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Enugu Assembly Debacle: Chime Fights Back

With Hon. Eugene Odoh-led G-16 lawmakers insisting on the impeachment of Governor Sullivan Chime, for what it described as ‘gross misconduct,’ and the governor rolling out his ‘arsenal,’to wage war, the stage appears set for the battle royal in Enugu State in the next few days, reports Peterclaver Egbochue

In what looks like preparing the theatre for a battle royal, the political debacle playing out in Enugu State may have entered into another stage as the Governor, Sullivan Chime, is said to have taken steps aimed at ruffling the wings of the impeached Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odoh.

The Governor, according to an impeccable source, has ordered his Chief Security Officer (CSO), to storm the home of the Speaker Tuesday night, to seize and deliver to Government House, all official vehicles and other items of office, in his possession.

The CSO was confirmed to have called Odoh and informed him that a police team led by him was on its way to recover official property of the Speaker.

Not done with that, he has reportedly ordered the entire Local Government Chairmen in the state to mobilise and fill 10-commuter buses, each to the assembly complex.

The plan, according to our source, is to camp protesters around the State Assembly Complex to prevent the G.16 lawmakers from sitting and making good their threat of impeachment of the Governor.

It was gathered that the governor was disturbed over the planned impeachment and the refusal of the house to approve the N11billion loan request.

A source told The Union that the money, almost in its entirety, had actually been spent through under-table bank dealings, a situation which would amount to serious infraction of banking procedure if there is no formalisation of the transaction, eventually, as required in law.

It is further believed that heads would also roll in banks if this project fails fails.

Meanwhile, Governor Chime has insisted that the Odoh-led faction of the House of Assembly had not served him any impeachment notice.

Reacting to the report, Chime while addressing a press conference in the state, expressed shock over the allegation of forgery brought against him by the lawmakers.

He said the action of the lawmakers was malicious and would never see the light of day.

The governor took time to explain his activities in the service of the state and restated that he had not stolen the state’s fund and would not be daft to broach the subject of borrowing N11 billion almost at the completion of his tenure.

According to the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, the accusation leveled against Mr. Chime was unfounded and intended to diminish the person of the Governor who by all standard had done creditably well for the state.

He said the factional House, led by Odoh, was merely struggling to justify their irrational action by spinning lies against the governor.

On his part, Hon. Odoh, has described his impeachment by eight members of the House, as a ‘shame to democracy’.

Eight lawmakers loyal to the State Governor, had on Monday, impeached the Speaker and shot down the Assembly indefinitely.

But Odoh insisted that despite the purported impeachment by the few members of the House, the impeachment process would continue on Tuesday, insisting that the Governor had been duly served contrary to his claim.

He however, maintained that the ‘purported impeachment’ was impunity in the face of democracy, which had diminished the Enugu State House of Assembly as well as the Executive arm of government.

“I am really shocked that the Governor, who is a lawyer, could champion eight people seating down to remove a Speaker when he knows that it requires two-third. It is a shame to democracy and I am equally ashamed, as I am speaking this. There is nothing like removal of the Speaker. It is mere exercise in futility and they have showed the world the kind of impunity going   on in Enugu State,” he submitted.

He insisted that trouble started after the House refused to approve the N11 billion loan which the governor forwarded to the House on grounds that it was not morally wise and would be a burden on the incoming government, as the loan would be paid under Irrevocable Standing Payment order within three years.

But contrary to Oboh’s statement, one of     the eight lawmakers maintained that removing a principal officer in the House required simple majority.

Giving credence to the emergence of a ‘new speaker’ in the face of the present circumstance, the Deputy Leader of the House and Chairman House Committee on Information, said, “once the House becomes dissatisfied with the performance of a house officer, it required the majority members of the House to remove such an officer. Nigeria’s democracy cannot grow if the practitioners are not willing to be democrats.”

Reacting to the debacle, a Legal Practitioner, Wahab Shittu, while speaking on “Sunrise Daily on Tuesday,” stated that both factions of the house had erred in their approach to impeach the governor.

Reading from the constitution, Mr. Shittu stated that the simple interpretation of the constitution means that both factions of the Enugu House of Assembly had erred in the manner they had gone about their intentions.

While the eight lawmakers trying to protect the Governor by impeaching the Speaker could not possibly be taken serious because they are not up to two-third of the House members, the 15 trying to impeach the Governor had also acted against the constitution.

According to him, those who had served the Governor an impeachment notice could not proceed except from the premises of the legislative house and their impeachment notice was not binding if not served to all members of the House.

Having stated few constitutional breaches already noticed, he stated that since the 15 lawmakers had been prevented from convening in the assembly, insisting on impeaching the Governor, if done in another location, would be unconstitutional.

He also berated the Police for preventing lawmakers from gaining access into the assembly premises, wondering why the Police whose duty it is to protect democratic institutions should prevent political officers from performing their duties in a democracy.

Mr. Shittu would not condemn the morality of allegations from both parties but stated that it is the constitutional function of the House of Assembly to represent, make laws and perform oversight functions.

Against this backdrop, he maintained that all members should be allowed to enter the assembly and together decide what actions they want to take.

On the refusal of the House to approve the Governor’s request for N11billion, he said; “They should consider that request only on merit,” adding that the interest of the people only should matter and not other factors like its timing.

He added also that the Nigerian Constitution needs some of its sections properly interpreted.

An example of this is the argument about what is needed to carry out a major function like the impeachment of a Speaker in the House – if it is two-thirds of the all members of the House or two-thirds of members present at the session.

Although, Mr. Shittu had earlier argued that the simple interpretation of two-thirds of all members of the House is what the constitution recommends for any key decision to be binding, he suggested that a ‘code of political and ethical conduct’ be put in place to guide how politicians carry out their activities and it should be binding on every lawmaker.

He emphasized that the constitution must clarify what specific actions should amount to “gross misconduct” as the allegation has been widely used as a tool to settle scores.

“Nigeria needs to strengthen two key institutions; the judiciary and the Police; if these two institutions are strengthened and act professionally, all these impunity will stop,” he stressed.

With the two camps poised for action, the next few days will determine where the pendulum will swing-impeachment of the governor or the Speaker.

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