Imo House of Assembly in Another Show of Shame

Imo State has recorded another spate of shootings, but this time from the shameful show of ineptitude by the leadership of the Imo State House of Assembly writes Amby Uneze

Albert Einstein in one of his classic quotes said “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” And because what is constant in life is change, therefore, society and its institutions need to change in order to progress and achieve growth and success. However, it has been difficult since 2011 to have a firm House of Assembly in Imo State without having a strong attachment to the executive arm; hence it has been regarded as a rubber-stamp legislature.

When an institution such as the Imo State House of Assembly remains adamant to current realities and development, its success and growth lies beneath the ladder.

Constitutionally, the three arms of government: legislature, executive and judiciary are independent of each other. While the main function of the legislature is to checkmate the excesses of the executive in form of carrying out oversight functions; checks and balances, that of the judiciary remains the interpretation of the law, and the executive executes the policies. On this note, there ought to be the required synergy in order to streamline the democratic process and provide the needed democratic dividends to the people.

The autonomy of both arms was enshrined in the relevant laws of the country; hence the legislature should operate without reference to the executive arm, even though they are to complement each other. In Imo State, for instance, the leadership of the various houses of assembly especially since 2011 have been deeply depended solely on the executive making her lame, so to say. Prior to that time, the house was noted for her astuteness, and only answerable to their constituents. Even members of the same political parties with the governor had had cause to disagree on principle, but the gavel did not fall on them as it is the case today.

The suspension last week of six active members of the Imo State House of Assembly to many sane minds was laughable. Those suspended are four All Progressive Congress (APC) members and two Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members. They are: Uche Ogbuagu (APC, Ikeduru LGA), Anyadike Nwosu (PDP, Ezinihitte LGA and Minority leader), Ezerioha Dominic (APC, Oru West LGA), Philip Ejiogu (PDP, Owerri North LGA), Micheal Onyemaechi (APC, Ihitte Uboma LGA), and Kennedy Ibe (APC, Obowo LGA).

In the milieu that followed the suspension, there were sporadic shooting in the Assembly complex which led people to believe that the state is witnessing another unknown gunmen attack. It was later, unraveled that the sporadic shooting came from the security personnel guarding the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Paul Emeziem, probably with a view to create tension and make an easy way for the speaker and his supporters to escape when he suddenly announced the suspension of the six legislators.

During the shooting, the speaker was hurriedly bundled out of the premises by his personal aides.

A source from the Assembly chamber confided to newsmen that the speaker had at the commencement of the day’s proceedings unilaterally announced the suspension of those legislators without giving reasons for such action.

It was also gathered that the action of the speaker infuriated other members including some of those suspended which generated uproar and shouting in the chambers that led to the shooting by security personnel attached to the speaker.
In the same vein, the member representing Ideato North state constituency, Arthur Egwim was removed as the Chief Whip of the Assembly and replaced with Obinna Okwarra of Nkwerre state constituency.

In the legislative process, there ought to be an internal mechanism of investigating a legislator accused of unparliamentary misconduct and if such a member is found guilty would of course face the gavel for suspension. In the very case of Imo Assembly, such procedures were not applied and the speaker, the deputy speaker and a few gullible associates of the governor in the house connived and suspended the six legislators for flimsy and unverifiable reasons which they termed as ‘unparliamentary misconduct’.

One may ask, what constitutes unparliamentary misconduct? An English dictionary defined ‘unparliamentary’ as ‘a practice contrary to the parliamentary bodies’, or ‘so rude and abusive as to be unsuitable for parliament’.

According to commentators on the vexing issue; the leadership of the Imo State House of Assembly was urged to explain to the people of the state and the various constituents of the six suspended members where that abusive language (s) or action(s) of those suspended legislators were made. They are also asking at what point or occasion they conducted themselves in such a manner that would constitute parliamentary misconduct? Again, if truly there were instances of such misbehaviour, has the house carried out proper investigation and debate in line with parliamentary rules and found them culpable of the misdeeds?

Revealing the import of the suspension clause in the House rules without investigation, one of the aggrieved members of the House who pleaded anonymity said that such clause was unilaterally inserted by the deputy speaker of the House, Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu with a view to stifling the democratic freedom of the members of the House.

The legislator who had expressed anger over the recent development in the House disclosed that the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu brought the idea to alter the House Rule and inserted the clause that the, “House can Suspend a Member Indifinitely.” According to him, Amara told me and other members that Governor Hope Uzodinma gave him the directive to protect the house.

“Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu told us that it became necessary to have stiff punishments because the Governor doesn’t trust the members of the House considering that his enemies, namely; Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume produced them and he is not comfortable that most of them are still loyal to their godfathers. That’s why the Mace is returned to the Government House after every sitting.

