Crisis erupted in Enugu State on Monday as 14 members of the state House of Assembly, led by the Speaker, Eugene Odoh, commenced moves to impeach Governor Sullivan Chime.
The governor is facing impeachment barely three weeks to the end of his tenure in office.
He will complete two terms of four years on May 29, having first won election as governor of Enugu State in 2007.
But in a dramatic twist, another group of lawmakers loyal to Chime countered the impeachment move against him by “suspending” Odoh, and electing a new Speaker in his place.
The Odoh-led lawmakers, who resolved to serve an impeachment notice on Chime at a sitting which held in the legislative chambers at 6.30am, accused the governor of gross misconduct.
It was gathered that the police had initially tried to stop the lawmakers from sitting.
The 14 lawmakers specifically accused Chime of forging a N12bn supplementary budget in 2012.
The Clerk of the House, Mr. Christopher Chukwurah, was directed to serve the notice on Chime without any delay.
Besides moving to sack Chime, the Odoh-led group also moved against some of the governor’s loyalists in the Assembly, including the Deputy Speaker, Chime Oji, who was recently elected to represent Enugu North/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Oji, who is related to the governor, was suspended alongside Emeka Ogbuabor and the Deputy House Leader, John Ukuta, for allegedly working against the interests of the House.
Following the sitting, the lawmakers removed the mace, in an apparent bid to forestall any attempt by the pro-Chime camp to counter the impeachment move.
However, barely 30 minutes later, Chime loyalists, including Deputy Speaker, Oji, Ukuta and Deputy Governor-elect, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, the running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in the April 11 poll, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, held their own sitting with a different mace.
At the sitting, the Chime-loyalists suspended Odoh and some members of his camp, including Anichukwu Nwankwo, Okechukwu Nwoke, Paul Ogbe, Nze Michael Onyeze, Chika Eneh, Theresa Egbo and the House Leader, Sunday Udo-Okoye.
Odoh and the other principal officers among the suspended lawmakers were promptly stripped of their positions and benefits.
Following the ‘vacuum’ created by the suspensions, the Chime-loyalists nominated Chinedu Nwamba, the member representing Nsukka East constituency, to be sworn in as the new Speaker of the House.
Also, they recalled the Chairman of the Finance and Appropriation Committee, Johnbull Nwagu, who was suspended by the House for allegedly colluding with the executive to delay the payment of the lawmakers’ overhead allowances.
Nwagu, who had been on suspension, was immediately invited to join the pro-Chime group, bringing their number to nine.
As of the time of filing this report, the state government had yet to respond to the development, which was coming barely three weeks to the end of Chime’s administration.
Before now, the Enugu State House of Assembly was generally seen as a ‘rubber stamp’ of the Chime-led executive.
The lawmakers were believed to have done the governor’s bidding when they impeached a former deputy governor, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, for alleged gross misconduct.
Among other allegations, Onyebuchi was accused of rearing poultry in his official residence, which made the development to be tagged ‘chicken impeachment’ in the media.
But the relationship between Chime and the lawmakers deteriorated after the legislators felt he delayed the payment of their overhead allowances in order to punish them for refusing to approve his request for an N11bn loan.
It was gathered that the lawmakers were suspicious of the true intention behind the proposed loan, which the governor sought as his administration was rounding off.
After a long wait for the payment of its overhead allowances, the House sent a warning signal to Chime when it suspended the committee chairman of its Finance and Appropriation Committee, Johnbull Nwagu, for allegedly colluding in the delay.
Nwagu is believed to be among Chime’s strongest loyalists in the House.
In the same vein, the lawmakers also reacted angrily to the failure of the state’s Accountant General, Mr. Paschal Okolie, to appear before it to explain the reason for the delay.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Dan Bature was directed to issue a warrant of arrest on the Accountant-General for refusing to honour the summons, and compel him to appear before the House at the next sitting.
When the Accountant-General eventually appeared before the House, the lawmakers ordered him to submit a full report of the state’s accounts, including the income and expenditure profile.
The directive was seen as a declaration of an intention to probe Chime’s government.
In addition to the rejection of the N11b loan request, the Odoh-led House had recently passed a resolution, condemning some recent actions taken by the Chime administration.
The lawmakers, in the resolution, condemned the allocation of the land adjacent to the Enugu State House of Assembly to a foreign firm for the construction of a shopping mall.
The House also condemned allocation of parts of a plot of land designated for the Enugu International Conference Centre to private residents.
In the same vein, the lawmakers equally condemned the allocation of the old Eastern Nigeria Industrial Layout to private developers.
It warned all the allottees to refrain from developing the land as, according to them, “such is against the interest of the people of Enugu State.”
The House also restated its opposition on the concession of the state Water Corporation to a private firm, AG Gold Trust Limited.
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