Abia assembly holds parallel sittings as rift depends

Abia Assembly

. Apugo suspends Orji, loyalists, dissolves house c’ttees

. Ikpeazu not sponsoring us – Ichita
. Enumerates Orji’s sins
. I remain speaker, can’t be removed by cowards – Orji

By Steve Oko, UMUAHIA

The rift and supremacy battle rocking the Abia State House of Assembly deepened Wednesday, as the two camps in the opprobrium held parallel sittings in different locations.

While the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji and those loyal to him reportedly sat at the Assembly complex amid tight security; the parallel Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chukwudi Apugo, and lawmakers in his camp, met at an undisclosed location in Umuahia.

Recall that some lawmakers had Tuesday met outside the assembly chambers and impeached the Speaker, accusing him of insensitivity over the welfare of the members.

But the Speaker held a sitting in the House and impeached the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu who presided over his purported impeachment.

He also suspended nine of the lawmakers who participated in the sitting where he was purportedly removed, dismissing the impeachment as a nullity.

Speaking with Vanguard in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, member representing Aba South state constituency, Hon Obinna Ichita (APGA), who is in Apugo’s camp, denied insinuations in some quarters that the lawmakers opposed to Orji were being sponsored by the Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu.

He said it would be strange for him to be bought over by the Governor who he had had frosty relationship with following his critical stance on his administrative style.

” It’s easy for people to engage in propaganda. Are we sponsored by the Governor to do what?

” If somebody tells you that the Governor is sponsoring me won’t you be surprised? You know how my relationship with the Executive has been, and if you hear that the Governor is sponsoring me – Obinna Ichita, won’t you be shocked? To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing like the Governor sponsoring us.”

The opposition lawmaker explained that the reason behind Orji’s impeachment was because of his refusal to convene the House which had been under lock and key for four months.

” Which House of Assembly in Nigeria has been under lock and key for four months? It’s not proper for you to lock the House of Assembly for the past four months. So, for the past four months, the House hasn’t sat, and that’s not appropriate.

“The Judiciary has collapsed and you want the legislative arm to also collapse. And we have a struggling Executive arm.”

The opposition lawmaker further said there were some burning issues of urgent importance that the House needed to attend to, hence, it made no sense not reconvening the House.

“We have a lot of businesses to treat. We have heard so much. Members felt the former Speaker needed to convene the House so we can demand answers to the following questions:

” Why should Abia workers not be paid even when the state receives statutory allocations?

” Why Board of Internal Revenue reported N6.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. If we have this kind of money why can’t we pay workers?

” Why is it that we are reading a planned local government election in the state on the pages of newspapers? We heard that Commissioners have been appointed into the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission, ABSIEC, and the House never screaned person in accordance with the law.

” We also heard that the Executive has secured a loan of 50 million US dollars. Who gave the approval for such a facility? From which institution was the facility secured? What are the implications to Abians?

” So, there are lots of questions that needed to be answered and it made no sense locking the House when you have such issues to tackle.

” This is as transition period. Shouldn’t we make sure that things are in order for the in-coming administration to have a seamless take off?”

Hon. Ichita also spoke on some of the far-reaching decisions taken by the lawmakers led by Hon. Apugo when they met at the plenary.

” We met today ( Wednesday) and changed the Majority Leader, Hon. Solomon Akpulono. He was also suspended.

” The impeached Speaker and all seven of them who met yesterday were suspended.

” We suspended them for engaging in a purported plenary yesterday. They didn’t have the quorum. They were only seven.

” The new Speaker has also dissolved all the standing committees of the House and reconstituted the following committees:

” Committee to review the activities of the House in the past four years headed by the Speaker of the sixth Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chikwendu Kanu; Committee on Appropriation chaired by Kennedy Njoku; and the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Public Accounts headed by myself, Ichita.

” We are swinging into action immediately because we have two weeks to review what happened”.

Asked where the lawmakers loyal to Apugo met, and why they chose to sit outside the House of Assembly, Ichita said the venue of meeting for lawmakers did not matter.

” Section 92 of the Constitution that talks about the impeachment of the Speaker did not make mention of the venue. It’s silent about that.

” It’s just like the election petition tribunal that has relocated from Abia to Abuja. Does that in any way invalidate any pronouncement of the tribunal? The law is silent on the venue. What the law emphasises is a quorum. We are 16 lawmakers on our side and we are not joking.”

Asked if they had a mace which is the symbol of authority in their sitting, the lawmaker said:”If Hon. Orji says he is not happy with his impeachment what he should do is to approach the courts, and not to say he doesn’t accept it”.

Prodded further to disclose the venue of their meeting, saying that they were advised by security agencies to keep it secret.

“We have been advised by various security heads in the state to ensure that we don’t take any action that might lead to the breakdown of law and order. We understand that some of the suspended lawmakers have hired thugs, and we don’t want our supporters and their own supporters to clash.”

He said there were no going back on the resolutions of the House.

“The House is an Honourable institution, and once it takes a decision, it’s only the courts that can reverse it. But unfortunately, the judiciary in Abia is on a total lockdown.”

When contacted the Speaker denied locking up the House for four months, explaining that it was the collective decision of the lawmakers to go on break.

The Speaker who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Jude Ndukwe, said the splinter lawmakers were only looking for excuses to justify their unlawful actions.

He insisted that he remains the Speaker of the Assembly describing his “purported impeachment and suspension by suspended lawmakers” as ridiculous.

” The action is neither recognized by law nor convention. You cannot sit in somebody’s parlour or dining room and say that you are holding a plenary while a plenary is holding in the Assembly complex.

” If they say what they are doing is legal let them come to the Assembly complex and not in hiding.”

On not convening the House he said: “It was an agreement among them not to convene the House. Realise that these people just ran for election and some of them failed and travelled on vacation. Some are still abroad where they went on vacation.

” If they said they were pressuring the Speaker and he refused to convene the House, why didn’t they call a press conference to tell the world than embark on illegality? They just want to give a dog a bad name in order to kill it”

The Speaker equally said that eight and not seven members attended the plenary he presided over on Tuesday where the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Uchendu was impeached and the nine lawmakers in Apugo’s camp suspended.

He insisted that a quorum was formed, maintaining that every decision taken at the plenary was binding.

The Speaker also said that he presided over another plenary at the Assembly complex on Wednesday where the House confirmed the newly appointed Auditor General of Local Governments.

Asked who he suspected was sponsoring the feud in the House, he said he would not speculate.

” The sponsor is in the realm of speculation and I wouldn’t like to speculate.

” But the Speaker said today that there are people behaving as if they are the Governor or Assistant Governor.

” It’s possible that they are the people sponsoring the unrest in the House but such sponsors have failed woefully”.

Meanwhile, Ifeanyi Umere, the Chief Liaison Officer to the Speaker’s father, Senator Theodore Orji, had earlier quoted the Speaker as saying that:” will not be part of those plotting to add landmines to the incoming government that will take power come May 29th, 2023″.

Source Link: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/05/abia-assembly-holds-parallel-sittings-as-rift-depends-2/

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