The deputy governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi, who is currently facing an impeachment panel on Wednesday said the governor, Sullivan Chime, also operated piggery farms at the Government House.
Giving evidence before the panel, Mr. Onyebuchi said the governor’s poultry was hurriedly evacuated shortly after the panel commenced sitting.
Mr. Onyebuchi is accused of operating commercial poultry at his official residence and disobedience to Mr. Chime, in the impeachment notices served him by the Enugu State House of Assembly.
However, the embattled deputy governor suddenly took ill while testifying at before the seven-member panel last week.
Membership of the panel are Franklin Oraekeyi (Chairman), Ebele Eze, Anthony Iguh, fabian Uluakanwa, Okwuchukwu Aroh, Martin Onyemuru and Mercy Anyim.
Mr. Onyebuchi revealed that the state government had budgeted for the maintenance of the poultry since 2011. The deputy governor who tendered the state’s budget between 2011 and 2014, said funds had always been provided for the poultry he operated.
He insisted that he did not commit any offence that could warrant his impeachment and that the poultry farms he and the governor were operating were there before they assumed office in 2007.
The deputy governor described all the allegations the lawmakers brought against him as false and baseless.
Mr. Onuebuchi told journalists after he concluded his evidence that he had been able to tell the panel that the resolution purportedly adopted by the legislature was not a law.
“I have always said that this is a straight forward matter. One is the allegation of operating a poultry farm. We have been able to put the message across that the House of Assembly resolution is not a law and the resolution was not made available to me,” he said.
“We were able to make the point that there is also poultry at Government House and the poultry at the Government House was evacuated with the commencement of the panel proceedings.”
“Today, I was able to present to the panel other evidence to show that there was poultry at the Government House. I got copies of Enugu State government budget for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and in each of these budgets, you have evidence of the allocation for Government House poultry and piggery and amount attached to it and I was also able to prove that the amount was released. If they said there was no poultry, then let’s know why we have all these provisions all these years.”
On the allegation that he refused to represent Mr. Chime at the flag-off of the 2nd Niger Bridge by President Goodluck Jonathan earlier in the year, Mr. Onyebuchi said he played the video of the event by the African Independent Television, AIT, before the panel.
He denied being communicated in person by telephone or by any other means to represent the governor at the meeting of the South East Governors during Mr. Chime’s vacation.
He said, “He did not communicate to me in person, by telephone or whatever means. He never, while going on vacation that he will pass instructions to me through a third party and like I said, this is a straight forward matter and I believe the ball is in the court of the panel.
“It is for them to decide whether to stand on the side of truth, on the side of justice which most citizens of Enugu State are asking for. If they believe like most people say that might is right, whoever has power is right, we will see by the end of the day. I have not committed offence that will justify being removed by impeachment. I started working with the governor in 2007 and if I was not obedient to him, I don’t think he will nominate me again for the second term to run with him for another four years.
“Even when he was away on vacation in 2012 and 2013, I believe I represented him very well such that the letter he wrote to the House of Assembly when he came back, he commended me. I also received commendation from so many people; I also received commendation from the members of the state executive as well as members of the House of Assembly. I am hopeful that truth will triumph.”
Below is the blow by blow account of the panel’s proceedings on Wednesday:
DEPUTY GOV OF ENUGU STATE IMPEACHMENT INVESTIGATIVE PANEL PROCEDINGS ON 20 AUGUST 2014
…Details of how the same House of Assembly has been passing budgetary approvals for Government House poultry from 2011 to 2014
1. Barr. Frankln Uche Oraekeiyi Chairman
2. Barr. Maxwell Ebele Eze Member
3. Barr. Anthony I. Iguh Member
4. Barr. (Pastor) Fabian Uluakanwa Member
5. Perfectus Okwuchukwu Aroh Member
6. Mr. Martin Onyemuru Member
7. Mrs. Mercy Praise Anyim Member
Peter Eze (Counsel to Deputy Governor) says we were at the stage where the Deputy Governor was giving his evidence-in-chief on 13 August 2014. Says we intend to continue from where we stopped.
CONTINUATION OF EVIDENCE OF DG7
Witness is reminded he is still on oath
Witness is shown Exhibit DG2 i.e. witness reply to Exhibits H6A and H6B.
I did not get any reaction from the letter-Exhibit DG2. I requested for the Certificate of Occupancy in Exhibit DG2 but was not provided with the certificate of occupancy.
