The ongoing impeachment proceedings against the deputy governor of Enugu State, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, by the State House of Assembly, ostensibly on the orders of the governor, Mr Sullivan Chime, is yet another evidence of the madness embedded in our political milieu. It shows that our States Houses of Assembly are under subjugation. It has also exposed the nauseating dirtiness, crass moral destitution, unpardonable senselessness and disgusting slavishness of the members of the Enugu State House of Assembly.
The twin allegations against the deputy governor are not just provocatively trivial but utterly frivolous. Firstly, he is accused of maintaining a poultry farm in his official residence contrary to a resolution of the House prohibiting the maintenance of and operation of commercial livestock and poultry farms within residential neighborhoods in Enugu Metropolis. Secondly, he is accused of defying the governor's directive to represent him at occasions which they claim violates Section 193 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
On the first charge, the deputy governor has replied that he came and met an area in his official residence designated as 'Agricultural Unit', which includes a poultry farm, and whose facilities were installed by the first premier of Eastern Nigeria and that all his predecessors used it and maintained the poultry farm. Interestingly, he alleged that the governor equally operates a much bigger poultry farm within his official residence.
On the second charge, Mr Onyebuchi in his reply to the notice of impeachment had this to say inter alia:
"Let me start by saying that on June 9, 2014, the Governor commenced his 2014 annual vacation. This was made public through various news media. He did not tell me to take any action on his behalf pending his return, and I am not aware that he sent a formal letter to the Enugu State House of Assembly informing the assembly that he was proceeding on vacation. The governor did not tell me to take any action on his behalf pending his return, neither did he tell me that he would pass instructions to me through a third party. I did not receive instructions from him personally, by phone or in writing asking me to represent him at the meeting of the South East Governors Forum that took place in Enugu on July 6, 2014.
“I did not have any reason not to represent him if he had so instructed me to do so. I do not think it is appropriate for a deputy governor to act in the absence of the governor deriving authority from a subordinate or based on press release to the effect that the governor handed over to his deputy.
“When the governor resumed duty after his vacation, I represented him at various occasions even after he had asked me to resign. On Friday July 18, I represented the governor at the inauguration of the Power Training Institute at Oji River with the. Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu. On Monday, July, 21 while my impeachment notice was being signed by the members of the state House of Assembly at
Government House Enugu, I was at Udi representing the governor at the inauguration of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Academy at Udi with the then Corp Marshall, Osita Chidoka..."
Now the pertinent question is; has Mr Onyebuchi committed any gross misconduct within the meaning and contemplation of Section 188 (2) & (11) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to warrant his removal by the State House of Assembly? The answer is obviously in the negative.
On the first charge, the House of Assembly is arrogating to itself powers it does not have by seeking to punish the deputy governor for purportedly violating her resolution. Under the present constitutional regime as enshrined in Sections 58 (1) & 100 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) , the legislative powers of both the National and States Assemblies are only exercisable by Acts and Laws passed by the National and States Assemblies respectively.
Putting it differently, it is trite law that except by legislation, neither the National nor a State Assembly can compel or restrain the performance of an action. Resolutions passed by the legislature in Nigeria have only persuasive effects and disobedience of same cannot give rise to legal sanctions.
Therefore, supposing without conceding, that the maintenance of the poultry farm by the deputy governor is wrong, it would not amount to gross misconduct because the resolution of the House is neither binding nor legally enforceable. As such, the House cannot impute or manufacture gross misconduct from such non-compliance with her resolutions.
If indeed the governor is equally maintaining a poultry farm at his official residence as alleged, how come that no impeachment proceedings has been commenced against him? The deputy governor ought in my opinion to be commended for his interest in agriculture. This is rare in a country where politicians are corrupted by crude oil money. Notably, the Code of Conduct for public officers under our Constitution prohibits a public officer from engaging in profit making ventures, except agriculture. So what is the cacophony about?
On the second allegation, the Section 193 (1) of the Constitution which the House claimed Mr. Onyebuchi violated merely enables a governor to delegate responsibility to his deputy and commissioners. It states thus:
"The Governor may in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government"
Again, supposing without conceding that the deputy governor had defied the directive of the governor to represent him at occasion(s), that will not amount to an impeachable offence. The reason is simple, under the Constitution ( See. Section 188 (2) (b) ) a governor or deputy governor can ONLY be removed from office for gross misconduct. On the meaning of gross misconduct, Section 188 (11) of the same Constitution provides as follows:
"A GRAVE violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such a nature as amounts in the opinion of the House of Assembly to gross misconduct" (emphasis mine).
It is humbly submitted that the mere refusal or inability of a deputy governor to perform the responsibility of representing the governor at one or few functions CANNOT amount to a grave violation of the Constitution within the meaning and contemplation of Section 188 (11) of the Constitution. Such refusal must be wilful and persistent.
If actually Governor Sullivan Chime did not officially and personally assign his deputy the responsibility of representing him before he proceeded on vacation on June 9, 2014 as stated by Mr. Onyebuchi, then the whole talk about him not representing the governor during that period of vacation is senselessly indefensible. Are there no protocols in government anymore? If someone has to be in the dock over this, it is Chime himself for treating his deputy with disdain.
It has been reported in the media that the governor is rooting for the impeachment of his deputy so that he can replace him with his Chief Of Staff, Ifeoma Nwobodo, and to pave way for the latter's election to the Senate in 2015. Whatever the motive may be, it is insatiable and condemnable.
It is indeed very shameful that the wife-beater and vacation-prone governor of Enugu State who was away from the state for months last year without transmitting a letter to the House of Assembly to enable his deputy assume office as Acting Governor, pending his return, as provided for in the Constitution will now have the effrontery to instigate the removal of the same deputy who despite being undermined, remained loyal and stood-in for him.
Of course, what should we expect from a man who unlawfully imprisoned his wife and turned her into a slave-girl. This is a man that God has been very benevolent to; health wise. A man whose political career has been largely assisted and enhanced by the goodwill of men. What ingratitude, what a disdain for humanity and even God.
It is indeed a very historic but appalling appetite for political witch-hunting that non of the two imbecilic allegations against Mr. Onyebuchi bordered on corruption or financial misconduct. If eventually the deputy governor is impeached, he (Mr. Onyebuchi) should console himself and take it with equanimity because in the final analysis, the God of the just; the God of vengeance will fight for him as no evil ever done by man goes unpunished. Posterity will surely vindicate him.
The continuous and unabated rape of our democracy by an arrogant clique of renegades must be resisted by all. Our political actors should be mindful that if Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi is impeached because of those ungodly and unsubstantiated charges, a dangerous and disastrous precedent would have been set for our nascent democracy.
The battle for a sane society where might is not right is collective. As such, the current apocalyptic proclivities of the Enugu State governor and the rubber-stamped House of Assembly must be resisted by all democratic forces. We must excoriate the prevailing reign of executive rascality and legislative exuberance in Enugu State. Enough is Enough.
Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist. He can be reached via [email protected] or +2348065142135.