By Yemi Adebisi,
While Nigerians are waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan to hand over the baton to the President-elect, Mohammadu Buhari, on Friday May 29, power tussle between the executive and legislative arms of government in some states indicated that all is not well afterward especially because of impeachment ‘fever’ that has enveloped the states.
Even principal officers and heads of parastastals at the Federal level, including the recently removed Inspector-General of Police are not spared from this ‘political stray bullets’ simply because those who appointed them initially, have allegedly discovered that they did not ‘deliver’ as expected.
Though, impeachment of speaker of House of Assembly or state governor has become rampant in the current political dispensation in Nigeria, the drama that ensued in the ongoing process of removing Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, by a faction of the Enugu State’s House of Assembly, has generated a lot of controversies. Considering the weighty allegations levelled against Chime and the division between the lawmakers, political analysts observed that the incoming government has a lot of forces to contend with to curb corruption.
Residents of Enugu State were thrown into confusion on Monday, May 4 as 14 out of 24 members of House of Assembly, led by the speaker, Eugene Odo, signed and served an impeachment notice on the governor.
The notice, coming barely four weeks to the expiration of second term of Governor Chime in office, followed an alleged forgery of N12 billion 2012 supplementary budget.
The Speaker and his group had earlier converged in the House as early as 4a.m for this plot but the Police prevented them from gaining entry into the premises until about 6.30a.m.
Concluding the verdict after the sitting, Odo instructed the Clerk of the House to serve the impeachment notice on the Governor immediately.But before the adjournment of the sitting, the Speaker announced the suspension of three members of the House which include the Deputy Speaker, Chime Oji, John Kelvin Ukuta and Daniel Ogbuabor for anti-party activities.
Few minutes later, what looked like a comedy session took place inside the legislative chamber.
The suspended Deputy Speaker, Oji came in and stood for the Speaker. Seven other members of the House, who are believed to be loyal to Governor Chime, also joined him for another sitting.
At the sitting, another suspended member, Ukuta, moved a motion for the recall of a suspended member, Johnbull Nwagu and a member, Chinedu Nwamba, seconded the motion.
Following his recall as if he was the next cast in the dramatic episode, Nwagu entered and joined the group of Chime loyalists, bringing their number to nine.
The group also approved a motion, suspending the Speaker, Odo and six other members of his group and stripped the principal officers among them of their positions and benefits. Those suspended with the Speaker include Anichukwu Nwankwo, Okechukwu Nwoke, Paul Ogbe, Nze Michael Onyeze, Chika Ene and Udo-Okoye.
Ukuta further moved the motion for the nomination of other colleagues to fill the vacant seats created by the suspension as well as nominating Chinedu Nwamba, (representing Nsukka East constituency) to be sworn-in as Speaker of the House.
The last scene of the drama was the approval of the motion by this group even as Nwamba was eventually sworn in as the new Speaker of the House and ‘things’ eventually fell apart.
The hunter seems to have been hunted! Chime had last week ordered an audit of the accounts of the House as a reprisal for the rejection of his recent actions by the House, including the concession of the State’s Water Corporation to a private company; attempt to obtain N11 billion loan; building of a shopping mall near the House of Assembly Complex; and allocation of part of the International Conference Centre (ICC) to private developers.
Similarly, the Governor also forwarded a letter to the House, through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anthony Ani (SAN), warning the lawmakers that they have no powers to freeze the account of any government agency.
The letter was prompted by a resolution passed by the Assembly last week, freezing the accounts of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) in all commercial banks pending the conclusion of investigation into allegations of financial recklessness against the Chairman, Miss Nneka Onuora.
However, a principal officer of the House, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that the State’s Auditor General has started an audit of the House books.
It was likewise gathered that the legislators also reliably learnt that Chime doled out N2 million each to six lawmakers, including a suspended lawmaker, who he believes are still loyal to him.
The latest development has heightened tension in the State since last Tuesday, when the lawmakers passed a resolution, asking the Accountant General of the State, Pascal Okolie, to furnish the Assembly with written information before April 26, on the financial position of the State since January, including Internally Generated Revenue.
The lawmakers had earlier put Okolie through the mill over the non-release of their overhead for March.
While majority of the lawmakers are opposed to the plan, about eight members, led by the deputy speaker, Chime Oji, supported the governor.
The eight members met the governor late Sunday, and attempted to approve the governor’s request.
Few days ago, Chime finally opened the can of worm on the impeachment plot, saying the lawmakers were playing a dangerous game.
He denied forging any budget document or tried borrowing any money barely three weeks to his exit, saying the latest antics of the House of Assembly is as a result of his refusal to succumb to their monetary appeals after they had approved the loan.
His words: “Since last year September, the said 11 billion naira they are raising their voices against had been long approved by the Legislators and it is the same figure that is reflecting in the approved budget that you also have in the supplementary budget, which they are now referring to as fake.”
Though he claimed he has not received the impeachment notice, he said the moves by the lawmakers against him will not prevail as the constitution requires a simple two third majority, which the house, as presently constituted, would find impossible to realise.
To dowse the tension as expected, the governor-elect, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who belongs to Chime’s political dynasty has called on the two factions of the State Assembly to sheath their swords and return to status quo for the amicable resolution of the contending issues.
Beyond any sentiment, observers said it was very unfortunate that these individuals that are trusted with the fortunes of the state could prefer to wash their dirty linen in the open so conspicously “for their selfish interest.”
It would also be recalled that last year, upon related unresolved differences, the House impeached the deputy governor, Sunday Onyebuchi, swearing in Reverend Raphael Ifeanyichukwu Nwoye as new deputy on September 1, 2014.
Chime had said with the replacement of Onyebuchi with Nwoye, the machinery of government will continue to run smoothly.
“Drawing the analogy of a broken down vehicle, we have just replaced a bad spark plug, the vehicle is repaired and journey will be smooth again,” he said.
The height of the tension in the House has eventually led to a compulsory recess for the lawmakers.
Be that as it may, the irony of it all is that since the House has gone on recess and the governor-elect has intervened in the prevailing brohaha, there would be enough space for both political athletes to play a settlement game and possibly equalise their goals before the hand over date.
So, if Chime escaped the impeachment saga, what happens to the missing billions?
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