Witness is shown Exhibit H3. It contains a resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly.
I have not seen Exhibit H3 before this impeachment proceedings commenced. This is my first time of seeing it.
Witness is shown Exhibit H5. It is a circular issued by the Enugu State Government dated February 18 2013.
I can see my official designation as one of those it is addressed to. I have never seen this circular before. This is my first time of seeing it. In all the correspondences from the Chief of Staff to the Governor i.e. Exhibits H6A and H6B, there was no mention of either the resolution of the House or this circular.
My secretary signs for and receives all mails including circulars addressed to me, registers them, puts them in a folder and pass the folder to me.
I am aware that the Government of Enugu State passes a budget every year. If I see the approved budget of Enugu State for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 I can recognise them.
Witness identifies the approved budget for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Eze seeks to tender them
No objection by I. I. Eze
PANEL: Approved budget for Enugu State Government for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 are admitted and marked Exhibits DG3A, DG3B, DG3C and DG3D respectively.
I am familiar with the Agric Unit Government House, Enugu. From the gate of the Government House, you have the office complex by the left, directly facing the gate is a poultry house, to the right from the gate is a cattle ranch, behind the poultry house is a piggery section. I have had something with the Agric Unit in the Government House. As a civil servant working in Government House, I used to buy cow meat, chickens and eggs from the Agric Unit.
Witness is shown Page 196 of Exhibit DG3A
The budget in page 196 of Exhibit DG3A is in respect of the office of the Governor and it starts at page 194. Item 19 has as its project title-“ Purchase of Agro Materials- Project Details- Restoration of Agric Unit–Poultry Farm and Piggery Section”.
Witness is shown Exhibit DG3B and referred to page 173.
It is also in respect of the budget for the office of the Governor. It makes provision for the restoration of the Poultry Section, Piggery Section and Agric Unit for N10,000,000.
Witness is shown page 60 of Exhibit DG3B i.e. supplementary budget Item 11.
It also makes provisions for the restoration of Poultry Section, Piggery Unit and Agric Section.
Witness is shown Exhibit DG3C, the budget for 2013 page 196 Item 11.
It is in respect of the office of the Executive Governor. It provides N3,000,000 for the restoration of the Agric Units, Poultry and Piggery Sections of the Government House, Enugu. The justification is to boost livestock production as shown in the budget. The target for 2013 is to restore the poultry and piggery section. Item 12 of the same 2013 budget has procurement of generating set, justification is to boost livestock production and the amount is N3,000,000.
Between 2012 and 2013 I acted as the Acting Governor of Enugu State. In my capacity as the Acting Governor, I did something in respect of the Agric Unit. A memo was brought to me by the Chief of Staff to the Governor requesting my approval for the sum of N3,000,000 for the purchase of consumables for the Government House poultry and piggery sections and I gave approval as requested.
Witness is shown Exhibit DG3D page 240 of the budget for 2014.
In item 12 of page 240 of the budget for 2014, N3,000,000 was budgeted for the purchase of Agricultural inputs and Consumables for the poultry and piggery sections of the Government House, Enugu. Page 241 of the same budget has in its Item 2 for the renovation of the Agric Unit building for N4,000,000.
As at today 20/8/2014 there is a poultry house in Government House, Enugu but I am aware that on Tuesday the 5th August 2014 the birds in the poultry house were evacuated between 3pm and 12 midnight in anticipation of a possible visit by the Panel.
In Exhibit DG2 I said that the official residence of the Deputy Governor is part and parcel of the Government House because that was the impression I had because letters addressed to me carries Deputy Governor’s Lodge, Government House, Enugu.
In Exhibit DG2 I did not insist that I will not relocate the poultry. I only addressed the issues raised in the two letters written to me and awaited for the outcome of their reaction to my letter.
On 27 January 2014 I did not resist the removal of my birds by the officials of the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority. I did not also intimidate the officials of Government sent to carry out the evacuation of my poultry.
I received Exhibit H6A and H6B from the Chief of Staff to the Governor the same day. I replied the letters and also called the Governor’s phone number twice. It was after he did not pick the calls that I decided to reply the two letters within the 14 days ultimatum given to me. I did not talk to the Governor.
If I want to see the Governor I will make an appointment through his orderly and if I get approval for my request through his orderly, then I can see him.
On 27/1/2014 I did not invite the press to my official quarters to witness the evacuation of the birds. I did not also give them any document concerning the evacuation.
