Crisis engulfed the Anambra state Assembly last Tuesday following the impeachment of the Speaker, Hon. Mrs Rita Maduagwu by some aggrieved legislators who elected the member representing Aguata 2 state constituency as the new Speaker of the House of Assembly. In this report, OKECHUKWU OBETA chronicles the political undercurrent.
On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, some aggrieved lawmakers of the Anambra state Assembly revolted against the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mrs Rita Maduagwu and impeached her. They elected the member representing Aguata 2 state constituency, Hon. Ikem Uzoezie as the new Speaker of the state Legislature.
The legislators who backed the impeachment of the Speaker were said to be 22. The state Assembly is made up of a total of 30 lawmakers. However, the number of lawmakers who sat during the plenary when the impeachment of Speaker Maduagwu was carried out were said to be about 20 legislators. The new Speaker, Rt. Hon. Uzoezie was later to tell newsmen after adjourning proceedings of the Assembly that 22 of them supported Speaker Maduagwu’s impeachment.
The deputy speaker, Hon. Hayfords Oseke presided plenary when the impeachment was carried out. The motion for Speaker Maduagwu’s impeachment was incidentally moved by Hon. Ikem Uzoezie who, thereafter, eventually emerged as the new Speaker. His motion was seconded by Hon. Onyebuchi Offor, representing Ekwusigo constituency. Incidentally,two of the State assembly members, Hons. Obinna Emenaka, representing Anambra West constituency and his Awka-south 2 counterpart, Dr. Nnamdi Okafor were absent during the plenary. They were said to be outside the state.
Meanwhile, shortly after Speaker Uzozie group adjourned, the embattled Speaker Maduagwu stormed the Assembly chambers and held another plenary with 10 legislators. Their sitting was held under the cover of heavy security immediately deployed to the state Assembly by the state police commissioner, Mr. Garba Umar. The sitting was also held under the watchful eyes of some top state government officials, including state governor, Chief Willie Obiano’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Primus Odili, Secretary to the state government ( SSG), Professor Solo Chukwulobelu who rushed to the state Assembly complex immediately the news of Speaker Maduagwu’s impeachment filtered into the air in the state. Governor Obiano was in Paris where he accompanied President Muhammadu Buhari on an official trip. But in a statement issued on his behalf by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. James Eze, Governor Obiano was said to have condemned the development in the State Assembly and appealed to the state lawmaker to reverse their impeachment action.
Notably, the aggrieved lawmakers who impeached Speaker Maduagwu accused her of commuting financial impropriety, high-handedness and leadership ineptitude. But, the embattled Speaker dismissed the allegations against her and charged her accusers to come clean with their allegations by showing any proof. She even dismissed her impeachment as. illegal and insisted that she still remained the bonafide Speaker of the State Assembly.
The Clerk of the state Assembly, Chief Pius Udoh, a lawyer also faulted the manner the lawmakers carried out the impeachment exercise stating that the process did not comply with section 92(c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and, therefore said that the impeachment was “ illegal, null and void”, adding “ It was because I observed that the action of the lawmakers was illegal that was why I did not swear in anyone as the new speaker “.
Udoh stated that the impeachment action was carried out by the lawmakers through “ a voice vote”, adding that the action did not comply with the constitutional stipulations on how a speaker of a state Assembly can be impeached. He also stated that the number of the lawmakers that carried out the purported impeachment did not meet the required “two-third of the total number of the members of the state Assembly, as required by the Law.
Meanwhile, the two factions of the state Assembly during their respective sittings adjourned their next sitting to Thursday November 15. Unfortunately, however, in the early hours of Thursday, the legislators adjourned the siting to, there was a heavy deployment of a combined ant-riot security personnel made up policemen and personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps ( NSCDC) to the state Assembly complex. The security operatives numbered about 300. The Deputy Commissioner of Police ( DCP) in charge of Operations at the state police command, Mr. Mike Okoli was at the head of the security operation. Unfortunately the security operatives barred journalists from entering the state Assembly complex. About 15 of the state lawmaker in company of the factional speaker Uzozie were the first to enter the state Assembly.
