IMPEACHMENT CRISIS:No Reprieve Yet In Enugu
THERE is no reprieve yet in the crisis rocking the Enugu State House of Assembly over its resolve of last week to serve impeachment notice on Governor Sullivan Chime over alleged embezzlement. The executive arm is working hard to ensure that those who made the resolution did not continue with it
. In fact, the Police invited Speaker Eugene Odo, who led 15 of the 24 legislators to serve the impeachment notice, last week for questioning.
Odo is not alone; the Police also invited for questioning Raymond Nnaji, one of the leaders who authored a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on account of the impeachment notice, Nnaji’s invitation followed an alleged petition from the governor to the Police over comments he made in his on the alleged forgery of the 2012 supplementary budget raised by the lawmakers in their impeachment notice.
Nnaji, a lawyer and former national Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had said that the mere fact that the governor moved “money allocated on projects in the supplementary budget document after signing without recourse to the State Assembly confirms the allegation raised by the lawmakers.”
After the May 4th sitting in which 15 out of the 24 members of the Assembly led by the Speaker directed the Clerk of the House, Christopher Chukwura to proceed with serving the impeachment notice and the subsequent “removal” of Odo by nine other law makers working for the governor, the House of Assembly premises has remained under lock and key.
The Police, who sealed the entire premises, blocked the entry gates with their vehicles and mounted surveillance there since then. Police Public Relations Officers, Ebere Amaraizu said the continued occupation of the premises by the Police was to ensure law and order and not targeted at any individual.
The police insisted that there are “two speakers” presently in the state, one appointed by the nine-man faction and the other supported by the fifteen. It stated that it never asked either of the parties to sit.
This has however hindered the performance of legislative duties as neither of the divided factions had sat since then. Some Pundits who have reviewed the development see it, as part of the trial that democracy must be subjected to in the state, stressing that governance in Enugu was fast becoming a one-man show.
Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, the Director of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), told the Guardian that that the development in Enugu State was strange to democracy, adding that it was no longer democracy when the judiciary and legislature could no longer carry out their constitutional duties.
Indeed, the workers of the State High Court had been strike in the past two months in protest over government’s inability to remit their allocation directly to them.
Looking at the development and the continued closure of the House, Ezike said: “It is no longer democracy because the only ingredient that removes this democracy from military rule – the legislature is no longer there. It is an infringement on the rights of the citizens.
Nobody can go to the court any longer for the interpretation of the law when their right is violated.” In what looked like a bold attempt to restore order to the state however, the G-15 lawmakers had on Monday gone to court to challenge the continued occupation of the premises of the House of Assembly by the Police.
The federal High Court, Enugu presided over by Justice A. Agishi had while granting an interim injunction asked the Police to vacate the premises and awarded unfettered access to the lawmakers led by Odo to carry out their legitimate duties.
She had further directed that they (Police) could only come to the Assembly on the invitation of the Speaker. Although the order was said to have been served on the Police on Wednesday, officials of the Enugu Command as at Friday morning still occupied the premises and in fact, have their vehicles blocking the entrances to the compound.
Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Mohammed instead of obeying the court order, had decided to act on the petition from the governor against the Speaker over issues raised in the impeachment notice.
He invited Speaker Odo to explain issues in the petition, especially the forgery charge leveled against Governor Chime. Lending credence to the invitation by the Police, while speaking to Journalists in Enugu, Odo said: “I wish to bring to your notice that till this morning, the Commissioner of Police has not obeyed the order, instead, in the evening of Wednesday, the Commissioner of Police through his office invited me on account of a petition allegedly written by the Governor. According to them, the petition was highlighting some issues we raised in the impeachment notice.
“I want to state clearly that the issue of impeachment notice is a legislative matter and ought not to be taken over by the Police. I had earlier told you that my personal life and that of my family are in the hands of the Governor of Enugu State and the Commissioner of Police.”
An Analyst, James Oha said: “This is no longer democracy. We cannot continue to deceive ourselves with practicing democracy when indeed we are practicing impunity and lawlessness.
How does it sound that the Police, which should enforce the law is the one breaking the law? Police is not helping the state by any standard, knowing full well that the judiciary has been on strike in the last two months. I think the citizens should help call the Police to order.”
An official of government who spoke to the Guardian said Governor Chime “is a respecter of rule and law,” adding that in the last eight years, he had allowed all arms of government to work freely and independently for the growth of the state.
“That he authored a petition does not mean he is undermining the work of the state Assembly. He believes in rule or law that was why he wrote the petition. Some persons will ordinarily use whatever means available to them to ensure that the lawmakers who are though on illegality do not operate in the state.
He has not asked any of them not to go to the state House of Assembly. “If the Police are occupying the House of Assembly, it is not the governor’s fault. He is as worried as any other person that the process of democracy is being infringed upon. He has made his position clear that the lawmakers should carry out their responsibilities.
That was why he took out time last week to respond to the allegations raised on their impeachment notice. He is not afraid of anything and has promised to answer to anything done during his tenure since 2007.”
Although Chime has not been impeached, what is happening now appears like a recap of events of last administration under Chimaroke Nnamani, where the lawmakers had split over the move to impeach him on purported charges of highhandedness and corruption.
That was in 2001. In the Nnamani case, however, while majority of the members called G-16 could not sit, the G-8, which supported him continued to sit at the old Eastern House of Assembly and churning out resolutions that suited the administration. In the present circumstance, none of the factions had sat.
While Nnamani learnt from the incident, braced the odds to contest, won his re-election and saw a united Assembly that produced the incumbent administration of the state; Governor Chime on the other hand, might be leaving office with the stigma of leaving behind a divided or crisis ridden House of Assembly.
He began his eight-year leadership of the state with a united House of Assembly made up of 24 members, all of the PDP stock. They worked well until allegations bothering on borrowing of N11billion loan, concession of water, primitive sale of public property; forgery of 2012 supplementary appropriation among allegations came up.