I know Chukwudi Achife. He is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor. After the evacuation of the bird on 27/1/2014 some journalists came to me with a copy of a press release signed by Chief Press Secretary to the Governor and asked for my reaction. They gave a copy of the press release. The document I have is the copy of the press release.
Eze seeks to tender
I.I. Eze does not object but says the document is not dated and not signed.
PANEL: Copy of an undated press release is admitted and marked Exhibit DG 4.
Witness is shown Exhibit H7B-Vanguard Newspaper report on the evacuation of the Deputy Governor’s poultry at page 9. It also refers to the press statement by Chukwudi Achife and Exhibit H7C- Guardian Newspaper report on the evacuation of the Deputy Governor’s poultry at page 14 refers also to a press statement issued by Chukwudi Achife.
It is not in doubt that I spoke to the Newspapers. Two journalists came to me at 8:30pm on 27/1/2014 with a copy of the press release. I know Vanguard came and I think Guardian. I don’t know the names of the journalists but they introduced themselves by the Newspapers they represent
I do not know where my birds are now. They were not returned to me. Chairman of the Enugu Capital Territory who supervised the evacuation of the birds said that he did not know where the birds were kept.
I have not seen Exhibit H8 before I came to this Panel. I have not seen Exhibit H10 before. I got to know about M-Series of plot inside this Panel.
I did not castigate the government in the evacuation issue. I heard of it in the impeachment notice.
I serve alongside the Governor from 2007 to 2011. My relationship with the Governor was good at the period.
My functions as the Deputy Governor is that I represent the Governor in functions as directed by the Governor. In addition, statutorily, the Deputy Governor is the chairman of the State Boundary Committee. The Governor conveys directives to me in person or through a phone call or a Governor’s manifest which states the function that I am to represent the Governor. In the absence of these two channels I get an invitation letter with the Governor’s minutes directing me to represent him and such letters are sent to me by the director of protocol.
Witness is shown some letters. These letters are invitations to the Governor for some functions and in these letters you have the Governor’s minutes directing that I represent him.
Eze seeks to tender
I.I. Eze does not object.
PANEL: Documents titled Invitation to Attend the Official Opening and Closing of the 17th National Sports Festival- Garden City Games, Invitation to the First Session of the 15th Synod of the Diocese of Enugu (Anglican Communion) and Invitation to Justice for All Lunch event are admitted and marked Exhibits DG5A, DG5B and DG5C respectively.
My 1st tenure came to an end on 28 May 2011. The Governor invited me to his lodge and told me that we had worked so well in the preceding four years and that for that reason he has decided to continue with me for the next four years. Thereafter he gave me nomination forms and I thanked him.
It has never been the practice that the Governor will issue a directive to me through a third party orally. It has never been my practice to take oral directives from subordinates as to what the Governor wants me to do.
There was a situation when the Governor was on vacation specifically in 2012. He instructed me that his Chief of Staff will be telling me what to approve and what not to approve. The Chief of staff is Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo.
My official designation within this period was the Acting Governor of Enugu State.
The Governor was away for a little less than five months. From Exhibit H3 the Governor was away from 17 September 2012 to 8 February 2013. During this period there was no approval that Mrs. Ifeoma Nwoboido presented to me that I refused to approve.
The Governor wrote the House of Assembly that he is back and I have a copy of the letter as it was copied to me.
Eze seeks to tender
I.I. Eze does not object.
PANEL: Copy of document dated 8 February 2013 is admitted and marked Exhibit DG6.
After the Governor came back I received some reactions from those I worked with in the absence of the Governor. Most members of the State Executive Council came to me personally and commended me for the matured and able way I had handled the affairs of the State during the Governor’s absence. A few of them who could not come sent in their commendations in writing.I have letter from Honourable Commissioner Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Jude Akubuilo.
Eze seeks to tender
I.I. Eze does not object.
PANEL: Letter of Commendation from the Commissioner Ministry of Commerce and Industry to the Deputy Governor dated 5/2/2013 is admitted and marked Exhibit DG 7.
I have never been present at any Executive Council meeting where the resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly dated 12/2/2013 with respect to maintenance of poultry was discussed.
I have not habitually refused, failed or neglected to carry out the functions of my office as directed by the Governor without any excuse. If I had I do not think that I would be nominated after the 1st four years. If I had I do not think I will receive the praise of my Governor during our electioneering campaign. If I had I do not think the Governor would have commended me when he came back from the vacation in 2013. If I had I do not think that there will be only two instances cited in the notice of impeachment.
