Analysis: Enugu Lawmakers, going to Equity with Dirty HandsArticles/Opinion, Enugu, Ignatius Okpara, Latest News Sunday, April 26th, 2015
FROM IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu – Since the inception of the nation’s ongoing democratic rule, on May 29, 1999, the Enugu state House of Assembly had been synonymous with its docile, inactive, and toothless bulldog nature.
Ordinarily, legislators, be it at the state or national level, ought to be men of sound minds charged with making of human oriented laws that will truly impact on the lives of those who gave them the mandate to serve, whether directly or indirectly. But for many political watchers and analysts in Enugu state, which pride itself as the “Coal City state”, the 24- member Peoples Democratic Party, PDP dominated House since 1999, had been a bundle of disappointment to the people, especially the constituencies they represent. As a result of its non pro-activeness, many had adjudged the House as the worst Assembly in the entire south- East geo political zone of Nigeria as far as quality representation, and making of peoples oriented laws are concerned. For their selfish and personal interests, the Enugu legislators, had over the years, preferred to operate as a toothless bulldog,or robber stamp to the executive arm of government so as to guarantee their welfare packages, especially land allocation and overseas trips, which the governors liaison officer in the House often facilitates.
Without sounding immodest however, Enugu lawmakers, especially under the present dispensation, had turned legislative business into a mockery and laughing stock. For instance, it is only in the hallowed chamber of Enugu state House of Assembly that legislators, especially the women folk, are allowed to make submissions in their mother tongue,(Igbo language) during plenary proceedings, due to their speech impediment in english.
Apart from the era when ex- governor of the state Dr. Chimaroke Ogbonnaya Nnamani declared war on his political God father, and one time governor of old Anambra state, senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, over who controls the political soul of the state, including the legislative structure, the state, had never witnessed an active or vibrant legislature.
In fact, most citizens of the state are not interested in the affairs of the House, or believe in the lawmakers, as they only see them as political merchants, who went to the House to enrich their personal pockets. It was the rift between the two political giants, Nnamani/ Nwobodo, which raged for a long time,that brought the then two factions of the state Assembly members into public glare and domain for the first time. During the said period, the House became controversial and divided against itself throughout the crisis period, as both factions engaged each other in all manner of attacks, using both orthodox and unorthodox means.
While16 out of the then 24 lawmakers, pitched tent with Nwobodo, eight were loyal and solidly behind the governor, (Nnamani), who also compensated them lavishly for doing his bidding of rubbishing the acclaimed political leader of the state, and one time senator and Minister of sports
The 16 anti Nnamani lawmakers, popularly referred to as G-16, had made several efforts to impeach the state chief executive but to no avail, owing to his close relationship with then Nigerian president, chief Olusengu Aremu Obasanjo.
Regrettably, since after the Nnamani’s era, the coal city state, which use to be the former capital of old Eastern Nigeria, had continued to experience the assemblage of (oh Yes members), bereft of modern day legislative ideas, as well as lack representation capacity, with the exception of very few members
Even though, one is not advocating for a confrontational legislature, suffice it to say that the all important arm of government, be it at the state or National level, ought not to be an all comers affairs, or a place for non vibrant persons, as obtained in Enugu state over the years. Without prejudice, the outgoing Assembly under Barrister Eugene Odoh, seem to be the least performed in the history of the state legislature. For almost eight years, the Igbo Etiti born lawyer turned politician, (Odoh) took over mantle of leadership of the House, the executive arm of government under the headship of another lawyer turned politician, Barrister Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, had been engaging in series of administrative recklessness with impunity.
The executive had been using the Odoh, led legislature to perfect some of its selfish and unpopular actions, such as the chicken impeachment of the ex-Deputy governor of the state, chief Sunday Onyebuchi, who was shown the exit door by the lawmakers, simply because he operated a poultry farm at his official residence at the government. Because Odoh, and his colleagues were benefiting, and getting all their entitlements from the Chime led executive, including their (overhead), they never saw anything wrong in the administration in the past eight years, until recently when the House monthly overhead allocation was delayed due to shortage in cash flow, owing to the crash in oil revenue.
Until the overhead wahala ensued, Odoh, and his fellow lawmakers, had always presented governor Chime before the public as God sent to the state.
As typical Nigerian politicians,whose personal interest always remain paramount in all their political ventures, the Odoh led House, did not hesitate to declare full blown political war on governor Chime, and his commissioners, as well as Heads of various government agencies and parasatals, when they perceived that the release of their overhead was becoming an issue. For those who may not know, the main bone of contention in the present Legislative/ Executive war, is the delay in the release of the House March and April, 2015 overhead.
