Enugu State Deputy Governor, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, was formally removed from office, yesterday, following the unanimous decision of the State House of Assembly to impeach him for alleged misconduct.
His impeachment resulted from his decision to operate a poultry at his official residence and refusal to represent Governor Sullivan Chime at two functions.
He was removed by the 24-member State Assembly which adopted the report of the 7-man impeachment panel that probed the allegations of misconduct leveled against him.
The lawmakers adopted Section 188 Sub-section 9 of the Nigerian Constitution which deals with the issue of removal of governor or deputy governor at a session convened yesterday to deliberate on the report of the Franklyn Uche Oraekeiyi-led panel submitted to it on Monday.
Section 188(9) says: ?Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proved, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report, the House of Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of the House of Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.?
Vows court action
In a swift reaction, the ousted deputy governor said he was not surprised by the decision of the panel, which he vowed to challenge in court , saying it failed to prove the allegations against him during its 20-day sitting.
He told journalists after the sitting of the House that he was not satisfied with the findings of the panel, pointing out that his impeachment took place the day the panel was constituted by the State Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike. Onyebuchi restated that the decisions of the panel and the House of Assembly were the judgments of men, insisting that God would pass a supreme judgment in the case.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, South East zone, in its reaction, condemned the impeachment of the deputy governor, saying it was politically motivated and based on flimsy allegations.
A pressure group in the state, Enugu Rescue Group, also condemned and rejected the impeachment, saying ? it stands as a travesty of democracy, glorification of sadism, and ratification of political terrorism.?
At the sitting of the House that commenced 10 am yesterday, the House Leader, Mr. Sunday Udeokoye, who had on July 22 moved the motion directing the state Chief Judge to constitute the impeachment panel, said ?whereas a 7-man panel appointed by the Chief Judge of the State to investigate the said allegations, submitted their report and the House, having received the report of the investigating panel.
?Whereas the investigating panel, having carefully reviewed the evidence, presented before her both oral and documentary; and further, whereas the panel of investigation came up to the conclusion that the ?allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, by the Enugu State House of Assembly have been proved.
?That the House, having carefully considered the report of the panel, do adopt it and it is, hereby, adopted.?
The lawmakers, however, wasted no time in adopting the motion by voice vote when the speaker, Mr. Eugene Odoh, put the question resolving that the deputy governor was guilty as charged and should, therefore, be removed from office.
Reacting to his impeachment, Onyebuchi said: ?I do not even think that the impeachment took place today. For me it took place the day the panel was constituted and had their first sitting; because from that day, the panel could not hold their bias.
?I believe that what the state House of Assembly did when they signed my impeachment notice also happened with the panel; members of the State House of Assembly signed my impeachment notice before the allegations were made known to them.
?I have had opportunity to go through the report of the panel. On Monday evening, a member of the panel who reached me, told me that his conscience was disturbing him and that he will reach me later to talk with me, but he made available to me a copy of the panel?s report when I insisted that unless he makes available to me a copy of the report, I will not want to see him.
?I have had opportunity of going through the report and I want to say it is as watery and frivolous like the allegations themselves.
Report written by Govt?s lawyer
?Although you pressmen were not available during the sitting, but you will agreed with me that the report was written by the lawyer to the government, who now attached it to the signature page of the report.
?I can say that I am not very surprised by the decision of the panel and I can also say that I am not disappointed. I would have been surprised if they had done anything differently.
?They had difficulty hiding their bias. Any human being doing anything honest and transparent will naturally be happy to have it witnessed by the public and especially the media.
?We have had so many impeachments in the past and I know that no panel had sat in camera because it is not a secret thing.
?The allegations against me were read on the floor of the House before pressmen and you will now wonder why the panel will choose to sit in camera if they intended to do anything honest and transparent.
?I am not disappointed and I want to use this opportunity to thank the people of the state and other Nigerians who have offered their prayers for me during the past few weeks for their encouragement and support. So many of them I do not know before now came out to support me because they believed that injustice to one is injustice to all.
?I will thank them and tell them that it is not over and like I have said, that after the panel of man, we have a panel where the truth cannot be suppressed.
?If you read the report, you will know that it took submissions of the government counsel but suppressing my own views to justify the conclusion already reached before the commencement of the sitting.
?One thing that I know that has come out of this is that sometimes there is positive records and sometimes negative records.
Record broken with impeachment
?I think I broke a record with this impeachment when I said I am the first office holder to be impeached from office without allegation of financial impropriety. I took time to read the allegations of all those who were impeached even in the last and present administrations and I see that none was done without allegation of financial impropriety.
?In each of those cases, there must be financial impropriety, so I am making record as the first to be impeached without fraud which leaves my integrity intact.
?I will say that I will continue to work for the people of the state. I will continue to offer them my services, they have supported me when they gave me their mandate, prayers and support . I believe I have more to offer.
?My lawyers will be ready with the suit challenging the faulty impeachment in matter of days.
?You see a situation where they saw a video that shows I was in Onitsha and in their report, they said that as shown by the video I was there; but where I sat was unbefitting of a representative of the governor.
?It is embarrassing and therefore, they were of the conclusion that even though I was there, that I was not there as representative of the governor but in my capacity as Sunday Onyebuchi.
?They went further to say that I dissipated energy in trying to prove that there was a poultry in government house; that they were not set up to investigate government house and that they are convinced that I operated a poultry farm.
?One would be surprised to know that ignorance of a law is no excuse because the House of Assembly?s notice said, ?resolution of the House,? and one will be surprised to know that there was no law breached, yet they looked the other way.?
The ousted deputy governor, however, offered an advice to his would-be successor, saying ?for whoever will be taking over from me, I will advise him not to operate a poultry, rather he should concentrate on rearing ostriches, monkeys, antelopes and if he must operate a poultry, let him ensure that he does it with public fund so that he won?t have the same experience that I have had.
Happy and relieved
?I am happy, I am relieved and life goes on, even if the hope of getting justice from the judiciary fails, I am confident that God in his own way and time will give me justice.?
Asked if he would proceed with his senatorial ambition, he stated that ?in a few days time, I will go and take care of my health and when I come back, I will pay full concentration to my senatorial election.?
He stressed that the ordeal he had gone through had endeared him to the people.
?I am confident I enjoy the goodwill of the people, I am confident I enjoy their support and I will like to tap into their support. So I am going ahead with my ambition,? he said.
Onyebuchi said that the impeachment did not disqualify him from the senatorial race, citing the Supreme Court judgments in Omehia?s case.
Onyebuchi said he would only be disqualified if his impeachment was based on financial fraud.