They drove in in a chattered bus. Some of legislators, including the impeached Speaker, Hon. Maduagwu later arrived the state Assembly. A source within the security operatives confided in LEADERSHIP that they were given strict instructions by the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar not to allow journalists enter the Assembly complex.
The security arrangement eventually paid off, because, over 200 political thugs had invaded the state Assembly complex. They were said to have been mobilised by one of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) federal House of Representatives candidates in the North Senatorial zone. The thugs, LEADERSHIP gathered were hired to unleash terror on the anti-Speaker Maduagwu lawmakers.
Sensing danger, as the atmosphere around the state Assembly started charging becoming tense with the presence of the suspected political thugs, the police started firing tear-gas to disperse the gathering the fierce-looking able-bodied youths, most of who are boys. A security barricade was mounted at the Dr. Alex Ekwueme Square end on the road leading to the state Assembly complex. Everyone was subjected to a thorough search before being allowed to access the road passing through the Assembly complex. The road incidentally also leads to the state Judiciary complex, and the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC). So, only identified staff members of the government institutions and, other members of the public who had genuine businesses to do in the offices were allowed to access the roads around the state Assembly. However, the main gate to the state Assembly Complex was closed to members of the public with security personnel armed to the teeth manning the gate. Only the legislators and staff members of the Assembly were allowed to enter the premises.
Incidentally , one of the female state lawmakers, Hon. Beverlyn Nkemdichie Ikpeazu, almost lost her life as she collapsed as a result of exhaustion she suffered when the police tear-gassed everywhere. The security operatives had stopped her car on the road leading to the Assembly complex, and, she was now forced to start trekking into the Assembly premises when suddenly police started firing tear-gas to disperse suspected thugs. Hit with tear-gas exhaustion, the lawmaker started screaming “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me, I am a legislator”. It was probably the quick intervention of two security operatives who helped her into the state Assembly premises where she was resuscitated that saved her.
As newsmen laid siege at the gate of the state Assembly, one of the factional speakers, Hon. Uzozie later emerged from the state Assembly, and, told newsmen that they have just finished a plenary of the House. He state that they were 25 legislators that participated in plenary, and, that they have resolved that the impeachment of the former speaker “subsists, and, is irreversible”.
Hon. Uzoezie said that a new face of legislature had been ushered in, in Anambra state to “ensure quality representation of constituents , quality legislation and maintenance of peace in the state” .
He said , “ We held the sitting peacefully despite the earlier turmoil , having 25 members out of 30 legislators of the house sitting at the same time .
“The Deputy Speaker , Mr Halford Oseke , Majority leader Victor Okoye, Minority leader, Mr Onyebuchi Offor and other members were present during the session and the sitting went uninterrupted. We have adjourned until November 20”, he stated further.
Meanwhile, few hours after Speaker Uzozie finished addressing newsmen at the gate ,and, went back to the State Assembly building, the Clerk of the Assembly, Chief Udoh, also, stormed the Assembly gate, and, told journalists that the state lawmakers did not sit. He stated that after the crisis of Tueday, members of the two factions, later met him in the office the following day, and, told him that they have resolution to postpone the Thursday scheduled sitting of the House. The clerk said that based on the resolution, he now officially communicated to all the lawmakers about the postponement of the Thursday scheduled sitting through a memo sent to them. He stated further that based on the development, he ordered that the state Assembly chambers should be locked, adding that the chambers had remained locked since the morning of that day. The clerk therefore put a lie to factional Speaker Uzozie’s claim that he presided over a plenary of the Assembly on that day with a total of
25 of the lawmakers in attendance. While, embattled Speaker Maduagwu later drove of from the state Assembly at about 4.35pm, in company of about five lawmakers, Speaker Uzozie group left that state Assembly later at about 6.30pm.
