It s no longer news that three members of Imo State House of Assembly were slammed with indefinite suspension last Wednesday, April 20, 2016, by the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim. By the time you will read this piece, the affected lawmakers must be thinking, planning or possibly carrying out one of the several options open to them. Share of the suspension Those shoved aside during the Wednesday plenary included two All Progressives Congress, APC, lawmakers, Lawman Duruji (Ehime Mbano) and Ngozi Obiefule (Isu), as well as Obinna Egu of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, representing Ngor Okpala state constituency. The three senatorial zones of the state had a share of the suspension.
But the current action of the Speaker did not just come from the blues. It was a response to an internal upheaval in the legislature, which has been on for quite awhile. The first plot to remove the Speaker via a palace coup d’état failed at the last minute, as the alleged plotters could not agree on who the principal officers of the Assembly should be. Not long after the first botched attempt, stories started making the rounds again of another clandestine plot against the Speaker, by some members of the legislature. Investigations revealed that the plotters had allegedly been meeting behind closed doors, over what they called “the sins” of the Speaker. According to another story making the rounds, all the principal officers of the Assembly, including the Deputy Speaker, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, the Majority Leader, Lugard Osuji, would have been swept away, if the alleged plot succeeded. Speaker’s Sin: However, the alleged “sin” of the was his stout resistance to do anything that would either create anarchy in the state or unnecessarily pitch the legislature against the executive.
A lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity told newsmen that “just recently, only about 14 official vehicles were received by the Speaker for distribution to members of the House”, adding that “the Speaker, who has been using his personal cars for official purposes, distributed the available vehicles without allotting any to himself”.
While wondering if this was also part of theSpeaker’s sin, the lawmaker further disclosed that “while the plotters were meeting, credible information on their meeting venues and decisions continued to filter into the Assembly Complex and we all continued to play along, as if we did not know what they were planning”.
Continuing, the lawmaker said it was at the last meeting that they agreed on their modus operandi during the next plenary session, stressing that it was no longer a shock to those who had knowledge of the plot, when the arrowhead started acting out the script. “The alleged plot became public property when, disagreements began during a meeting in the Speaker’s Office. The alleged disagreement spilled over to the plenary session after some lawmakers allegedly met secretly the previous day in Concorde Hotel, Owerri”, the lawmaker recalled.
Newsmen were also told that some of the anti-Chief Ihim lawmakers had earlier appended their signatures to a supposed impeachment document before the plenary, preparatory for the removal of the Speaker. Preparatory to this plenary session, two Owerri based newspapers had gone to town with an unfounded news item that alleged a fraudulent act against the House leadership. Armed with a copy of the paper, the lawmakers then got prepared for the final onslaught. Apparently aware of the alleged plot against him, the Speaker denied Duruji the opportunity to present what he termed “a motion of urgent importance”. This engineered a verbal crossfire between the Speaker and Duruji.
When the Speaker noticed that the situation was gradually degenerating to an unpardonable shouting march, he wielded the big stick and immediately sacked the three lawmakers from the Assembly Chambers. Speaker wields big stick Announcing the indefinite suspension of the lawmakers, Chief Ihim noted that “the image and integrity of the House has been severally battered and ridiculed by the unsavoury conduct of the suspended members”. While announcing that “a disciplinary committee would be constituted to investigate their matter”, the Speaker however maintained that “the House leadership can no longer fold its hands and watch some of our members tarnish our hard-earned image and that of the state government”. When anxious journalists contacted Mrs. Obiefule for comments, she described her suspension as “unjustifiable”, adding that she did not know what she did to warrant the punishment slammed on her. Obiefule recalled that she never stood up or uttered a word when one of her colleagues was engaged in the shouting march with the Speaker.
In his own reaction, the Speaker’s Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Mr. Bennett Ilochonwu, denied any knowledge of the alleged clandestine plot to unseat his boss, as well as any link of the lawmakers’ suspension to the alleged plot. The choices before the suspended lawmakers are many, but not limited to going to court to contest their suspension, planning a counter attack or simply lobbying their colleagues and government officials for reprieve. A government official who spoke to newsmen on the unfolding drama in the Assembly, reasoned that going to court would not be in the immediate interest of the suspended lawmakers. “Going to court is an option open to the suspended lawmakers. However, by virtue of the legal rigmarole associated with the Nigeria legal system, this may take a long time to actualize”, the government official said. He also reasoned that planning a counter attack will not help them either, as other lawmakers are now fully aware that the Speaker’s searchlight is fully beamed on some suspected members of the brewing political uprising. In his own reaction, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, distanced his principal from the current happenings in the Assembly. Speaker’s searchlight “The Governor has no hand in the suspension slammed on the three lawmakers.
The Governor believes in the independence of the legislature and he has maintained this stance over the years. So, it would be most uncharitable to bring in he Governor into the show”, Onwuemeodo said. According to the Governor’s CPS, the lawmakers have rules governing their activities, adding that they know how and when to adopt any disciplinary measure against any or some of their members. In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP caucus in the State Assembly has announced a change of their Principal Officers.
According to a letter read during the plenary by the Speaker, the member for Ahiazu Mbaise, Kenneth Agbim, takes over from Obinna Egg as the new Minority Leader, while Emma Orie replaces Mike Iheanetu.