Governor Sullivan Chime Battles To Stave Off An Impeachment Threat From The House Of Assembly Amidst Allegations Of Arm-Twisting And Counter-Impeachment Of Speaker
Amah Baldwin Amah
Just 25 days to quitting office, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State has found himself at odds with the State House of Assembly, which yesterday, served him with an impeachment notice. The service, which came as a surprise to the governor, begins the process of the governor’s removal from office by state legislators said to be working at odds with the governor. But another group of Enugu legislators, led by the deputy governorelect, Hon Cecilia Ezeilo, and the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Chime Orji, in a counter move, swiftly slammed a suspension order on the Speaker Eugene Odoh and some members of his group. Governor Chime and the Assembly members had in the past years enjoyed a good working relationship. The Assembly also worked to protect his job when he was hospitalised overseas for over three months. 14 of the 24 lawmakers, led by Speaker Odo, had sat Monday morning and read a notice of impeachment against Chime for allegedly forging the N12 billion 2012 Supplementary Budget.
Clerk of the House, Christopher Chukwurah, was directed to serve the notice on the governor. The Deputy Speaker, Chime Oji, who was recently elected to represent Enugu North/South Federal Constituency, Hon. Emeka Ogbuabor, and Deputy House Leader, John Kevin Ukwuta, were also suspended at the sitting for alleged anti-Assembly activities. The speaker and the 13 members of his group, The UNION learnt, found their way into the legislative chamber about 6.30am and held the sitting after the police had prevented them from gaining entry into the House. The speaker later had his way after complaining to police men who were stationed on the premises. The lawmakers had complained that the governor was using some members of the House to disrupt its activities as punishment for allegedly refusing to approve the N11 billion loans he had requested. The mace of the Assembly was also taken away after the sitting. However, the situation changed about 7.00am when the suspended Deputy Speaker, and six other members of the House, including the Deputy Governor-elect, Hon. Ezeilo, moved into the chamber and conducted another sitting.
One member later joined them. They also came with a mace. After a short prayer, Hon. John Kevin Ukwuta, who was also suspended by the Odo-led faction, moved a motion that Hon. Johnbull Nwagu, who had been suspended by the House, be recalled. Hon. Chinedu Nwamba seconded the motion. The Chime group of nine lawmakers thereafter lifted the suspension slammed on Nwagu for misconduct and invited him to join the group bringing their number to nine. Hon. Ukwuta also moved another motion calling for the suspension of the Speaker Odoh and six other members of his faction including Anichukwu Nwankwo, Okechukwu Nwoke, Paul Ogbe, Nze Michael Onyeze, Chika Eneh and SKE Udo- Okoye. The motion was upheld by all nine members. Principal officers of the Assembly, who were among those suspended by the Chime faction, were also stripped of their positions and benefits. Ukwuta further moved for the nomination of his colleagues to fill vacancies created by the suspension.
For this, he nominated Chinedu Nwamba, representing Nsukka East constituency to be sworn in as Speaker of the House. The motion was unanimously upheld and Nwamba was sworn in as Speaker of the group loyal to Governor Chime. Crisis was said to have begun after the Assembly accused Chime of forging a N12 billion Supplementary budget and also asking for permission to borrow N11 billion for some specific projects. A source close to the State Government told The UNION that the permission to borrow N11 billion had earlier been granted by the Assembly in November 2014. He also accused the legislators, most of who lost their re-election bid, of trying to arm-twist Chime into approving a farewell package for them. According to our source, Chime had refused overtures from the lawmakers, especially those who would not be returning in June, for a severance package.
“They are using the N11 billion loan issues as alibi. The actual thing is that most of them won’t be returning in the next administration. They lost their re-election bid and so have been making overtures to the governor to approve a severance package for them which he has refused to do. “Secondly, the loan was presented to them last November and it was approved after the governor had applied to them for permission. In the letter to the House, Chime listed out all the projects where the money would be spent. They all saw it and based on their conviction, they approved it. That was last November. How come that became an issue now,” our source queried. But a source close to the lawmakers disagreed with Chime’s defence stating that “the Assembly found the request for N11 billion loan, a few weeks to vacating office, curious. “What projects does he want to initiate, or complete now that his tenure is just about three weeks to go?” the source asked. The source also alleged that the Chime group was deeply worried and was dangling some huge sums to the anti-Chime group to drop the impeachment threat and support it. The Chime group of lawmakers has nine members while the anti- Chime group has 15 members.