There was tension Wednesday in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, as the political crisis which has been unfolding in the state was upped a notch higher following the decision of a court that returned the hitherto impeached Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku.
At the sitting of the court, the presiding judge, Justice Anselem Nwaigwe, held that the impeachment of the speaker was irregular and would not stand.
Nwazunku was impeached by a splinter group of the assembly last month, paving the way for the deputy speaker, Hon. Blaise Oji to be declared speaker.
Since then, the assembly has not returned to normal business. THISDAY reports that at the judgment yesterday on the disputed impeachment, the court held that the move was flawed and inconsistent and could not stand.
The decision therefore returned the former speaker, a development that created a fresh political tension in the state.
Prior to the ruling, a crowd in the early hours of the day made up mainly of supporters of the state governor, Chief Martin Elechi, had gathered at the court premises to protest against the sitting in what they had envisaged was like an endorsement of a plot to return Nwazunku and pave the way for the assembly to impeach Elechi.
The supporters’ fears seemed confirmed when police and other armed security men forccibly dispersed them, an intervention that nearly snowballed into violence and security breakdown.
One of the protesters at the court, Ignatius Onele, told journalists that the situation would have degenerated into crisis until they decided to beat a retreat.
He noted that they are against the court decision because they foresee a situation where the governor would be impeached by few legislators loyal to the opposition group and Nwazunku who had already picked the People Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives ticket for next year’s election becomes the acting governor after the deputy governor would have resigned.
“We seriously suspect that they want the former speaker to return and start moves to impeach the governor. We are aware of plots to remove Elechi after which the deputy, Chief Dave Umahi would resign and pave the way for Nwazunku to be acting governor. The whole move is to make sure that Elechi does not remain in office while the elections of next year are on.
“Their argument is that he being there would be an advantage to the Labour Party, which his supporters in the same party have metamorphorsed into. So with Elechi out of the way and Nwazunku as acting governor, the PDP bloc would have a better pedestal to prosecute the elections next year to their advantage.
“We still express genuine fears because though they don’t have the number to handle that, but we have not forgotten what has been on in Ekiti, where seven members overwhelmed about 19 others, impeached the speaker, and today is the accepted majority. We shout loud now because if they make moves to impeach Elechi, that will backfire.”