Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The simmering leadership crisis in the Abia State House of Assembly finally boiled over yesterday as the Speaker, Hon Martins Azubuike, was impeached and immediately replaced with Hon. Bishop Kennedy Njoku.
The impeachment was concluded in 15 minutes and involved 20 lawmakers out of the 24-member assembly with each of them affirming their signature on the impeachment notice read out by the Deputy Leader of the House, Hon Solomon Akpulonu.
Akpulonu, while moving for impeachment of the Speaker, listed the sins allegedly committed by Azubuike to include lack of character of transparency in handling the finances of the assembly insensitivity to the welfare of the members, autocratic style of leadership, abuse of office and gross misconduct.
He said the listed offences were weighty enough to cost the speaker his position, citing Section 92 (2C), adding that the majority of the legislators had “resolved to and hereby resolve to remove Hon Martins Azubuike as the Speaker.”
The deputy leader further stated that since 20 members had put their signatures on the impeachment notice, the assembly had exceeded the mandatory two-thirds majority needed to effect the removal of the speaker.
Deputy Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe, who presided over the impeachment proceedings, asked and got the consent of the members to accept the impeachment as a matter of urgent public importance.
It was then that the Clerk of the assembly, Mr. John Pedro Irokansi, called for nominations from among the members present in order to elect a new speaker, saying that there was no provision for acting Speaker.
He announced that the voting procedure was in Option A4 format and members merely raised their hands in support of their preferred candidate for the new Speaker.
Prior to the removal of the Speaker, speculations were high that the Leader of the assembly, Hon Chinedum Orji, who represents Umuhaia Central state constituency, would easily step into the seat of Speaker.
But he was not among the two nominees, namely: Hon Bishop Njoku and Hon Chikwendu Enyinnaya Kanu.
Njoku, who represents Osisioma North state constituency, won the heart of the lawmakers with 16 votes as against three votes received by Kanu, who represents Isiala Ngwa South state constituency.
It was learnt that Kanu was the preferred choice of the state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, but the members thought otherwise and even the nominee did not vote for himself.
It was only the Majority Leader and two others that voted for Kanu.
The former Speaker had faced threats of impeachment on three occasions but had always managed to escape but he was not so lucky on this fourth attempt by the lawmakers, who were very angry that he was not taking good care of their welfare.
It was further gathered that there was a last ditch effort to save the former speaker as the Majority Leader strived to convince his colleagues to once more spare him but sources at the meeting told THISDAY that Azubuike had snatched the mace while negotiations were still on.
He thereafter left the assembly premises and did not witness his impeachment.
According to the source, the former Speaker “lost whatever sympathy that remained for him” when he snatched the mace hence there was no going back on his impeachment.