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ODO: The House Under Me Refuses To Mortgage Enugu State

17 May 2015   |   5:01 am
Why did you decide to impeach Governor Sullivan Chime? THE House of Assembly sat on May 4, 2015 and upon the signature of 14 members of the House raised impeachable offences against the governor.
Eugene Odoh

Enugu State House of Assembly speaker, Eugene Odoh

Chief Eugene Odo is the Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, which recently served Governor Sullivan Chime with notice of impeachment. In this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU, the Speaker gave reasons for the impeachment move.

Why did you decide to impeach Governor Sullivan Chime? THE House of Assembly sat on May 4, 2015 and upon the signature of 14 members of the House raised impeachable offences against the governor.

Part of the impeachable offences according to the signatories of motion on notice, has to do with forgery of 2012, to the tune of over N12bn.

The discovery was made about two months ago and the House served impeachment notice based on that. They equally saw that the bidding for the Secretariat was inflated from N13bn to N21bn without budgetary expenditure. The House also served the impeachment notice based on the effort of the Governor to stifle the workings of the House.

Most of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that relevant committees have had course to invite in the exercise of their oversight functions, were frustrated by the Governor.

Even when the House invited some key members of the line ministries and MDAs, most of them did not respond. And those who came, appeared in a manner, as if the House does not exist.

Documents requested from them were never supplied and those supplied were supplied without full details. The House felt that this is not how democracy should run and decided to serve impeachment notice on the governor.

The Governor alleged that the impeachment move was conceived because he did not accede to your request for money? I must state that no member of the House, including my humble self, requested for money from the governor. We have worked very well for the past eight years.

We had treated similar requests from him. We have had cause to borrow money with respect to agricultural programme and other programmes and nobody had requested money from him. The N11bn loan in question, don’t forget, we passed it in 2011 and no money was requested.

Before the passage, there was a guarantee that the ongoing projects will be completed within seven months from the time the loan was approved. But the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) turned down the resolution of the House to borrow such money.

The governor came back and approached UBA and the bank gave the condition that the only way they will approve such loan was for the House to make resolution under Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO), for 36 months. Now less than two months to the end of the administration, the governor approached us for the ISPO. We felt there is nothing wrong in government borrowing money, but in our wisdom, we could not find it expedient to enter into ISPO that will bind the next administration for the 36 months.

The money will be refunded on monthly basis at approximately N400m monthly in the internally generated revenue of the state. So, the House representing the people of the state, following even protests that were made by indigenes of the state, it is not proper to mortgage the state by engaging in loan at this time.

The House felt it would not be proper to grant this request. So, nobody requested any money. Why is it that this singular request that the House refused should be attached to money? The position of the governor is an exalted office that the occupant should not associate himself with lies and deceit.

Governor Chime also denied forging the 2012 supplementary appropriation. So, at what point did you discover the alleged forgery and how? The House had always seen the 2012 budget as something that has come and gone.

But by 2015, there were moves to make some corrections in the appropriation bill of 2012 by way of supplementary and the House said no, 2012 was a long time ago and it won’t be proper to do that. We did not enter into such backdating of the appropriation act.

That was how we knew and what I am telling you is not up to two months. When we got wind of this, we had to blow it up, that we are not part of it.

There is no way the Governor can come in 2015 to ask for some amendment on the 2012 supplementary appropriation. We are not talking about 2012 budget.

If we have an appropriation of over N12 billion in that year, what happened to the original document, which the House approved? I believe this is the question that he should answer.

You’re being accused of vendetta following your inability to succeed Governor Chime after your loyalty to him in the last eight years? The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to which all of us belong has a wide strategy to accommodate all members and I personally ran for governorship with the governor-elect.

He won and right there at the stadium, I congratulated him. I never organised parallel primary, I never went to court, I joined peacefully the campaigns of the 17 local government areas, alongside the Governor and even when they came to my local government, I hosted the entire party, including the Governor.

It will be a disservice to my personality to launch a vendetta. I merely ran for election and lost. So many other people ran election and also lost. The Governor participated in the election and could not get it. The issue before us is not about election; it is about doing what is right at the appropriate time.

The issue before us is whether to procure an ISPO loan less than 60 days to the end of the tenure. Is it is morally right? That is the issue; it is not about running for governorship.

If I make up my mind next time to run, I will do so. The governor has one vote. We believe that the person who won is part of the system and, of course, we took it in good fate.

He did not elect himself and it is not a personal issue. If it were personal issue, members would have granted the loan with a view to stifling next administration.

All the House did was in the interest of the people of Enugu State. The governor, in his interview, also denied the concession of water to a private organisation, which the House accused him of? He is denying it. As at present, the House through the committee on Water Resources brought the issue of water concession and invited the Commissioner and Managing Director of Water Corporation.

He was asked question on modalities for the concession and he told the House that they wanted to concession water in Enugu State. He was asked if an advert had been done on the arrangement and he said no. He was asked whether there was a bid to that effect, he said no.

He was asked about the competitors and he said nobody competed apart from AG Gold. The House asked about the laws empowering him to go into the arrangement and he could not answer. Water Corporation is not among the companies that should be privatised in Enugu State, it should not also be commercialised. The Water Corporation law is not even amended to include concession. We said if you want to do concession, anchor it on existing law and go through normal due process.

