Posted by By Samuel Oyadongha & Emmanuel Aziken on
THE Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, both of whom are generally seen as the major impediments to the impeachment of embattled Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha were, themselves, given the boot yesterday by their fellow legislators.
*Countdown to Alamieyeseigha's exit begins
YENAGOA— THE Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, both of whom are generally seen as the major impediments to the impeachment of embattled Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha were, themselves, given the boot yesterday by their fellow legislators.
And the expectation now is that the process for the governor’s impeachment will commence in earnest.
Sacked yesterday were Prince Boyelayefa Debekeme (Speaker) and Mr. Jephtah Foingha (Deputy Speaker).
Both were accused of incompetence, dereliction of duty, failure to conduct regular sittings and concealment of vital documents of the Assembly from members.
Other offences allegedly committed by them are high handedness, refusal to attend last Saturday's South-South zonal congress after collecting money from the state government for that purpose and neglect, failure and refusal to attend vital state and national functions.
Governor Alamieyeseigha is currently facing a three-count charge of money laundering in a London court. His wife, Margaret, was also arrested last Tuesday for a similar offence but was granted bail by the Metropolitan Police.
The state Assembly complex was early yesterday condoned off by armed mobile policemen to provide security for the lawmakers to implement the decision they had reached last Friday but which could not be executed then because of members' divergent views.
The policemen arrived in three trucks and took up positions at strategic locations between Imgbi junction at Amarata and St Mathias Catholic Church. The policemen were led by a deputy superintendent of police, described as a younger brother of the impeached deputy speaker, Mr Jephtah Foingha. Soon after the policemen took their positions, the lawmakers arrived in a white coaster bus at about 8.45 am.
Immediately the lawmakers moved into the chamber of the House accompanied by the sergeant-at-arm with the mace, the stern looking security operatives barred all visitors without any genuine business from going in.
Some lawmakers believed to be against the plan to effect a change in the leadership of the House who arrived late were prevented from gaining access by the security operatives even after identifying themselves as members of the House.
In a motion moved by Mr Nelson Belief, representing Brass Constituency III, both principal officers were accused of, among other things, incompetence and dereliction of duty, failure to conduct regular sittings and concealment of vital documents of the House from members.
They were also accused of high handedness, refusal to attend the PDP 2005 South-South zonal congress after collecting money from the state government for that purpose and neglect, failure and refusal to attend vital state and national functions.
However, a lawmaker who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard that the allegations against the leadership of the House were unfounded, saying the move to impeach the duo was because of their opposition to the deputy governor taking over as acting governor of the state.
More than two-third majority of the members of the House concurred and signed the impeachment resolution and elected Peremobowei Ebebi, representing Ekeremor Constituency I, as speaker and Bright Erewari, representing Nembe Constituency I, as deputy speaker.
The lawmakers after effecting the removal of the two principal officers, all boarded the coaster bus and proceeded to Government House to confer with the deputy governor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
At the end of the sitting which lasted about 30 minutes, staff of the Assembly were all directed to vacate the complex and go home while armed policemen sealed off the premises.
Lawyers caution on sack
Meanwhile, lawyers and members of the National Assembly yesterday urged caution and respect for the rule of law in approaching the possible impeachment of Governor Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. A legislative consultant in the National Assembly, Mr. Wale Oshodin, expressed support for agitation for the governor's removal.
Responding to the gathering cloud against Alamieyeseigha’s political career, Senator Timothy Adudu, Mr. Ita Enang of the House of Representatives and Mr. Oshodin, cautioned against the importation of extraneous political forces into the issue. They were all unanimous that the constitutional provisions should be adhered to. Senator Adudu, himself a lawyer, warned against jumping the gun as he said the governor was yet to be found guilty of any offence.
"Bayelsa State has a House of Assembly and it is the function of the Assembly to see if the governor has been placed in a position that he is unable to perform the duties and expectations of his office," Mr. Enang, himself a lawyer and chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Procedure, said yesterday.
"It is a matter absolutely and exclusively within the legislative competence and powers of the House of Assembly and they exercise it according to their opinion and according to the Constitution," he further said.
Senator Adudu said: "If it is within the context of our laws, he cannot be tried because of Section 308 which confers absolute immunity on him, but he doesn’t have that immunity in London. The Constitution is also clear on what are impeachable offences. If he has committed impeachable offences, he could as well face the music, but in this case the matter is pending before a proper court of law. So, if it is based on his arrest, we should not jump the gun. So, what happens if he is acquitted?"
Continuing, Senator Adudu, chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport said: "Agreed, the allegations of money laundering are very grievous and humiliating by their nature, but we must not allow political sentiments to override our sense of justice. The case is essentially subjudice."
Affirming that the affairs of the state could go on in the absence of the governor, he said the Constitution had made sufficient provision for such eventualities by creating the office of the deputy governor. He debunked insinuations that the deputy governor was impeded from carrying out certain responsibilities such as the presentation of the state budget.
"The deputy governor is there and that is why the Constitution creates the office of deputy governor to take care of exigencies like this. People would like to interpret the Constitution to suit them and so long as the deputy governor is there, he is to perform the functions of the governor, the law does not allow a vacuum."
Stressing that the absence of the governor was a reasonable ground for his removal on account of incapacity to carry out his responsibilities, Mr. Oshodin, a legislative consultant in the National Assembly said: "In this situation where the chief executive has been absent for two months, it is as if he is dead. So, they should go ahead and remove him."