This is definitely not the best of times for members of Ebonyi state House of Assembly as they have been put under intense pressure in the last two weeks. The embattled lawmakers are on the one hand under tremendous confusion as the state governor is rumoured to be pressuring them to join him to defect to the All Progress Congress (APC) from their original party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On the other hand, a Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, the state capital has granted leave to a lawyer, Mr. Kelechi Chukwu through an Order of Mandamus to compel the Clerk to Ebonyi state House of Assembly, Mrs. Patricia Anasi to furnish him with the details of the approvals and disbursement of funds for constituency projects for all the 24 lawmakers of the House from 1999 to year 2020.
According to the Court Order, the Clerk was mandated give the applicant, Kelechi Chukwu, a “comprehensive information on the money/moneys disbursed for constituency project to each of the members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly from 1999to 2020.”
Granting the demands of Mr. Chukwu as enumerated in suite No: FHC/AI/CS/66/2020, the Presiding Judge, Justice Phoebe Msuean Ayua also granted leave to the lawyer to also request and be furnished with the:
“Comprehensive information on the sum of money paid as severance allowance to each of the members of the Ebonyi state House of Assembly from 1999 to 2020.
“ A copy of the resolution passed by the members of the Ebonyi state House of Assembly on Wednesday 10th May, 2020, donating or forfeiting their various funds for 2020 constituency projects to the Executive arm of Ebonyi state government.
“A copy of the resolution passed by members of Ebonyi state House of Assembly on Thursday 25th June, 2015 on the indicted local government officials in Ebonyi state in 2015.
“A copy of the memo sent to the Governor of Ebonyi state by the respondents on the indicted Local Government officials in Ebonyi state as directed by the Ebonyi State House of Assembly on Thursday 25th June, 2015. And “ the summary of action(s) taken so far on the said resolutions of 25th June, 2015.”
The suit filed on July 21, 2020 has thrown the Clerk to Ebonyi state House of Assembly, the lawmakers as well as certain forces in the Executive arm of the government who are said to be scared of the public backlash should the details sought by the lawyer become public as such may expose the financial malfeasance that is said to have been perpetrated in the state parliament allegedly with the collusion of the two arms of the government.
It is alleged that most of the members of the Assembly, especially the long serving ones are unable to show convincing evidence of their stewardship over the years.
According to some lawmakers who spoke to EPARLIAMENT on the condition of anonymity the suit may even work in their favour as it may help to clear their names in their various constituencies. They said that their constituents have continuously been living profligate lifestyles without any regard to the welfare and development of their constituencies, especially the current members.
Meanwhile, the Governor of the state, Chief David Umahi is said to have continued to breathe down the lungs of the lawmakers in the former’s rumoured bid to defect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
A credible source close to the government told EPARLIAMENT that the lawmakers are under tremendous pressure from both the governor and some “major stakeholders” who have been recruited by the governors handlers to prevail on the lawmakers to join the governor to the APC in order to give the governor the needed image boost that will enhance his acceptance in the party.
EPARLIAMENT gathered that the governor called a meeting at the Presidential Lodge of the Old Government House Abakaliki where far reaching “agreements” and “threats” were dished out to the lawmakers by the governor.
Some of the promises made to the lawmakers by the governor to entice them to join the APC train according to Government House sources include, a firm promise “to reinstate members’ constituency projects stopped since 2015 when he assumed office.” The lawmakers were subsequently ordered to nominate any contractor of their choice to execute the constituency projects.
The Governor also “approved members’ official cars denied them since 2019.” The cars according to the source the governor promised to supply the official vehicles in the first quarter of 2021.
However, despite the juicy offers made to the lawmakers by the governor, EPARLIAMENT gathered that the number of the lawmakers not willing to move to the APC have risen from initial six to nine.
This accordingly angered the governor who was said to have threatened the members declining to decamp with him with “political oblivion,” as the governor reminded them irrespective of whatever party he may belong to, the governor told them that he would still retain “full control of both PDP and APC structures in the State.”
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Ogbonnaya Nwifuru had about two weeks ago in a press conference in Abakaliki slammed a 7-day ultimatum on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP to convene an emergency meeting and subsequently zone the Presidential ticket of the party to the Southeast or risk a mass action from the party members in the state.
The decision of the Speaker was said to have pitted him against some members of the House who openly expressed their willingness to stay put in the PDP irrespective of the position of the Speaker or the state governor.
Ebonyi state has remained a PDP controlled state since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule.
Governor Umahi has not hidden his ambition to take a shot at the Presidency as the 2023 election season approaches.
There have been widespread speculation that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has resolved to zone its presidential ticket to the southeast. The party has not, however, confirmed the zoning of it presidential ticket to the Southeast.
Click the link bellow for the full court order: