Law Experts In Imo State Tackle Governor Rochas Okorocha Over Abuse Of The Constitution In Appointing House Of Assembly Members As Local Govt Chairmen
Some lawyers in Imo State weekend faulted the recent appointment of the members of the Imo State House of Assembly as the Local Government Caretaker Committee chairmen by Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Governor Okorocha had penultimate weekend appointed the 27 lawmakers as the caretaker chairmen of the 27 council areas of the state.
He also appointed the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Acho Ihim and member representing Owerri North state constituency, Hon. Chukwuemeka Lloyd as the chairman and member of task force committee on motor parks management respectively.
This is even as the members representing Isu and Ideato South State Constituencies, Mrs. Ngozi Obiefule and Hon. Ikechukwu Amuka were appointed as the chairmen task force on street trading and task force on environmental sanitation respectively.
Six members of the Assembly, who are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), declined to accept the offer saying it was unconstitutional to combine their duties as lawmakers with that of the executive.
Speaking in separate interviews with The UNION, the lawyers declared that the appointments were illegal and a plot by the governor to mortgage the legislators. According to Chief Uche Edozie Nwaugo, the appointment was an affront on the constitution and “remain unconstitutional because there is separation of powers among the three arms of government with regards to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
“It only goes to show that Governor Rochas Okorocha is belittling the members of the Imo State House of Assembly. He has continued to show his disdain and disregard for the constitution. That is why he continues to ridicule it”, Nwaugo said.
He also said that by reducing the speaker and members of the state House of Assembly to mere motor park task force committee chairman and members was even more insulting irrespective of how much they were envisaging making from such exercise.
Nwaugo, who was a third republic commissioner for agriculture in the state, said by accepting the positions, the speaker and the members of the state house of assembly had compromised their constitutional position of making good laws and checkmating excesses of the executive.
“By this action, the speaker has now allowed himself to be made a messenger to the executive arm of the state government and the people of the state expect him and the lawmakers to relinquish their positions and reject the appointments”, he said.
Former state publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Enyinna Onuegbu, said lawmakers who accepted the appointments to serve as task force members and Local government caretaker committee chairmen were a disappointment to the people of the state.
He threatened to sue the governor and the members of the state house of assembly if they did not revoke or reject the appointments, because according to him, “It is either they resign their position or we will use the court to declare their seats vacant.
“As a lawyer, I am disappointed in the members for accepting the appointment just for the purpose of being seen to be spending government money.
I am (also) disappointed in the leadership of the House of Assembly, who are determined to show so early in their four-year tenure that they are the governor’s apron spring. “The members of the House of Assembly are legislators and not a branch of the executive.
Having been elected into office, you cannot appoint such an elected person into position that is elective or appointive. “The House of Assembly is supposed to be a house that screens those who are to head the local government in a transitional arrangement in the absence of elected executive chairmen. (Therefore) it is illegal.
A situation where the elected members of parliament take up another appointive position from the executive, the House of Assembly will now be unable to do the oversight function that the legislature does over the activities of local government.
“In other words, they are now the ones executing the budgets of the local government and the ones checkmating themselves in terms of oversight functions. That is also wrong.
“Thirdly, by accepting that appointment, they have clearly mortgaged their conscience to the whims and caprices of the executive led by Governor Okorocha. They can no longer be in a position to do their jobs as the watchdog of the executive.
“Fourthly, the House of Assembly is supposed to pass the budget of a state and that of the local government in the absence of a local government legislative council.
In other words, by leading the local government, the house of assembly will now be in a position to present the budget to themselves and approve it for themselves.
“Finally, the question is: are the members of the house of assembly the only people that are fit to be appointed as the local government administrators. Rochas is only trying to get them to soil their hands so that they will not have any moral ground to question the activities of the executive branch of the government.
That is why we are against it”, he said. Onuegbu also expressed disappointment on the speaker, Hon. Ihim, for descending so low to take up the position of task force committee on motor park management.
“He is the biggest joke of this dispensation. How can number three citizen of the state accept the appointment to serve as motor parks task force chairman. It is ridiculous”, he said.
Also speaking, chieftain of All Progressives Congress in the state, Chief Basil Nnaoma Chukwu, said though the governor’s action was illegal, he might have a reason for the appointments.
“Constitutionally, the roles of legislators are to make laws, perform oversight functions and checkmate the excesses of the executive among other roles spelt out in the constitution. The three arms of the government—legislature, executive and judiciary—act as checks and balances to one another.
“So, these three months now that they are to be saddled with and take care of the affairs of the local government areas, the volume of assignments given to them is highly demanding.
These things are going to impinge on their constitutional duties of making laws for good governance and peace and development in Imo State. “I don’t know the reason why the governor did that. But I don’t think it is what the constitution demands”, Chukwu said.
On the statement of the deputy that their action was backed by law, the APC chieftain said accepting to serve as local government caretaker chairmen was not part of their oversight function.
– Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri