Thousands Take Over Streets Of Enugu In Support Of Governor Sullivan Chime As Speaker Eugene Odo Dismisses His Impeachment As Legislative Recklessness

Amah Baldwin

The political tide seems to have waved in support of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State as thousands of residents took over the streets of the state capital, marching in his support, and against the Group of 15 lawmakers who had served him an impeachment notice on Monday. The solidarity marchers came from the 17 local government areas of the state. They also recognised Hon. Chinedu Nwamba as the new Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly. Nwamba was recalled from an earlier suspension by the Group of 9 lawmakers, who also lifted the suspension order and elected him their speaker leaving Odo frozen in the cold. The placard-carrying demonstrators first visited the Enugu House of Assembly Complex at Independence Layout before proceeding to the Lion Building, Government House, where the Deputy Governor, Pastor Ifeanyi Raphael Nwoye, received and addressed them.

Before the Deputy Governor’s speech, the demonstrators through Hon. Albert Eze, Co-ordinating Chairman of PDP in the state, expressed reservations over the sudden belligerence exhibited by some legislators against the government. Hon. Eze however said that in spite of the distractions by the Assemblymen, “We have come to celebrate the man God gave us; the man that turned forests into roads; the man who was at the centre of the actualisation of the 4-point agenda of the government”. According to him, Enugu people, and indeed the PDP, would “resist with the last drop of our blood any attempt to pay you (Governor Chime) back with evil plot”. Both the PDP women leader, Mrs. Oby Nwofor, and the youths leader, spoke in the same vein, describing Enugu as a peaceful state and one of the best in the comity of progressive states in Nigeria.

They promised any person attempting to undermine Governor Chime a stiff fight. “We will vehemently fight anybody waging war against our able governor,” they chorused. Some of the placards read: Bye Bye Eugene Odo! Chinedu Nwamba is Enugu Speaker! Sullivan Chime is God sent! Responding, the Deputy Governor, expressed gratitude to the demonstrators for believing in the Chime administration. “Enugu State has spoken”, he said, in apparent reference to massive presence of Enugu people for the solidarity march. He went on: “PDP in Enugu State is a family. God has led Enugu State through His Excellency Sullivan Chime and the state has witnessed peace, understanding and tolerance. “The enemy is not happy with Enugu State. But you are telling the world by your demonstration that Enugu is at peace”, he said. Deputy Governor Nwoye concluded his response by imploring the people to be consistent in prayers for their leaders. “Prayer is our key,” he contended. “And today God has given us a new leader (Governor-elect Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi) to take over from Sullivan Chime,” he noted. Meanwhile the Group of 9, which announced impeachment of Speaker Odo and replaced him with Hon. Nwamba, has received flaks from the lawmaker who described the action as, “legislative recklessness.” “My purported impeachment by the nine-man faction of the lawmakers is legislative recklessness and impunity,” Odo said. Odo said he remains Speaker of the Assembly, adding that Nwamba’s action was “illegal, unknown to law and unknown to democracy”. “The status quo remains.

I am still the speaker. It is only two-thirds of the 24 lawmakers that can impeach or suspend the speaker and only eight of them cannot suspend or impeach the speaker.“It is true that they formed a quorum but a quorum cannot impeach the speaker,” Odo argued. He however traced his travails to his refusal to sign a forged supplementary appropriation for 2012 which the governor allegedly wanted him and the clerk of the assembly to sign in 2015. According to Odo, the document had no records in the proceedings of the Assembly. On the genesis of the crisis in the Assembly, the speaker said it all began when the lawmakers declined to sign the N11bn loan sought by the governor, less than 60 days to the end of his tenure. “The governor surreptitiously called some members and gave them N2m each to impeach the speaker,” he alleged, adding that one of the lawmakers who felt that the impeachment was against his conscience pulled out, leaving only eight of them. He vowed that the Assembly would resume plenary on Tuesday, May 5. Meanwhile, the Eugene Odo-led faction of the House had earlier in the day served impeachment notice to Governor Chime on allegations of financial malpractices. But the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Chukwudi Achife said in Enugu that no notice of impeachment was served his boss as reported. He however stated that any action against the governor would hit the rocks, contending that whatever was happening in the Enugu House of Assembly was at the instance of some outgoing members.

A source at the Legislative Building told The UNION that the lawmakers had been on the heels of the Governor, requesting the approval of severance allowance for them, a request which did not go down well with the state Chief executive. The source who spoke in confidence said: “It is all about quest for money”. He recalled that both the Executive and the Legislature had been working in tandem for eight years without qualms. “It is all about who gets what before May 29 2015,” he explained. “Some of those who were not reelected are agitated that they are not going home with enough money in their kitty and any governor that is not ready to play ball is in trouble. That is just the crux of the matter,” he said. A copy of the impeachment notice made available to The UNION and titled ‘Notice Of Allegations And Impeachment Against His Excellency Barr. Sullivan Ihenacho Chime, The Executive Governor of Enugu State’ accused the governor of being “guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the function of the office of the governor”.

It raised five allegations against the governor bothering on “stealing” and “misappropriation” of public fund and property. The first allegation accused Chime of “misappropriation of public fund (N12,828,550,088) and forgery of public document titled supplementary appropriation law 2012”. It said “without budgetary provisions and appropriation law backing same, you, governor Sullivan Chime proceeded to spend public fund belonging to Enugu state to the tune of N12, 828,550,088 in 2012 and misappropriated and diverted the sum into your private pocket.” The House further alleged that “in order to cover this criminal and unconstitutional acts, you, Governor Sullivan Chime and your confederates subsequently proceeded to forge a document titled Enugu State of Nigeria Supplementary Appropriation law 2012”. On the second ground, the House accused Chime of “inflation of project costs an stealing of public funds through the Enugu State Project and Implementation Unit”.

Here, it alleged that “Governor Sullivan Chime created an amorphous body or organ, under your direct use and supervision, in the Enugu State Government House, called Project Development and Implementation Unit. This organ became a conduit pipe to siphon public funds by you, Governor Sullivan. This organ, whose activities were shrouded in secrecy, was used to execute over inflated projects whose values run into billions of naira without proper contract valuation and in most cases without proper or due execution or performance of the projects”. The House listed the Enugu Judiciary Auditorium and renovation of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium as some of such projects. Further, the Assembly accused Chime of the “sale, allocation and fraudulent acquisition of public property” further alleging that the governor “fraudulently sold, allocated and/or acquired several public property belonging to Enugu state government” adding that the governor used cronies and his children in making the acquisitions.

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