“Amara Iwuanyanwu cited the case when Hon. Samuel Otuibe (APC, Ahiazu LGA) wounded our female colleague, Hon. Uju Onwudiwe; and also the case of Hon. Hercules Okoro of Ohaji/Egbema State Constituency who according to him (Iwuanyanwu), brought in thugs to the Government House to attack him, in protest against the impeachment of the erstwhile Speaker, Chiji Collins,” he stated.

For the Minority leader, Hon. Anyadike Nwosu (PDP) representing Ezinihitte state constituency, and Hon. Philip Ejiogu (PDP) representing Owerri North LGA, these two legislators were outside Imo state as at the time of their suspension. According to Nwosu who was out of the country, as I speak to you now, I am out of the country. Honestly, I don’t know what I did that would warrant my suspension. I wrote a letter to the Speaker informing him that I would be out of the country for personal reasons and he granted it. It was not even upto a week I left the country and besides I was there during our last sitting which was adjourned, the second sitting which I did not attend was yesterday which was adjourned till July 24, and I don’t know what prompted (today’s) sitting, that was the day they were suspended.

I got information at about 7am from the Clerk of the House through a text message that there would be sitting (today), even some of the members did not get the message. They usually post notices of meetings on our platform, this time no notice was posted. For what reason are they suspending me? That means they are suspending the local government where I represent because I am not there as a person but for my local government.

However, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe representing Abia South and senate minority leader described the suspension of the six Imo legislators as undemocratic. Reacting to the incident in a statement released by his media aide, Uchenna Awom, Senator Abaribe condemned the action of the Imo State House of Assembly. He opined that the six members were suspended in a manner that strongly suggested circumvention of democratic ethos, and urged state assemblies not to see minority leaders and opposition party members as enemies.

Condemning the action of the Imo Assembly, Imo state PDP blamed the state Governor Hope Uzodinma for engineering the crises in the state legislature and urged him to promote peace instead fanning embers of disunity in the state.The Party in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Ogubundu Nwadike said the party received with sadness the report of the unnecessary undemocratic suspension of some members of the Imo State House of Assembly by the nefarious cabal in the House.

“This Party finds the action absolutely unacceptable, totally condemns it and unequivocally urges those responsible for the ill-advised suspension to rescind the decision and recall the lawmakers without any delay.

“Imo PDP recognizes that the suspended lawmakers are elected representatives of Imo people. The Party notes that to a very large extent the lawmakers are answerable to the people, whose mandates they are exercising, and should seamlessly be exercising.

“Our Party considers as not cogent enough the reasons floated by the leadership of the House for the act of suspension of elected lawmakers. They are simply too vindictive, high-handed, dehumanizing and provocative. The legislature is an arm of Government and not a department of the executive arm of Government.

“While our Party studies further the circumstances that led to the show of shame in the Imo Assembly, we keenly observe how the powers that be in the House are going to handle and manage the latest slap on democracy. We would, therefore warn that the executive arm of Government should desist from its meddlesomeness in the affairs of the legislative arm. That warning is coming because of our privileged information that the leadership of the House is composed by rubber stamp stooges of the executive in the State.

“Imo PDP frowns at the prevarications of Governor Hope Uzodinma, who pontificates on the need for a peaceful atmosphere in the State, but directly and indirectly continually sponsors acts that are capable of breaching the peace of the State and the people. Governor Uzodinma should leave the Imo State House of Assembly alone to make useful laws for Imo people. Witchhunting and hounding elected lawmakers, particularly those of the opposition PDP, is not in tandem with the governor’s much talk about restoring peace in the State. Let there be genuine efforts to keep Imo State peaceful”, he said.

Insisting that their action followed due process, the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Paul Emeziem, dismissed claims in some quarters that the suspension of six lawmakers of the assembly was inappropriate, and insisted that it followed due process. He told newsmen in Owerri, during the week that the suspension “is constitutional”, against the claims by the affected legislators that their suspension was illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic.

He said that the House under his leadership had remained resolute to effective service delivery and would not condone behaviours and activities from members that were capable of bringing the state legislative arm to disrepute and ridicule, maintaining that the decision of the House became necessary in order to protect the image, sanctity, peace and ensure the progress of the House.

He said: “We have taken time to observe unnecessary insinuations by certain members, abuse of the personalities of fellow colleagues, and autocratic demands of rights and privileges without references to the rules. Some members have even derailed from understanding the primary aim and objective that brought us to the House.”

It is noteworthy to observe that the position of the speaker of any state assembly is an opportunity to serve and not a right of anyone. Therefore, all members of the legislature are equal and no one should take pride in being close to the chief executive of the state.

QUOTE

According to him, Amara told me and other members that Governor Hope Uzodinma gave him the directive to protect the house. Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu told us that it became necessary to have stiff punishments because the Governor doesn’t trust the members of the House considering that his enemies, namely; Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume produced them and he is not comfortable that most of them are still loyal to their godfathers. That’s why the Mace is returned to the Government House after every sitting

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