Confusion as Ebonyi Assembly declares four seats vacant

Ebonyi State House of Assembly; Photo: BellaNaija

The Ebonyi State House of Assembly on Wednesday declared the seats of four members vacant for defecting to another political party.

The Speaker, Chukwuma Nwazunku, while reading the resolution, said that the affected members violated section 109, sub section 1G of the 1999 constitution as amended by defecting to another political party without stipulated party guidelines.

“The affected members include: Eni Uduma-Chima (PDP-Afikpo South West), Sam Nwali (PDP-Ikwo North), Helen-Nwaobashi (PDP—Abakaliki South) and Mabel Aleke (PDP—Ohaukwu South).

“They defected to another party without due consultation to the laid down rules stipulated by the PDP under which platform they were elected as members of the House,” Mr. Nwazunku said.

“Their actions brings the integrity of the House into disrepute, as the declaration of vacancy to their seats takes effect from Feb.11, 2015.

“We therefore inform the State Commissioner of Police, State Security Service, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant agencies, on the matter for appropriate actions to be taken.”

But one of the affected members, Mr. Uduma-Chima, said the speaker and the members may have erroneously shot themselves in the foot as the resolutions means that the 24-member House has come to an end as it no longer has the minimum required number as stipulated in the constitution.

His words, “the purported declaration of four seats vacant in the House of Assembly would mean the end of the activities of the Fourth Assembly until a bye- election is conducted because by the provision of section 91 of the 1999 constitution as amended, ‘a House of Assembly shall consist of not less than twenty- four (24) members and not more than forty members'”.

“If the purported declaration were to stand, it would mean technically that the house has come to an end because only twenty persons would be members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly”, he added.

Mr. Uduma-Chima, who briefed reporters alongside nine other lawmakers, said “the issue of declaring seats of House members vacant cannot hold on the ground that it is a subject matter of a suit pending before the Federal High Court of Nigeria holding in Abakaliki as suit Number FHC/AI/ CS/49/2014: between Rt Hon Blaise Orji and others V Hon Chukwuma Nwazunku and others.

The suit among other things is for the Court to determine whether or not there was crisis and factions in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the time the members defected to the Labour Party (LP).

Meanwhile, it was gathered that the faction of the Speaker initially planned to commence impeachment proceedings against Governor Martin Elechi during Wednesday’s sitting, but was forced to shelve the plan as they could not get the stipulated two-third number of lawmakers needed for such action.

Only 14 members were present at the sitting presided over by Mr. Nwazunku which fell short of the required number of 16.

Curiously, the House also elected to declare only four seats vacant out of a total of nine seats whose occupants defected to the Labour Party.

They also did not declare the seat of Joseph Nwobasi (Ezza North East) who defected from the All Progressive Party (APC) to the PDP vacant.

The House, during the plenary, also threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the principal officers of Local Government Areas in the state, the state commissioners for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters and finance, among others, if they fail to appear before it in its next plenary.

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