By Ikechukwu Iweajunwa
Owerri, Dec. 24, 2021
The Speaker, Imo House of Assembly, Mr. Kennedy Ibeh has said the three lawmakers suspended from the House on Thursday abandoned state assignment for personal business prior to their suspension.
The Speaker clarified this in a press statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary Mr. Ifeanyi Onyekachi, a copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday.
NAN recalls that the Speaker announced the suspension of Mr. Arthur Egwim (APC Ideato North), Mrs. Ngozi Obiefule (APC Isu) and Mr. Obinna Okwara (APC Nkwerre) for what he described as dereliction of duty.
The House also declared the seat of Ngor- Okpala state constituency vacant as the member representing the constituency Mr. Tochi Okereke exempted from proceedings for a period more than one-third the House had sat since it’s inauguration in 2019.
On the suspended members, Ibeh said the action would serve as deterrent for dereliction of duty and “business as usual attitude.
“The suspension was to serve as a deterrent for dereliction of duty and business as usual attitude of the members who take for granted the business of the parliament in respect of which they swore an oath to effectively discharge their legislative duties.
“The suspended members acted dishonourably by disregarding the resolution of the House for which they themselves gave nod to and willingly committed themselves to.
“Owing to the urgent importance of the 2022 Appropriation Bill presented to the House on the 17th of December by Gov. Hope Uzodinma, the House unanimously agreed to handle the interface with the MDAs, parastatals, ministries, agencies etc, within 3 days”, he said.
The Speaker added that the decision was to allow for expeditious passage of the appropriation bill which therefore required full participation and intelligent contributions of all the members.
He said the commitment by the lawmakers were made before Imo people and the world in the full glare of the media in respect to which it was honorable that the members keep to their promises.
Ibeh said unfortunately, in utter disregard to the sacredness of the all-important state assignment, the suspended members abandoned the assignment and pursued their private businesses
“Mr. Speaker and other House members who kept to the commitment were seen leaving office between 8 and 9pm within the period of budget considerations.
“This was not to the exclusion of the assembly staff who had to make extra sacrifice to keep late to ensure that the budget was delivered on record time.
“It is therefore frivolous and spurious for any of the affected house members to bandy around the falsehood that he was suspended for attending burial ceremony.
“This claim comes so spurious especially as it was not all the honorable members who attended the said funeral that were affected by the suspension.
“The Speaker is not unmindful of the pains that come with the loss of a dear one for which he wrote the Nwosu family, commiserating with them and could not have merely suspended members for identifying with a bereaved Imolite”, he said.
On the declaration of the seat of the member for Ngor Okpala vacant, Ibeh said it is a purely constitutional issue in respect of which the lawmaker had no discretion to exercise to the contrary.
“Following a motion moved by the member representing Ideato South, the House went into full debate on the merits of the motion calling for the declaration of the seat vacant owing to absenteeism from house activities.
“The motion caused the Speaker to pause proceedings for about 10mins as he called the Clerk to produce records evidencing the habitual absenteeism of the former member which was resolved in favour of the constitution as it gained the vote of the members of the house.
“It’s important to note that Sec 109(1)(f) provides that the seat of a member shall be declared vacant if without just cause, he is absent from meetings of the House for a period amounting in the aggregate more than one-third of the total number of days during which the house meets in any one year.
The Speaker said the leadership of the assembly has made it abundantly clear that the House will put the interest of Imo people first before any other interest, as the House has vowed to join hands with Gov. Hope Uzodimma to better Imo.