I did not refuse to attend the ceremony of 11/3/2014 for the Flag off ceremony of the 2nd Niger Bridge by the President. I attended the ceremony. I left my residence with my convoy at about 8am of that day. We left by 8am because the programme was scheduled to start by 10am and we got to Onitsha the venue of the programme just before 10am. I entered the hall and saw where a seat was reserved for me. I protested that it was not appropriate for me to sit there. I was told that they had information that my Governor would not be attending and that only Governors would be sitting with the President. I now took a sit that was at the front row in the hall where Governor Obiano, then Anambra State Governor elect, the wife of Peter Obi, the National Chairman of APGA; Victor Umeh, Wife of Victor Umeh, the wife of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Mrs. Emeka Sibudu and then Anambra Deputy Governor elect, Nkem Okeke. I was there when the programme commenced and after that I accompanied the President for the Flagging off ceremony outside. That was after the presidential address. No press team or camera person from Enugu State government was sent to cover the event. However I got to know that the ceremony was covered live by AIT when some people called me to tell me that they saw me on television at the particular event.
I know Mr. Samuel Odo, DGW 6. He is my driver. He drove me to the venue on the 11th of March 2014. I have a copy of the video for the event from AIT on application. I tendered a copy to the Enugu State House of Assembly as an attachment to my reply to their allegation of gross misconduct. It was acknowledged for me by the Clerk of the House.
Eze seeks to tender the video tape.
No objection from I.I Eze.
PANEL: A copy of the VCD of the Flag off ceremony of the 2nd Niger Bridge admitted and marked Exhibit DG8.
Eze applies to play the video.
PANEL: Application granted.
(The VCD is played and the Deputy Governor was seen in the event.)
I did not receive any express directive to represent the Governor at the South East Governor’s Forum of 6th July 2014. The Governor did not call me to ask me to represent him at the event. The Governor did not minute on any letter to ask me to represent him at the event. I did not receive any manifest asking me to represent him at the event.
Let me start by saying that I did not have any reason not to represent the Governor in any function if I am directed by the Governor because that is what I am paid to do and I had no reason after representing him in functions for seven years and two months, not to represent him at the meeting of the South East Governor’s Forum that took place in Enugu if he had asked me to do so.
Around 8pm on the night of the 5th of July 2014, the director of protocol, Emeka Asogwa called me on phone and asked me if I would represent the Governor at the meeting of the South East Governors’ Forum scheduled to take place the next day since the Governor was on vacation. I told him that he knew the rules that if the Governor asked me to, that I will do so since I was in town and I was healthy. He said that he thought that the Governor had called me. I told him no that I will attend the meeting if I get the order from the Governor. Emeka Asogwa said that he will get back to me. Around 9:45 pm of the same day, he called me and said that he was at my gate and I asked him to give the gateman the phone and he did and I asked the gateman to allow him in. He came in and told me that he spoke with the Governor and that the Governor asked him to tell me to represent him.
I told him that I have tried the Governor’s phone numbers and that they were not available. But since he knew how to reach the Governor, will he please call the Governor so that I will hear from him and also ask him what I will say at the meeting. He said he would not do that at that particular time and I told him that he knew that it was wrong for me to take any action without hearing from the Governor. He agreed with me and left.
It was inside this Panel sitting that I heard from Emeka Asogwa that he sent me a manifest. I will say that he did not send me any manifest, that would be the first time since 2007 that there would be a Governor’s manifest when the Governor was on vacation. When the Governor was on vacation in 2012 and 2013, the manifests he prepared read “Acting Governor’s Manifest”. The summary of my submission is that contrary to the allegation in the impeachment notice, there was no explicit directive from the governor asking me to represent him and that he did not tell me that he will pass instruction to me through a third party.
Eze seeks to tender samples of the manifests in the absence of the Governor in 2012 and 2013.
No objection from I. I. Eze.
PANEL: Acting Governor’s Manifest dated 5/10/12 admitted and marked Exhibit DG 9A, 9B and 9C.
On 18 June 2014, the Governor announced at the State Executive Council Meeting that he will be commencing his annual vacation the next day the 19th of June and that he would be travelling outside the country specifically to USA for a Ship Cruise. On 6 July, he had not come back from the vacation.
