A member of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Maria Ude Nwachi on Monday protested what she described as her continuous exclusion from house activities.
She also accused the state government of depriving her of ‘Christmas largesse’ and constituency project funds duly given to other members.
“Give me what they gave my fellow assembly members. Give me my constituency projects funds because when you are denying me my entitlements, you are not only denying Maria, you are denying my constituency…”, the lawmaker representing Afikpo North East constituency told PREMIUM TIMES.
The female lawmaker says she was denied a Christmas largesse of the sum of N3.5 million and a 100 bags of rice which were given to all her colleagues to give constituents.
A female rights group, Advocacy for Political Equality in Nigeria, APEN had a week ago condemned the denial, threatening not to support the re-election bid of the Governor of the State, David Nweze Umahi.
The vice chairman of the group, Veronica Okwuegbu in a statement also condemned the denial of constituency project funds.
Ms Nwachi, who is contesting for a position in the house of representatives under the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) in the upcoming election in a brief phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES explained her ordeal.
“I don’t even know anything was being shared last December until I heard it from a colleague. I later got to find out from other members that N3.5 million and 100 bags of 25kg rice was shared and nobody told me because they always keep me in the dark.
”When I tried to find out why I was not given, it was a very traumatic experience with those who I was communicating with but the bottom line is that I was not given. They have been denying me all sorts of money but I never actually believed they will do that to me in the Xmas period,” she said.
She said the largesse was always given during the Yuletide.
“I spoke to my colleagues and they said part of the reasons was that I disobey the Governor because he said I should go back to the house of assembly and ‘repeat’ but I said no, I want to go to house of reps and I am the only woman going to National Assembly in Ebonyi. Even in the house, they no longer involve me in discussion whenever any good thing is happening,” she explained.
She said she was only given ‘one tranche’ of the constituency funds due to her while others had recieved three tranches.
She said she was only able to do her constituency projects through the funds raised from her private photography and ‘image laundering’ business.
Calls seeking clarification from the special adviser to the Governor on State Assembly Liaison, Sunday Ugwuocha Monday did not yield much.
“I don’t discuss this kind of issue on phone. Come to my office if you are journalist,” the official said immediately the issue was introduced.
Even when the reporter explained he is based in Abuja and not Ebonyi, he still held on to his position.
Speaker of the House, Francis Ogbonnaya Nwaifuru is yet to return calls or text messages to his phone as at press time.
Meanwhile, Mrs Nwachi’s Party (ANN) national chairman, Ifeanyichukwu Nweli spoke on the matter.
“First, I have engaged the state honorable member who is a member of my party and running for a seat in the National Assembly as well as the party chairman in the state. We agreed I was going to look into it first, we’ve called all those in charge of the Christmas package to find out why she was excluded because it is her right and entitlement and not a privilege.
“The government official who is in charge of the package has assured me we are going to see next tomorrow which is on the 9th (January). So after seeing him depending on the response, we will now the next line of action to take. Definitely we are going to make a public statement on that.”
Ms Nwachi – popularly known as ‘Afikpo Chic’ is not new to controversies.
The lawmaker who kicked off her career in government as the personal photographer of the state governor, Mr Umahi has been suspended twice by the house.
In 2015, Ms Nwachi was elected on the platform of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) but defected to PDP in 2017. She would later defect defect to ANN.
In 2016, she was suspended for two months for sponsoring a protest by Afikpo youth against the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, over poor service. She was later recalled.
Early last year, she was again handed a six-month suspension for ”posing as a public photographer”.
Choke Oguji, the chairman of the committee that investigated allegations against her, while presenting the committee’s report said her actions ‘diminished’ the house.
She was warned to “desist from setting illegality and unethical acts which are not suitable for a parliamentarian.”