation for the “sacrifice” she made by stepping down as Speaker for an Esan lawmaker to emerge as Speaker.
The former Speaker said she registered the vehicles – two Hilux vans, a Toyota Prado jeep and a Lexus jeep 2016 model – in her name and had sold one of them.
Oshiomhole denied ever giving her the cars.
He 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, to 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 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 that it would not be fair to impeach her.
“Though there were arguments that, after all, she was married to an Esan 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 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.
“And we agreed that she can use the four vehicles as Deputy Speaker, for as long as she occupied the office. But that does not mean that the next Deputy Speaker would have four vehicles because the vehicles are for the office of the Speaker, but personal to you as Deputy Speaker. How does that amount to asset transfer?
The former Governor who noted that governor’s have certain powers specified by the law, however disclosed that he even had to hand over his official car on leaving office, adding that he had no such powers to transfer ownership of the vehicles to the embattled former Deputy Speaker.
“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 to him. They are not my properties. 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.
“Nothing in the law empowered me to give out the property of the Edo State Government. I am not competent to do so; so even I were to purport to do so, it would be illegal. Just like I reminded them (lawmakers) in that meeting, I told her that, ‘Even as assembly member, how can you say that I gave you government property? Do I have the power to do that? You are a lawmaker; you should know the law.’
“Even as a parliamentarians, there are laws you make that would be void, if there are in conflict with the Constitution. There are limitations. So, I cannot purport or exercise powers that I do not have. If I cannot give cars in the Government House to people, why should I give out legislative cars? They belong to the parliament, which is another arm of government. The Executive cannot appropriate or purport to appropriate those cars and give them to individuals.
“So clearly, if she has registered them in her name, as I read in the papers, even that is a fraud because they were meant for the office of the deputy speaker, as an office, is different from Ativie as a person. So, if she changed the vehicles and registered them in her personal name, that is criminal for which she should be prosecuted,” he said.