The manifests are delivered to the Gateman at my residence at No 46 Savage Crescent, GRA, Enugu. The Gateman hands over the manifest to my Orderly and my Orderly will call my attention to it. The name of my gateman is Umaru Yahaya. He started working with me since 2004. I cannot recall any case since 2007 I became the Deputy Governor that my Gateman will receive a manifest without bringing it to my notice.
Prior to this proceeding, I have never seen Exhibit H9B of 6th July, 2014.
Mr. Asogwa said that on the 5th of June 2014 that he did not see me but it is not correct. I was in the Panel when Asogwa told the Panel that he did not remember speaking to me on the 5th of July 2014. I did something especially when he said he did not call to know whether I was around. I applied to MTN to supply me the Call Data Record of that day.
Eze seeks to tender the Call Data Record from MTN.
I.I. Eze does not oppose.
PANEL: Call Data Record admitted and marked Exhibit DG10.
My phone number is 2348033473115. I know Emeka Asogwa’s number. It is 2348033532599. The number called me on the 5th of July, 2014 at 8:03.34 PM and the call lasted for 56 seconds. It also called me at 9:41:06 on 5th July 2014 and the call lasted for 24 seconds.
I know Onyemuche Nnamani. He is from my area and I worked with him in the last administration when he was the Secretary to the State Government and I was a Civil Servant. I know that the burial of his mother was fixed for the 5th of June 2014 because he invited me for the occasion and sent me uniform. I also received Exhibit H9A. I did not attend the funeral.
I called the Chief of Protocol on the 5th of June 2014 to tell him that I will not attend the funeral ceremony. I told him that I was sick and was reacting to a drug given to me by Dr. Ogbonna, HW3. He expressed sympathy and wished me quick recovery. I believe that it is for this reason that it was not included in the Notice of Impeachment.
I heard the visit of the Deputy British High Commissioner on 4th July 2014 in this Panel. I did not receive any directive from the Governor to receive the Deputy High Commissioner.
Between July 5th and now I have represented the Governor at some occasions. On the 11th of July 2014 I joined the Governor in receiving the Vice President of Nigeria. On the 18th of July, 2014, I represented the Governor at the commissioning of the Power Trading Institute at Oji River with the Minister for Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu.
On 21 July 2014, I represented the Governor at the commissioning of the Federal Road Safety Corps Academy in Udi with the then Corps Marshall Osita Chidoka. That was the day members of the House of Assembly signed my Impeachment Notice.
I read the report from the Governor to the House of Assembly of my refusal to obey lawful directives from the Impeachment Notice.
On the 16th of July, 2014 I went to the Governor’s office to inform him of my intention to travel out of the country for six days and he asked me to give him one reason why he should approve it. I told him that I did not know of any reason but if there is any that I would like to know. He then said that I did not represent him at the South East Governors’ Forum Meeting that took place in Enugu on the 6th of July 2014.
I told him that he never instructed me to represent him. He now directed me to resign immediately from my office or he will make my life miserable. I told him that not representing him at that meeting was not enough reason for me to resign.
He said yes that there are other reasons. That while he was on vacation in 2012 and 2013 that I suggested to him that his Chief of Staff, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo should be removed from office. Another reason he gave was that I was interacting with his enemies. All these took place in the presence of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Intergovernmental Affairs, Rita Mba.
I told him “Sir please May I explain”, and he said that if I did not leave his office immediately he would call the security men to carry me out of the Government House. This was after I told him that I noticed hostile attitude from him from the day I informed him of my desire to contest the Senatorial Seat of Enugu East Senatorial Zone. He repeated the threat and I left his office. I have no reason to resign from my office as Deputy Governor of Enugu State.
I have done nothing to deserve removal. I have for the past seven years and two months carried out all that is assigned to me diligently, efficiently and effectively to the admiration of the Governor and most people in Enugu State. I have not in any way breached my oath of office or the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I have displayed obedience even to the point of slavishness or stupidity. I have not in any way been reprimanded by the Governor in the last seven years and two months. I am happy that no serious allegations especially any bothering on financial impropriety, corruption, fraud were leveled against me. I am happy too that no accusation of lack of capacity or incompetence in carrying out my functions was leveled against me. I do not see from the allegations in the Notice of Impeachment where I have committed what would amount to gross misconduct as to warrant or justify my being removed by impeachment.
I decided to appear before this Panel and risk being impeached rather than resign because I am convinced that in Nigeria today we can still find men and women who will stand by the side of truth and justice.
Eze says that is all for the witness.
PANEL: The proceedings is adjourned to 3pm for cross examination of the Deputy Governor; DGW7 .