Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The new Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Ikem Uzoezie has said that the Anambra state command of the Nigeria Police has no constitutional obligation to take over, seal off and secure the entire premises of the House of Assembly as well as order the workers of the legislature to report for duty at the office of the Head of Service.
Uzoezie who disclosed this to journalists at a press briefing in Awka on Monday, explained that there was no incident or resemblance of any crisis that occurred amongst the lawmakers or within the premises of the Anambra State House of Assembly to warrant the police takeover of the state assembly.
He therefore described the action of the police as illegal, pointing out that the police in Anambra dabbled into an area they don’t have jurisdiction.
The new Speaker of the House however maintained that it was important to note that the minor change in the House Leadership by the removal of the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu by over two-thirds majority was within the constitutional powers of the legislature and thereafter the House unanimously elected him as their new Speaker stressing that such matters remained the internal affairs of the House of Assembly and that if anyone has any reservation with the removal, the person should go to court for the determination of such issue.
The Speaker admitted that the police were duty bound to secure the assembly complex to protect it from the attacks of hoodlums but not shutting down the entire complex noting that the primary responsibility of the police was to safeguard government property and not to infringe on the rights of lawmakers even as he maintained that the action of the police amounts to usurping the duties of the legislators.
According to him, the country is no longer in a military dictatorship but a democracy where the rule of law reigns supreme. He said they had written letters to the Inspector-General of Police as well as the Anambra State Police Command stressing that it was hoped that the police would unseal the legislative complex and provide basic security only for the state assembly and also to enable them to resume their constitutional duties.
On the issue of whether he was formally sworn-in as Speaker by the clerk of the House, Uzoezie said it was quite unfortunate that one Mr. Pius Udoh who is the clerk of the House was dishing out false information regarding his speakership.
He said the clerk was merely a civil servant and not the spokesman of the State House of Assembly and that there was no where it was expressly stated in the constitution that when a speaker was removed from office and a new Speaker emerged, he would take an oath of office and allegiance.
Uzoezie said he had already taken an oath of office and allegiance as a member of the parliament and that the two oaths still subsist and he remains the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly forthwith.
Speaking on behalf of the Anambra State Commissioner of Police Garba Baba Umar, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr. Chris Owolabi told journalists that the sealing of the legislative chambers in Awka was informed by the letter Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu the embattled Speaker wrote to the Police.
Owolabi alleged that some thugs were brought to the assembly complex and acting on the order of the embattled Speaker, the police stormed the premises using tear-gas to chase the thugs away.
The DCP noted that the police reserved the right to seal the assembly complex in the interest of public peace even though he said the place would be reopened when there is a truce pointing out that both speakers have been invited to a meeting with the police for further discussions.