The cordial relationship that existed between Ebonyi State House of Assembly and the executive arm led by Governor David Umahi may have gone sour going by what appears as a fight for supremacy between the two arms.
The House had on Thursday last week summoned three commissioners in Governor Umahi’s cabinet to appear before it over what it termed obnoxious taxation imposed on the people of the state without the approval of the House.
But Governor Umahi during a press conference on the same day disagreed with the House insisting that the House cannot summon his commissioners without going through him or direct the executive on how to run the state saying “they should rather resign as lawmakers and take up the duties of the Executive”.
The House on Tuesday convened a plenary to receive the three commissioners it summoned.
After other proceedings, the member representing Ezza South Constituency, Hon. Chris Usulor rose to remind the House about the commissioners that were summoned since it was not captured in the order paper.
Immediately, the Speaker ordered the Sergeant at Arm to bring the commissioners inside the Chambers only for him (sergeant at arm) to bring a shocking news that none of them honored the summon.
Angered by the flagrant disrespect, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Odefa Obasi Odefa noted that the failure of the commissioners to honor the summon was a big disrespect to the House and urged the House to rise against it.
Speaker Nwifuru who blamed the inability of the commissioners to appear to information gap, therefore ordered the Clerk to write the three commissioners to appear before the House in the next plenary.
The Speaker however, threatened to issue warrant of arrest against the affected commissioners if they fail to appear in the next plenary of the House.
The commissioners are those in charge of finance, Dennis Ekumankama, commerce and industry, Mrs Elizabeth Ogbaga and their counterpart in the ministry of environment, Mr Moses Ogodoali Nomeh.
When an order paper came from the governor for the approval of remuneration of some of the governor’s appointees, the House threatened to veto it.
The appointees include, Assistant Principal Secretary to the governor, Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief Press Secretary, and Special Assistants among others. These positions were originally not existing but were created recently by the governor.
The leader of the House, Hon. Joseph Nwaobasi read the letter in the floor of the House.
Barrister Frank Onwe, representing Ohaukwu North in a motion said “we have been granting the governor’s request in the past but we should be doing so properly now”.
In his contribution, Hon. Victor Chukwu told the House that the remuneration as shown by the governor was too much and should be reviewed downward to at least 40 percent each of the proposed salaries in view of the economic predicament facing the state.
The Deputy Speaker, Obasi Odefa Obasi who was apparently unhappy told the House that since it is the lawful duty of the House to approve the take home pay of every appointee of the state governor, they are bound to do their lawful duties as the legislative arm of the state.
Odefa said “We have the powers to fix the governor’s salary not to talk of the cabinet members as we are being looked upon to perform our duties at all times.
“The commissioners are no longer respecting us; so as government belt tightening measures, we should start with the commissioners so that enough money will be saved to construct roads”.
The deputy Speaker warned that “the teeth which a dog uses to play with his master can still be use to bite.”
Speaker Nwifuru who had wanted the lawmakers to allow the governor’s letter sail through despite their reservations against the Executive was not comfortable with the motion and decided to delay the ruling expecting one of the lawmakers to raise a counter motion but all the lawmakers unanimously supported the motion on ground.
The Speaker who appeared to be helpless and having foreseen the impending danger if the plenary was allowed to proceed decided to adjourn the sitting abruptly without ruling on the controversial letter from
Governor Umahi.
Earlier, the House reversed the compulsory leave given to the state Director of Sports Council, Mr Emmanuel Utobo by the Commissioner of Youth and Sports Development, Charles Akpuenika describing the commissioner’s action as unlawful and infringement of the director’s fundamental human rights.