Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The likelihood of the National Assembly taking over total control and supervision of legislative business in the Anambra State House of Assembly is not far-fetched following alleged shutting down of the legislative complex in Awka due to the confusion and rancour that greeted the Impeachment of Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu as Speaker of the House by a 2/3 majority which thereafter produced Ikem Uzoezie as the new Speaker of the legislature in the state. The legislature in the last few weeks has witnessed what some people saw as democratic drama where members of the legislature split into two groups headed by the two parallel speakers respectively.
While Rita Maduagwu’s camp claims to have the authentic leadership of the House, Ikem Uzoezie’s faction maintained that the former Speaker remained impeached and had no locus standi to preside over the proceedings of the House. This situation climaxed when both leadership of the legislature told journalists at different fora that they were Speakers and that any impeachment motive or threat of any kind on either of them would be met with appropriate legal sanctions as the legislature was an independent organ of government.
At this point, it was clear that mere anarchy has been loosed upon the state assembly as lawmakers engaged themselves in war of attrition as discordant tunes rent the air giving an atmosphere of disharmony and disaffection in the 6th Anambra State House of Assembly.
Many insinuate that the chaotic atmosphere of the state assembly was not merely to strip off Maduagwu her speakership, but to pave way for the removal of the state governor or better still make the entire state ungovernable for him. Other school of thought was of the opinion that the remote reason why the legislative complex was boiling was because some aggrieved lawmakers wanted to pay the Governor back in his own coin for not ensuring that they obtained tickets in the APGA primary elections.
But in spite of these divergent views and opinions on why two parallel speakers have emerged for the Anambra State House of Assembly, the fact remains that the legislature is in disarray as none of the factions is willing to surrender to the other. This development has however culminated in the outright closure of the state assembly complex by the police to forestall further breakdown of law and order. Ikem Uzoezie’s faction, though, had informed newsmen on Thursday, 15th November, that the new leadership of the House conducted plenary peacefully and adjourned proceedings to Tuesday 20th November 2018.
In contrast, the Clerk of the House Mr. Pius Udoh also in a counter press briefing, said there was no plenary at the legislative chambers on Thursday 15th November because the entire legislative complex was under lock and key and that staff of the legislature had been ordered to vacate the premises and report for duty at the office of the Head of Service pending when issues were resolved.
The Clerk of the House had also exonerated himself from the impeachment saga saying categorically and with clear-cut reference to the constitution of the country that no new Speaker was sworn-in by him and there was no impeachment carried out on the floor of the House.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on legislative and labour matters Hon. Chidozie Ezeugwa said the impeachment attempt on the speaker was an embarrassment to the state even though he noted that the removal of the speaker must be done within the confines of the House Rules and in accordance with constitutional provisions which he said they didn’t observe. Instead, he said, the perpetrators of the impeachment flouted the House Rules and the constitution and nobody would tolerate such magnitude of legislative rascality from Ikem Uzoezie and his cronies.
In the same vein, the Chief Press Secretary to the Government of Anambra state Mr. James Eze in his opinion about the crisis, said that from the information he gathered, there was no swearing-in ceremony for any new Speaker and that the whole episode remained an unsuccessful attempt to displace the Speaker. Eze said there was no new Speaker in the Anambra State House of Assembly because the clerk had repeatedly said he didn’t swear Ikem Uzoezie in as Speaker and there was no evidence that the clerk is telling a lie. He stressed that if the clerk had taken Ikem Uzoezie on oath of office, then a new Speaker would have emerged but anything on the contrary meant that Rita Maduagwu remained substantive Speaker of the 6th Anambra State House of Assembly. Be that as it may, candidate of Young Progressive Party (YPP) for Njikoka 1 state constituency seat Hon. Francis Chidozie Okoye in his opinion noted that there had been discordant tunes about the lackadaisical attitude of the Speaker and that most of the members had on four occasions attempted to remove her due to incompetence in handling affairs of the legislative arm. He said the House in its wisdom decided to impeach the Speaker and the motion for impeachment was endorsed by over twenty-five members present at plenary, stressing that Rita Maduagwu remained impeached as far as the 6th assembly was concerned. Okoye noted that it was rather unfortunate that the impeached speaker still paraded herself as the Speaker of the House with about 9 members supporting her. To this end, he maintained that Ikem Uzoezie remains the Speaker of the House because the impeachment of the former Speaker followed due process.
Ikem Uzoezie on his part said, “We have resolved to remove our docile and incompetent estwhile Speaker Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu for gross inefficiency, incompetence in handling the affairs of the House. In the last 3 years, Anambra State House of Assembly has been a place of mockery and we found her wanting in carrying out the duties of her office. It’s quite unfortunate that she is high-handed, gross financial improprieties, embezzlement of funds meant for House services; if you look around, you see how unkept the assembly complex looks. She is very reluctant in doing academic work. She is always afraid to attend to bills and motions. We resolved to remove her henceforth and I have been elected by my colleagues to pilot the affairs of the House for the remaining few months.”
Rita Maduagwu in her reaction said Ikem Uzoezie’s faction did not have two-thirds majority to carry out their failed mission and according to her, there was no impeachment offence read before members of the House. She said what they carried out was a kangaroo impeachment which meant that she remained the Speaker and there was nothing they could do about it. He stressed that her antagonists needed about two-thirds majority to be able to remove her or the governor from office describing them as nothing but honourable rascals.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the Anambra State House of Assembly is currently sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode. Two parallel speakers have emerged. The police in Anambra have sealed the state assembly complex pending when there is a compulsory truce. The situation seems dicey and precarious but what happens to a state without functional legislature?