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Emergence Of Chime’s Men In Enugu Legislature

Posted: Jun 9, 2015 at 1:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Emmanuel Nzomiwu –   Enugu

 

Speculations that the immediate past Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime still calls the shots in the State may have been confirmed by the emergence of his preferred candidates as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.

At the inauguration of the First Session of the Sixth Enugu State House of Assembly on Monday, Hon. Edward Ubochi representing Enugu East Urban Constituency emerged as Speaker while Donatus Uzogbado representing Oji River emerged as Deputy Speaker.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Ubochi and Uzogbado who were members of the last Enugu State House of Assembly, emerged unopposed on the floor of the House on Monday, but it was reliably gathered that their emergence was the outcome of intrigues that played out during a meeting between the new Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and the lawmakers on Sunday night.

According to inside sources, while the meeting was going on, Chime walked into the venue and presented the names of his preferred candidates as principal officers of the House who all belonged to the group of nine lawmakers loyal to him in the last House.

Chime pencilled down Ubochi for Speaker, Uzogbado for Deputy Speaker and former factional Speaker of the last House, Chinedu Nwamba, as leader of the House.

Tempers reportedly rose at the meeting as soon as Chime presented his list, with some returning lawmakers who belonged to the group of 15 lawmakers in the last House that served him impeachment notice, threatening to stage a walkout.

Two of the aggrieved returning lawmakers, Hon. Mathias Ekweremadu and Iloabuchi Aniagu, were said to have vehemently opposed Chime’s list, insisting that it was an attempt to witch-hunt them for the role they played in the last House.

Sources at the meeting said it took the intervention of Ugwuanyi to calm frayed nerves and it was agreed that Ubochi and Uzogbado should emerge as Speaker and Deputy Speaker while no agreement was reached on the positions of Leader, Deputy Leader and Chief Whip.

Consequently, at the inauguration of the House on Monday, former Leader, Hon Sunday Ude-Okoye, representing Awgu North moved a motion for the House to adopt Ubochi as Speaker and it was seconded by member representing Udenu Constituency, Ikechukwu Ezeugwu.

The former factional Speaker, Nwamba, moved a motion for the House to adopt Uzogbado as Deputy Speaker and it was seconded by Nelson Uduji representing Awgu South.

Earlier in a goodwill message to the House, Governor Ugwuanyi who was represented by the Clerk of the House, Chukwurah, congratulated all the new lawmakers for offering themselves to serve the state with the mandate of their constituents.

Last week, Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, proclaimed the inauguration of the First Session of the Sixth Enugu State House of Assembly. The Clerk of the House, Christopher A. Chukwurah, made the disclosure in a statement on Wednesday.

The proclamation by the governor automatically terminated the lifespan of the Fifth Enugu State House of Assembly and denied the members an opportunity for a valedictory session.

About two months ago, the Speaker of the House, Eugene Odo, constituted a five-man committee to organise the valedictory session. Odo constituted the committee shortly after the House passed a resolution, asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the Chairman of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB), Miss Nkiru Onuora.

A week earlier, the House rejected a request by the then Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, for an approval for him to obtain N11 billion loan on behalf of the state government.

The House also issued a warrant to the Commissioner of Police to arrest the Accountant General of the State, Pascal Okolie, for failing to honour three invitations to appear before the House and explain why the overhead due to the House was being withheld.

Okolie later appeared and blamed the delay in the release of overhead on the cash crunch in the country caused by the drop in oil prices. Not satisfied with the explanation, the House ordered the Accountant General to furnish it with an up-to-date financial account of the state government including contingency fund.

But Governor Chime who felt he could no longer condone the perceived attacks of the House on his appointees and policies, including the allocation of land near the House of Assembly Complex to Park and Shop, allocation of land in the International Conference Centre (ICC) to private developers and concession of Water Corporation, ordered the Auditor General to look into the books of the House.

The Executive and Legislative face-off reached its climax on May 4 when 15 members of the House led by the Speaker gathered at about 6a.m at the House of Assembly complex and issued an impeachment notice to the governor for gross misconduct.

An alleged forgery of the 2012 Supplementary Budget and inflation of the contract for the new state Secretariat from N13 billion to N22 billion even when a company submitted a bid of N8.5 billion for the contract, were among the gross misconduct allegations the lawmakers levelled against the governor.

The Speaker’s group also suspended the Deputy Speaker, Chime Oji, and two other members of the House before adjourning the sitting.

Shortly after the Odo-led group issued the governor the impeachment notice in the early hours of May 4, a group of nine members of the House loyal to the governor, reconvened with the suspended Deputy Speaker presiding, and announced the suspension of the Speaker and other principal officers.

The group of lawmakers loyal to Chime appointed one of them, Hon. Chinedu Nwamba, as the new Speaker. Shortly after his election, Nwamba adjourned the House indefinitely and directed the police to seal off the House of Assembly complex.

Following the directive of the factional speaker, who had the backing of the governor, the police sealed off the House of Assembly complex and barricaded the entrance to stop anybody from entering the place.

There was a twist on May 11 when the Federal High Court sitting in Enugu ordered the police to vacate the Assembly complex. The order was to subsist pending the determination of a suit brought by the Speaker, Eugene Odo, on behalf of 15 members of the House.

The court presided over by Justice D.V. Agishi also restrained the police from curtailing the personal liberty of the Speaker, and also ordered that policemen should not be seen around the House of Assembly complex except at points determined by the Speaker.

It further ordered that the Speaker and other 15 members of the House should be allowed access to the legislative complex, particularly the chambers.

The orders were made in an interim injunction granted in favour of the Speaker who filed a suit before the court on behalf of 15 members of the House. The respondents in the suit are the eight members of the House loyal to Governor Chime, and the Nigerian Police.

The matter was adjourned to May 19, but the police, however, refused to comply with the order even with a threat by the court to commit the Inspector General of Police to prison for disobedience of court order.

Rather, the police invited the Speaker, Odo, over the impeachment notice issued to the governor by 15 members of the House.

The invitation was prompted by a petition written by Chime, the outgoing governor, to the police, complaining about an allegation of forgery made against him in the said impeachment notice.

Odo confirmed to journalists that the police sent an invitation to him and former National Auditor of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ray Nnaji, and some members of the House. He said that he had earlier told the press that his life and that of his family are in the hands of the Governor of Enugu State and the Commissioner of Police.

Odo who spoke through his lawyer, Chijioke Okibe, told the court that the respondents had been served the order but up till then, no reaction had come from them. The presiding judge, Justice D.V. Agishi, said that since the matter was for mention, the parties should take a date for hearing.

Until the crisis that broke out a month to the end of the Sixth Assembly, many people saw the House of Assembly as a rubber stamp of Governor Chime. There was no doubt that the House ran into trouble when it wanted to assert its authority as an independent arm of government.

Are there lessons in the entire saga for the new Enugu State House of Assembly? The answer lies in the lines above.