He went back and perhaps, conferred with the Governor and ignored what the House said. We ended up doing a resolution and communicating same to the governor.

I will be surprised to hear there is no concession. The concession agreement as forwarded by the Commissioner for Water Resources is there. Don’t forget that right there at the hallowed chambers, the House asked the Managing Director of Water Corporation about details of the concession and he said he did not know and he was further asked, how then did you sign and he said he signed because when he came there, the Governor was there, the Managing Director of AG Gold was there, the Commissioner was there and he felt that it was unnecessary to embarrass the state by not signing the document.

About three days later, the MD Water Corporation was fired for saying that he was not party to the agreement even though he signed. In ENSUBEB, the chairman House Committee discovered some anomalies in the ENSUBEB, where a whooping sum of N600mn was paid upfront to the contractor, who after more than a year of getting the money had done nothing tangible.

In contracts, you pay certain percentage and when the certificate is generated, you pay off. The committee on education invited the Chairman of ENSUBEB, who agreed that the N600 million which was the worth of the job was paid fully to the company and the worst part of it is that the company had not been able to execute the job.

Two board members of ENSUBEB also wrote petitions to the House, alleging some other underhand deals going on at ENSUBEB. That board never sat and few days after, the two members were fired.

We felt that it was not proper in the kind of democracy we operate. The House of Assembly has not sat since May 4 during which it resolved to serve the governor with impeachment notice.

The Police, acting on the instruction of the Governor barricaded the House of Assembly, sealed it up, and stationed their vehicles permanently at the gate of the House of Assembly.

This has prevented the House from sitting. As law-abiding citizens of the country, we had to approach the court to seek relief so that the House of Assembly is allowed to carry out its legitimate duties. Luckily for us, the court granted an order that the House of Assembly under the leadership of Honourable Eugene Odo alongside 14 other members be allowed inside the chambers to conduct their legislative proceedings.

They also went ahead to ask the police to vacate the premises of the House so that the lawmakers can carry out their legislative duties. They went further to order that the only time the Police could come to the House of Assembly will be on the application by my humble self as the Speaker. But unfortunately, the House has been under lock and key, even, when the court order had been served on the commissioner of Police, nothing had been done. Instead, what we are getting in turn, is the Police inviting Honourable Ray Nnaji and I to come and explain allegations raised on the impeachment notice.

This is the height of abuse of rule of law for a matter before the House of Assembly to now be an object of investigation by the police. Is the police trying to frustrate the workings of the House of Assembly or is the Police doing the governor’s bidding? Under what circumstance is the Police permitted to investigate allegations raised against governor? We use this medium to call on the Inspector General of Police to wade into this matter and avoid a break in law and order, which the Police Commissioner in the state is about orchestrating.

There is nowhere legislative matters are carried to the police for investigation. This is the situation we found ourselves; a situation of impunity, of lawlessness and lack of observance to the rule of law. So, it means the House will remain under lock and key and perhaps, until a new administration comes on board? That is not the situation.

We are going to sit at the House of Assembly by next Tuesday. At least, we have got the order. Let us see how they will disrupt the House from sitting. For us, whatever they are doing at the premises bothers on wholesome illegality. We will also look at how the Inspector General will react to the matter, but for us, we are carrying on with our sitting by Tuesday next week.

What circumstances led to the withdrawal of your security details? I don’t know about the circumstance. All I know is that majority of our security details, especially the Police were withdrawn, but the State Security officials attached to me are still intact. We have complained severally. There were promises by the Inspector General of Police to get them reinstated.

We pity the situation we found ourselves because it is not done in any democracy. At what point did you disagree with the nine lawmakers, who claimed they suspended you? Our point of departure is on their insistence that the loan should be approved.

They made themselves a willing tool in the hands of the Governor. He quartered them in a hotel and gave them N2million each and asked them to go and remove me.

They did as instructed. By the time they got to the House, they were only eight members; some of them declined, knowing that the exercise they were going to do was unlawful. It is unlawful in the sense that the Deputy Speaker, who presided over the sitting, has no business to do when the Speaker is around. He can only preside when the Speaker is not around.

The impeachment of the Speaker is a legitimate process, but you must fulfill the provisions in Section 192 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states that for you to remove a Speaker, the two-third majority of all the members must have consented to it.

Enugu House is a House of 24 and two-third is 16 and don’t forget that the person presiding ought not to vote. But here we have eight persons excluding the person presiding to removing the Speaker. That is why we said it is an exercise in futility and the court has equally said so.

Do you really believe that this course is achievable going by the time frame? Well, it is not for me to determine whether it will be achieved or not. The notices were issued by the members and, of course, will be served by substituted means. If at any stage we get to and get the requisite number, we move on. If we cannot get the requisite number, we may not go on because I will not engage in illegality. We must follow what the constitution says.

Don’t you think what is happening now presents a heavy burden on the incoming administration? I don’t think it will have any negative effect on the incoming administration. I discuss with them (lawmakers) almost on daily basis, but they (eight member faction) cannot come out in the open to state their views. The governor-elect had waded into the matter by calling for peace. The G-15 obeyed all the injunctions, but five hours later the other group flouted it.