Although, apart from the non release of the two months allocations, majority of the lawmakers, are also bitter with Chime, for not using government might to deliver them in their respective constituencies during the last general election, a development that will now make them political irrelevant as well as keep them out of corridors of power in the next four years. For many followers of Enugu politics, what is currently happening between the lawmakers, and the governor, serves the legislators right, “as whatever goes around, comes around”.Besides, many also believe that the Enugu lawmakers, are going to equity with dirty hands. “Before now, it was the turn of common Enugu people to suffer the perceived executive recklessness, which always enjoy the full support of the House members so, today, it is their turn to have a feel of it” said a political stakeholder in the state, who craved anonymity.
However, the seemingly cold war between the state chief executive, and the lawmakers, had continued to assume different twists since it started about a fortnight ago. Only recently, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, precisely, the lawmakers, had during their sitting ordered the arrest of the state Accountant- General, (A-G), Mr. Basil Okolie, through the issuance of a bench warrant on him, over the non payment of the said controversial overhead.
Prior to the Wednesday’s bench warrant on the AG, the angry House, had also during one of its plenary, suspended one of their members and close ally of Chime Hon. Johnbull Nwagu, representing Udi North State Constituency, for defending the governor at the floor of the House. The Lawmakers, had accused the Accountant General of neglecting to answer their summon to explain why the legislative arm should not get their overhead for their legislative function. Moving a motion for the arrest of the Accountant General, Hon. SKE Ude-Okoye representing Awgu North, submitted that Mr. Okolie has refused to appear before them “and for this reason they had to exercise their constitutional power to compel him to appear before it” Angry Ude-Okoye said: he has continuously failed to obey our call to answe
“Every time he says that he is sick but we learnt that he is in his office. This is the third time
“He wants to show the whole world that the House of Assembly has no powers, he wants to turn us like Akara.
“If we don’t use our power, I don’t think we will get the desired result.” the lawmaker declared
When the speaker, Hon. Odoh, put the motion of the bench warrant to vote, all the members present voted in favour of the arrest of the AG. Besides, the lawmakers had during same plenary, also ordered the suspension of the development of all lands allocated to individuals by governor Chime at the international conference centre, located at the three arms zone, adjacent to the Assembly complex.
Apart from the above mentioned decisions against the governor, the aggrieved legislator equally stopped the planned concessioning of the state water Co-operation to a private company, AG-Gold Trust by Chime. The House, had insisted that the privatisation of the water corporation was unacceptable to it and the people of the state they represent, adding that the action did not pass through a due process, such as public bidding. It therefore, warned the firm to steer clear of any take over deal, or be ready to face its consequence in the end.
The war however, continued on Thursday, April 23rd, as the House threw another hard punch on Chime during its plenary. This time around, the lawmakers, resolved to invite the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to investigate the alleged financial recklessness of chairman of Enugu state Universal Basic Education Board, ENSUBEB, Mrs. Nneka Onuorah.
Aside the anti graft agency invitation, the House also passed a resolution to freeze the accounts of the board in two new generation banks, pending on completion of investigation of the financial scam.
Deliberating on a petition forwarded to its House committee on education by two board members of ENSUBEB, on the alleged financial misconduct against Mrs Onuorah, read during its Thursday’s plenary, the House, posited that the allegations were too weighty to be ignored. The two page petition,”entitled Administrative, And Financial Recklessness of the Executive Chairman of ENSUBEB” was signed by professor Ikenna Chukwu, permanent member 1 and Dr. T.E. Ayogu, permanent member (IV). They had accused the Executive chairman, of not running the organisation, in line with the extant rules and regulations of the establishment.
The petition read in parts: “First, the Executive chairman, awarded contracts for the construction and renovation of schools without the approval of the board.
“She awarded contract for the construction of seats, tables for primary school pupils and teachers at the cost of 199 million naira without the approval of the board.
“It might interest you to know that not all the seats, tables chairs have been supplied, but the total contract sums has been paid to the contractor.
The petition, read on the floor of the house by the Education committee chairman, Nze Michael Onyeze, representing Igbo Eze North 1 constituency equally accused the ENSUBEB boss,of computerising the teachers biodata at the cost of 10 million,which she inflated to14 million without recourse to the board, among other administrative misconduct.
After submissions by members on the petition, speaker of the House,Hon. Odoh, who also frowned at the alleged ongoing mess at the government agency, put the resolution of inviting EFCC to vote, and it was unanimously supported by the lawmakers. Similarly, the issue of freezing its account pending on the completion of investigation, was also overwhelmingly endorsed by the lawmakers.
The House, equally resolved to communicate the Universal Basic Education Board UBEC, to henceforth stop dealing with Mrs Onuorah, until the probe of the organization is done
Even though, no one is against the state legislature in discharging its constitutional oversight functions, one question that had been in the lips of many citizens of Enugu yearning for answer from the lawmakers is, “WHY NOW” when the present administration has less than a month to wind up.
As the feud continues, many political stakeholders in the state are of the opinion that the lawmakers, should sheath their sword, for peace in the state, after all, it is a selfish battle, based on personal interest.
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