The political crisis in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly is worsening with two different factions emerging. The larger group of 15 legislators wants to impeach the Governor Martin Elechi for allegedly misappropriating public funds while the remaining nine are accusing the speaker of embezzling funds and setting the Accounts Department of the Assembly complex on fire
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 16, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Ebonyi State House of Assembly is increasingly becoming a house of discord as the legislators have been divided into two factions. One of the faction, made up of 15 members of the legislature is allegedly loyal to Anyim Pius Anyim, secretary to the federal government and Dave Umahi, deputy governor of the State, who is also the governorship candidate of PDP in the April 11 election. The legislators, who have fled Ebonyi State to Abuja after fire gutted the Accounts Department of the State Assembly Complex wants to impeach the Governor Martin Elechi while the remaining nine are opposed to the move.
The 15 legislators led by the speaker of the House who was accused of embezzling funds setting the Accounts Department on fire by the faction of legislators loyal to Governor Elechi, have fled the Ebonyi State to Abuja alleging that the governor was after their lives. They have also served impeachment notice served to Governor Elechi on Friday February 27. The legislators are accusing the governor of acts of gross misconduct including misappropriating public fund and also razing the Assembly complex.
But the nine members of the House loyal to Governor Elechi have faulted the move to impeach the Governor. They stated that 15 of the 24 members of the House that signed the impeachment notice against the governor did not constitute two-thirds of the House, which according to them were 16 members.
Eni Uduma Chima, spokesperson of the nine Assembly members, told journalists “That the said resolution was passed in clear contravention of Section 188 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that, ‘A motion of the House of Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of the House of Assembly,” he said.
According to Chima, 15 members could not form the two-thirds majority of all the members of a 24-member House. He alleged that desperate attempts and overtures were being made to induce and intimidate the nine lawmakers into yielding, against the demand of justice and good conscience to the plot for the impeachment of the governor.
It is pertinent to state that the governor is accusing his deputy of spearheading the impeachment threats against him. Onyekachi Eni, chief press secretary to the governor, told Realnews that Umahi was not only one of the proponents of the impeachment drive, but also its champion. He described the deputy governor’s alleged action as a betrayal of trust. He also said contrary to Umahi’s claim that the governor ‘fired up’ his governorship ambition, he never promised anyone to succeed him. He explained that Elechi’s refusal to support Umahi was informed by the fact that having worked closely with Umahi, he came to the conclusion that his motivations and tendencies were not driven by the impulse to further the frontiers of development of Ebonyi State.
“The claims by the deputy governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi in his press briefing on Saturday, February 28, 2015 in Abakaliki is unsupportable. It is regrettable and unfortunate that the nation’s political terrain, and that of Ebonyi State, has become so polluted and bastardised to the extent that the values of decency, respect for superiors and elders has been thrown overboard. It is only in this clime that a deputy governor will not only challenge his principal openly, but also proceed to call him names. While freedom of expression is the right of every citizen under our laws, such freedom does not also confer on anybody the right to stand truth on its head in a desperate bid to deceive the public because of political ambition.
“It speaks volumes about the nation’s political class that while still being part of the government, the deputy governor sought to discredit the government he is supposedly serving. Umahi claimed that Governor Elechi fired the gubernatorial ambition in him by promising to hand over to him. The truth is that while they were and still are, many aspirants to the office of Governor, Elechi never promised anyone, least of all, the deputy governor that he will succeed him. Elechi’s refusal to support Umahi is informed by the fact that having worked closely with the deputy governor, he came to the conclusion that his motivations and tendencies are not driven by the impulse to further the frontiers of development of Ebonyi State. And if Umahi claims that he was never interested in being governor until Elechi fired his ambition, one wonders why he did not halt his aspiration when the governor expressly declined to support him.
“The truth which is known to everybody in Ebonyi State and beyond is that Umahi’s craving for the governorship is long-standing and almost borders on obsession. Umahi also said he has no hand in the impeachment threats to his principal. Such a claim is anything but true in view of the fact that the members of the House of Assembly championing the impeachment are the faction loyal to Umahi. In a recent interview published verbatim in many national dailies in the country, including Daily Sun of January 29, 2015 at page 59, Umahi supported the legislators when he listed a number of fanciful charges against Elechi, which he preposterously called impeachable offences against his boss. In effect, Umahi is not only one of the proponents of the impeachment drive but also its champion,” he said.
The impeachment move against the governor has made more than 10, 000 youths in the state to protest in Abakaliki, the state capital in favour of the Governor, on March 2. The protesters converged on the Abakaliki Township stadium, where they took off through the old Enugu Road to Ogoja Road and back to Government House gate, where they presented their letter of support to Governor Elechi. The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions such as; ‘Elechi is a man of peace,’ ‘Elechi has fulfilled all his electoral promises,’ ‘burning of Ebonyi State House of Assembly will not make someone governor,’ ‘Ebonyi is not for sale,’ among others, were guided by security operatives.
Leonard Igboke, one of the youth leaders during the protest said Elechi had kept faith with his campaign promises and had not committed any impeachable offence as alleged by some lawmakers in the state House of Assembly. They called on members of the state legislature not to carry out the impeachment, describing it as an attempt to smear the image of the governor and put the state in chaos and anarchy, as it will have adverse effect on the forthcoming general elections. They also called on the Nigeria Police, National Assembly, international community and the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, to intervene in the matter.
Nonetheless, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Council of Elders in the state has reprimanded Governor Elechi, accusing him of trying to cause disunity in the party and being behind the political crisis in the state. At a news conference in Abakaliki, the state capital, Frank Ogbuewu, chairman of the PDP Council of Elders in the state, said the governor should stop pretending to be a member of the PDP when his entire cabinet had moved to the Labour Party, LP. The Council of Elders said since the governor broke the principle enshrined in the Charter of Equity, it became impossible to condone his autocratic stance.
They said the governor was on his own in the present predicaments and the impeachment move because they would not dabble into the functions of the legislature in the state. The council advised Elechi to desist from dragging the name of Senator Anyim into the present crisis in the state, as the SGF has nothing to do with his woes.
Some members of the PDP in state have said they are neutral on the impeachment moves by the State House of Assembly against Elechi. They urged the State House of Assembly to employ due process and the rule of law in the discharge of their avowed responsibility. Emmanuel Onwe, a PDP stakeholder in the state, said aside from making laws that it was the constitutional duty of the House of Assembly to investigate allegations of acts of misconduct levelled against the governor so as to check the excesses of the executive arm of the government.
While absolving the PDP of any involvement in the matter, he rebuffed the assertion that the governor was still a member of the PDP, insisting that he had shifted his loyalty to the Labour party, LP. The party referred to the protesters as the members of the Labour Party whom the governor is presently paying allegiance to.