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Enugu Assembly splits over attempt to impeach Chime

By Kodilinye Obiagwu and Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
05 May 2015   |   1:43 am
THE festering cat and mouse relationship between the Enugu State House of Assembly and the state governor, Sullivan Chime took a turn for the worse as moves by some lawmakers to impeach the governor factionalised the House in the midst of suspensions and counter suspensions of several lawmakers


• Nine lawmakers remove Speaker 

THE festering cat and mouse relationship between the Enugu State House of Assembly and the state governor, Sullivan Chime took a turn for the worse as moves by some lawmakers to impeach the governor factionalised the House in the midst of suspensions and counter suspensions of several lawmakers.

The drama started as early as 5 a.m. yesterday when 14 members of the House who were later joined by a female member, were stopped by scores of armed policemen at the gate and barred from going into the premises of the Assembly. After more than 30 minutes of deliberations, they were allowed to walk into the premises, leaving their cars parked by the road side.

Between 6:23 a.m. and 6:37 a.m, after forcing themselves into the House chambers, the lawmakers, led by the Speaker of the House, Eugene Odo, resolved to serve an impeachment notice on Chime while they suspended the Deputy Speaker, Chime Oji, Deputy Leader, John Kelvin Okuta and the Chairman, Health Committee, Emeka Ugwuebo “for conduct that has brought the House to disrepute.”

Further drama ensued as another group of lawmakers, tagged the Group of 9 (G.9) led by the hitherto Deputy Speaker, met, impeached and suspended Odo along with seven others, after the Group of 14 (G.14) had adjourned till today.

Explaining the call for the impeachment, the lawmakers, who had directed the Clerk of the House, Christopher Chukwura, to immediately serve the impeachment notice on Chime, accused the governor of undermining the activities of the House by his refusal to encourage his commissioners and aides to respond to summons.

The lawmakers further alleged that the governor forged “the 2012 supplementary appropriation of the state amounting to N12 billion,” and failed to apply due process in the award of the N13 billion contract for the construction of the new state civil service secretariat. Reports indicated that the contract was inflated to N21 billion without recourse to the House.

In moving the motion for the impeachment, the House Leader, Sunday Udeokoye, accused the governor of failing to furnish the lawmakers with details of a N5 billion counterpart funding for projects in the state, while he “tried to stop the proceedings of this House by sending policemen to block the entrance of the chamber.”

Member representing Enugu South state constituency, Hon. Paul Ogbe, who supported the motion, observed that the lawmakers must be allowed to perform their duties without interference from any quarters.

It was gathered that the rather unusual  “sitting at dawn,” trailed the unveiling of a plot, by a group of lawmakers to impeach Odo. To nullify the conspiracy therefore, he gathered and summoned lawmakers loyal to him to the House premises to preempt any action or decision by the conspirators.

After its sitting that started at 7:04 a.m., the G.9 suspended John Anichukwu, Theresa Egbo, Okechukwu Nwoke, Paul Ogbe, Nze Michael Onyeze, Mrs Chika Eneh and House leader, Sunday Udeokoye.

The group also elected a Speaker, Chinedu Nwamba while appointing Donatus Uzoagbado as the new Leader, and Emeka Ogbuabor as the new Chief Whip.

The G.9 lifted the suspension of Hon. Johnbull Nwagu and restored his privileges, while setting aside their last month’s resolution of freezing the accounts of the State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB).

They also set aside the resolution directing the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC) to stop dealing with ENSUBEB, stressing that their colleagues acted ultra vires.

Concluding their brief sitting, which was presided over by Oji, Hon. John Okuta moved motion, requesting approval of members to fill the vacancies that arose as a result of the suspension of the members especially the principal officers. The approval of the motion led to the appointment of Nwamba as the new Speaker.

His first action was to direct the Clerk to furnish the Executive with the developments and for the Chief Security Officer of the House to “seal the entire premises until further notice.” They adjourned sine die.

Incidentally, the Clerk of the House, who sat with the G.9 during its short meeting, didn’t sit in the chambers during the deliberations by the G.14. Meanwhile, addressing the media after his election, the new Speaker, Nwamba pledged his commitment to the continued sustenance of peace in the entire state and the smooth transition to the incoming government.

According to him, “this change has become necessary in view of the desperate efforts by some principal officers to plunge the House and the state into a needless crisis.

We’ve enjoyed peace in the state these past eight years and we won’t fold our arms and watch some of our colleagues disrupt the persisting peace and unity.

“It’s quite laughable if those affected point accusing fingers elsewhere because what happened here today (yesterday) was the fallout of several acts of recklessness employed by the former leadership of the House.”