Democracy Under Attack In Anambra

Raymond Ozoji, Awka

When the ‘war’ broke out in the Anambra State House of Assembly following the removal of the former Speaker Rita Maduagwu and subsequent election of Ikem Uzoezie as the new and substantive Speaker of the 6th assembly, it was clear that the battle line has been drawn between the two leadership of the state parliament. The attendant chaotic atmosphere that arose as a result of the impeachment saga led to the outright closure and takeover of the Anambra State House of Assembly by the Nigeria police Anambra state command. The action of the police in sealing the legislative chambers till further notice has generated heated arguments. While the new Speaker at a press conference in Awka described the actions of the Nigeria police as undemocratic and unconstitutional as well as hoped that the police would respect the rule of law and the independence of the legislature and unlock the state assembly complex, some people tend to stand with the police saying that the actions of the police in taking over the legislature was solely in the interest of peace and public order.

But the entire episode took a dramatic turn on Thursday 22nd November, 2018, when about 16 lawmakers including Ikem Uzoezie, the new Speaker of the House, turned out for the usual legislative business. Unfortunately, police operatives stationed at the assembly complex barred them from gaining access into the chambers on the condition that the entire complex was still under siege and that no directive had been given for the reopening of the place. The lawmakers apparently disheartened and disenchanted by the actions of the police, saw the entire situation as a terrible blow on the legislative arm of the government in Anambra state.

As it stands, the legislature in Anambra has been incapacitated and inactive following the stalling of legislative sessions occasioned by police invasion of the complex. The new Speaker while speaking with journalists at the state assembly complex on Thursday 22nd November, shortly after they discovered that the legislative complex was still under siege by the Nigeria police said that “members of the Anambra State House of Assembly came to office complex to continue with their legislative assignment but unfortunately the order from the police still subsists. And we find it very unfortunate that our democracy in Anambra is under attack. I enjoin the Nigeria police force led by the Inspector-General of Police to order his men to vacate our premises so that this arm of government will function. It’s a threat to democracy in Anambra state.”

Uzoezie passionately appealed to the police boss to wade into the matter and prevail on his men to vacate the assembly complex to enable the legislature to resume its constitutional obligation of lawmaking and other legislative duties. He also noted that the continuous occupation of the state assembly complex by the police was completely unimaginable and that it was an ill wind that would blow no one any good. Judging from what transpired at the state assembly complex on Thursday 22nd November, it’s not certain yet when the Nigeria police will hands off the legislative complex.

However a source who preferred anonymity said the former Speaker Rita Maduagwu remained impeached and that the lawmakers would not rescind their collective decision on the impeachment matter. The source also disclosed that the state governor Chief Willie Obiano might have peace talks with the lawmakers to calm frayed nerves. It further maintained that whether the Nigeria police barricades the premises of the state assembly or not, the reality on ground is that the former Speaker cannot preside over legislative proceedings.

Efforts made to get the embattled Speaker Rita Maduagwu to speak were unsuccessful. But the bone of contention remains, how long will the police in Anambra state continue to truncate democracy and deprive lawmakers of their legislative rights as well as right of access into the legislative chambers to enable them to continue making laws and also oversight the activities of other arms of governments in the state? Anambra people earnestly await the reopening of the Anambra State House of Assembly complex by the Nigeria police.

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