Meanwhile, for any close watcher of the current political events in the state, the crisis rocking the state Assembly is simply an extension of the outrage and disenchantment that have become the lot of virtually every member of the ruling party in the state, the ALL Progressives Grand Alliance( APGA) since after the party’s primaries. Since after the party’s primaries, it has been like a sword was thrust into party. Virtually all members of the party have been expressing serious disenchantment over the level of impunity that characterized the handling of the party primaries. Besides allegations of extortion of huge sums of money from those who aspired to be selected as candidates of the party in the forthcoming general elections, LEADERSHIP, however, learnt that what is ruffling feathers the more among the party members is the alleged manner few confidants of the state governors, who are from his Aguleri country-home hijacked the APGA primaries, and, now determined who was made the party candidates in almost all the constituencies across the state after collecting huge sums of money from them.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the names of almost all of those chosen as APGA flag-bearers in the respective constituencies, including those of the National and state assemblies were compiled in the office of the Governor’s Chief of Staff ( COS), Mr. Primus Odili, with the tacit scrutiny and approval of a former Special Adviser to the governor on political Matters, who is incidentally the APGA candidate in Anambra-West/ Anambra-East federal constituency in the coming 2019 general elections, Mr. Chinedu Obidigwe. Some party members lamented that not only that the party APGA tickets were sold to the highest bidders, they money of those who paid less were not even returned to them after they were denied the ticket.
It was gathered that those who hatched Speaker Maduagwu’s impeachment were largely the legislators who were denied tickets of the party to contest the forthcoming general elections. It was said that the embattled Speaker was among those who were given the party tickets to re-contest. Out of the 30 members of the state legislature, 28 are APGA members, two others: Hons Charles Ezeani ( Anaocha 2) and Onyebuchi Offor ( Ekwusigo) are PDP. And out of the 28 legislators, only Speaker Maduagwu and 11 others, namely: Hons Tim Ifediorah ( Njikoka1), Patrick Aniuno ( Onitsha1), Pete Ibida ( Njikoka2), Chidi Udemmadu (Ihiala1), Paschal Agbodike ( Ihiala 2), Bervelyn Nkemdichie Ikpeazu ( Onitsha 2), Azubuike Okoye ( Anaocha 1), Edward Ibuzor (Onitsha2) Lawrence Ezeudu ( Dunukofia), Obinna Emenaka ( Anambra- East)and Dr. Nnamdi Okoye ( Awka-south1) were the ones given the APGA ticket to recontest.
The initial agreement between the state governor, chief Willie Obiano, who incidentally doubles as the APGA national leader and chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees( BoT) in the during his re-election campaigns last year, sources said was that all the state lawmakers elected under the APGA platform would be given the party tickets to contest in the 2019 general elections. Some of them whose ambitions were to contest House of Representatives election were also promised automatic tickets. Those lawmakers who eventually did not get the tickets were said to be more aggrieved because they were allowed to part with large sums of money in purchasing the party forms for the primary, make donations to the party, campaigned for the primaries, and, at the end, most of those who eventually chosen as candidates did not emerge through any primary election, but, were merely hand-picked. And they lost out. So, now that the state Assembly has resumed, after the primaries, they appear set to take their own pound of flesh, using their legislative powers. And they probably felt that retaining the Speaker who incidentally one of the beneficiaries of the party’s tickets, that she might pose as a stumbling block to them they decided to impeach her.
In fact, not a few close watchers have predicted that Hon. Maduagwu’s impeachment is just a tip of the ice-berg considering the level of the political crisis the state might experience between now and the end of the tenure of the current 6th state Assembly in June 2, 2019. They say that unless the state governor succeeded in appeasing not only the members of the state Assembly,but, also, a plethora of other members of the party, such as, widow of the party’s late leader, Ezeigbogburugburu, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ambassador Bianca, proprietor of Capital Oil and Gas, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, many other aspirants of the party tickets extorted huge sums of money but, denied ticket without conducting any primary where they failed, “ Governor Obiano may just have to be on the guard constantly to make sure he nips in the bud any sinister move against that might be hatched against his administration from the state Assembly”.
Investigations however revealed that it is not only those who did not get ticket of the party that are aggrieved. Even most of them who eventually got the tickets are lamenting over the huge sums of money they parted with to secure their tickets. The are crying that they might have serious financial challenges to face their opponents from other parties when the campaigns kicks off. One of the Pro-Speaker Maduagwu lawmakers who is among those given re-election tickets, for instance, confided in LEADERSHIP that many of them who are defending the impeached Speaker actually “feels the pains of our aggrieved colleagues. Even some of us who have the tickets, are not sure of prosecuting our campaigns because , it is like we spent all we had to get the tickets”.