By Okechukwu Onuegbu
Fresh crisis erupted at the Anambra state House of Assembly on Tuesday as an attempt by aggrieved lawmakers to impeach the Speaker, Hon. Rita Maduagwu, appears all but thwarted by the Clerk of the parliament as he reportedly refused to swear in Hon. Ikemefune Uzoezie as new speaker.
Maduagwu who rallied about 10 lawmakers out of 30 members of the assembly to hold a brief session after the controversial impeachment, however, insisted that she remained the speaker.
She described her purported impeachment as “a bundle of illegality” and those behind it as “rascals.” According to her, “Nobody can impeach me because I have not committed any offence. They didn’t have any power known to any law to impeach me. They need two-thirds of our members to impeach the speaker or the governor. So, I’m still the speaker,” she declared in a defiant tone.
Orient Daily was at, and witnessed, the dramatic session during which the controversial impeachment plot was initiated following a motion moved by Uzoezie, a two-term member representing Aguata II constituency, and supported by Hon. Onyebuchi Offor of Ekwusigo constituency.
Shortly after the motion was raised, Hon. Benson Nwawulu swiftly nominated Uzoezie as new speaker and supported by Hon. Kingsley Iruba of Nnewi South I.
The 30-member 6th Assembly, it was learnt, was presided over by the deputy speaker, Hon. Harford Ikechukwu Oseke and had 23 members in attendance.
This resulted in a rowdy session as Hon. Uche Okafor of Ayamelum constituency, argued, without being formally recognised to address the session by the new speaker, that the impeachment was not properly conducted.
Okafor argued that Hon. Paschal Agbodike and Hon Godwin Okafor, who were reportedly included in the lists of those that impeached Maduagwu, were not present in the house.
The impeachment plot was, however, to suffer a major technical hitch when the Clerk of the House, Pius Udoh, refused to swear in Uzoezie who, in preemption, had already occupied the speaker’s seat. Udoh insisted that the impeachment process did not follow due process.
According to Udoh, the lawmakers ought to have presented the necessary document containing names and signatories of those that impeached the speaker and, as well, itemised her offence(s) and not just impeach her by mere, indeterminate voice votes.
As the heated argument continued, Uzoezie called on the majority leader, Hon. Victor Jideofor Okoye, to call a motion for adjournment, a call Okoye hastily heeded and got supported by Hon. Offor whereupon the house rose.
Addressing the press after the session, the Uzoezie accused Maduagwu of docility and financial misappropriation, adding that he would be addressing the press in subsequent sittings starting from Thursday when the next plenary would hold.
Shortly after the impeachment drama, however, some members of the Anambra state executive, such as Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, Commissioner for Information, C Don Adinuba, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on House of Assembly matters, Hon. Chidozie Ezeugwa and some others, as well as a combined team of security personnel, stormed the legislative complex in what observers view as show of solidarity with the embattled speaker.
Addressing a press conference afterwards, the embattled Speaker, Rita Maduagwu, insisted that she was not impeached. According to her, the house required 20 members (2/3 majority) to carry out impeachment but 15 members were already on her side out of 30 members of the house and she was never served with any impeachment notice.
She recalled that there was not served any impeachment notice noting that she was in the complex and preparing to come down for normal plenary having just finished an executive session with them.
Maduagwu also insisted that no house member was suspended, adding that no executive member intervened to forestall the impeachment as those members had no legal backing to carry out the act.
The eleven members further sat at 3.38 pm in a session presided by Speaker Maduagwu.
Addressing the media on why he refused to swear in Hon. Uzoezie as speaker when the impeachment faction demanded so, the Clerk of the House, Pius Udoh, said the impeachment was not properly conducted but rather null and void.
Udoh claimed that it was only the Speaker that can preside over the house and she was in the premises waiting to come down for the sitting when her deputy presided. He said it was only when the speaker so directed the deputy speaker that he could preside over plenary and not the other way around.
He added that Uzoezie and the lot made a blanket statement for impeachment and followed this up with a mere voice vote. “There are matters you can use a voice cote. The matters involving impeachment cannot be conducted using a voice vote. Section 93 (c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is explicit on how the Speaker or deputy speaker can be removed,” he added.
He explained that he should have presented a roll call of those signing the impeachment, and other procedures.
He said there was no sitting or impeachment as it was null and void; and only an attempted impeachment.
On which faction will sit on Thursday, the Clerk said it was only the Maduagwu faction that will sit on Thursday because there was no change in leadership of the house.
On his part, the senior special assistant to the Anambra state governor on Assembly matters, Hon. Chidozie Ezeugwa, in another interview, assured that both factions would soon resolve their differences insisting there was no change in leadership of the house.
Meanwhile, the publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Anambra state, Mr. Okelo Madukaife, has dismissed the dramatic impeachment plot at the state house of assembly as mere comic show. According to the APC spokesman, Anambra state has never had a state assembly. “They are just rubber stamp; they don’t carry out oversight function. What we have in Anambra state is a committee in governor Obiano’s pocket.”
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