Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
It is, indeed, a sad ending for the Imo State House of Assembly. This is because its members are gradually dispersing without saying a farewell to one another a few days to the winding up of the administration courtesy of an in-house war that has finally come shatter the ineloquent house.
The present Imo State House of Assembly has been the most controversial since the existence of the legislature in the state. Most of the lawmakers are accused of being selfish and taciturn throughout their duration in the house.
The worst of the allegations leveled against the house is that members “readily produce a handkerchief whenever the governor sneezes.”
The lawmakers are said to be far away from being independent with the executive. No wonder the embattled Speaker, Acho Ihim, has always been referred to as the governor’s “rubber stamp” or puppet by the people of the state.
As if the house derives joy in swimming in controversies, it holds a record of impeaching two deputy governors, Jude Agbaso in the first tenure of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration and recently the governor’s closest associate, Eze Madumere, whose impeachment was later halted by the court. Despite the court order, the state government still refers to Calistus Ekenze as the deputy governor designate.
Another controversy hanging on the neck of the house was that it was said to have knowingly or unknowingly approved the budget requested by Governor Okorocha without following its eventual implementation.
Although the crisis rocking the state assembly was expected, especially when about 24 lawmakers out of the 27 members defected from their original parties to join the governor’s son-in- law, Uche Nwosu in his Action Alliance (AA) during the 2019 general elections. However, not many predicted it would turn messier as witnessed in the last drama that played out on Wednesday during plenary sitting.
According to a very reliable source, Speaker Ihim after allowing the lawmakers during the plenary to contribute refused to let them comment on Order 15, which he read out to them.
The order contained a letter read to the house by the Speaker, recalling the 27 suspended local government chairmen in the state.
But as soon as he finished reading the letter, members demanded to make contributions on the subject matter, but the Speaker bluntly refused them to make input, and rather ending the plenary session in a controversial manner.
He was said to have hurriedly left with the Clark of the house, bolting away with the Mace, the symbol of authority.
His action did not deter the remaining 21 members who were in the house as they quickly chose an interim Speaker, Chinedu Offor, representing Onuimo Constituency and unanimously agreed to investigate the allegations against the Speaker.
The Majority Leader of the house, Lugard Osuji did not also escape the wrath of the members as he was also replaced with Lloyd Chukwuemeka.
Offor when asked about the reason of slamming the impeachment notice on the Speaker simply said: “Mr Speaker has consistently run the house without recourse to parliamentary process.”
He described the action of the Speaker at the plenary session of the House as an insult to the other lawmakers.
“Why must he take a unilateral decision to recall the suspended local government council chairmen contrary to our resolution at the executive session?
“It is an insult on this honourable house, he did not allow members who invoked Order 15 of the house rules to deliberate on the matter, instead he quickly adjourned without allowing us to make an input,” Offor fumed.
According to political pundits, the action of the Speaker who was part of the suspension of the 27 council chairmen to recall them without recourse to his colleagues was rather suspicious.
The council chairmen, according to the house, which suspended them failed to appear before them despite several summons.
However, a reliable source told Sunday Sun that the council chairmen complained that they were exhausted and tired of allegedly harkening to their huge financial demands.
According to the source, the council chairmen had damned the consequences knowing full well that they are both at the verge of winding up their administration.
Another impeccable source revealed to Sunday Sun the reason behind the Speaker’s quick reversal of the suspension order on the council chairmen.
The highly placed source disclosed that the governor was bitter with the news of the suspension of the council chairmen when he heard of it and summoned the Speaker.
He was said to have tongue-lashed the Speaker for his action that prompted him to call for the plenary section to correct his mistakes without prior notice to his colleagues.
The Speaker reacting to the allegations through his Chief Press Secretary, Marcel Ekwezuo, denied any form of bribe collection from the council chairmen.
He explained that the house in trying to deal with the numerous complaints of the constituents of the council chairmen has summoned them, but they refused to obey their summon which he said led to their suspension.
The Speaker also said that there was no cause for alarm on his purported impeachment notice, arguing that the notice has never passed through the normal processes.
He claimed that business of the day had finished and “everybody were out of the chamber, so whatever that might have transpired later on is illegal.”
Also, his deputy, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, who was elected at the last general election to represent his people at the Federal House of Representative seemed not to be enjoying the last minute game played by his colleagues as he tendered his resignation to avoid joining in further activities with his colleagues the next day after the impeachment notice issue was raised.
But, a source told our correspondent that the Deputy Speaker actually resigned as he wanted to avert being humiliated like the Speaker.
The resignation of the Deputy Speaker, the source, said followed the Wednesday’s suspension of the Speaker of the House, and the Majority Leader.
The content of the letter, which Ozurigbo personally signed was addressed to the Speaker and members of the state House of Assembly.
Ozueuigbo in the eight-paragraph letter, attributed his resignation to his new responsibilities as a member-elect of the House of representatives.
The Deputy Speaker was in March elected to represent Nwangele-Nkwerre-Isu-Njaba Federal Constituency under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).