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Impeachment: Enugu Deputy Governor Replies House of Assembly Members

By   /  July 31, 2014  /  No Comments

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On Thursday 24 July 2014, a document headed “Notice of Allegation of Gross Misconduct in the Performance of the Functions of the Office of the Deputy Governor of Enugu State: Re: Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi” was posted at the gate of my private residence at  46 Savage Crescent, GRA, Enugu,  signed by 22 Honourable members of the Enugu State House of Assembly, alleging that I am “guilty of various acts of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of {my} office as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State.”

I thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to the allegations set out in the said notice and will ask that you grant me time to give a brief background before I respond to the allegations.


I am a native of Isiogbo Nara in Nkanu East Local Government Area.   Prior to my election as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State in 2007 I had put in 27 years of service in the Civil Service of Anambra/Enugu States where I rose through the ranks to the position of Permanent Secretary.  I had served as a Social Mobilization Officer in the defunct Directorate of Social Mobilization. I also served as the Principal Private Secretary to the Governor, and finally, as the Commissioner for Works and Transport in the immediate past administration in Enugu State.  During my time as a member of the State Executive Council, the present Governor of Enugu State, Barrister Sullivan Chime, was also a member of the State Executive Council in his capacity as the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.  I had a very cordial relationship with Governor Chime.

In 2007, I was nominated by our party, the Peoples Democratic Party, as the running mate for Governor Chime, who was the party’s candidate for the post of Governor.  We won the election and we were sworn in on 29 May 2007.   I had an excellent working relationship with His Excellency, and during the campaigns of 2011 His Excellency acknowledged this and described me in a speech to the party’s supporters as a “reliable and loyal deputy who understands the working of government”.   The Governor chose me as his running mate in the 2011 election.   This election we also won.

With this background in mind I will now respond to the allegations of gross misconduct contained in the notice.
A
LLEGATION NO. 1 ABUSE OF OFFICE
(a)       The allegation here as I understand it is that contrary to a resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly passed on 12 February 2013 prohibiting the maintenance and operation of commercial livestock and poultry farms within residential neighborhoods in Enugu metropolis, I continued to maintain and operate a commercial poultry farm within the premises of my official residence.   It is also alleged that I refused to carry out the directives of officials of Government who came to monitor compliance with the said resolution.
(b)       Permit me to start my response by saying that I was never served with any such resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly nor was any such resolution ever brought to my notice by any official of the Enugu State Government.
(c)       On assumption of office in May 2007, there was an existing official residence for the Deputy Governor of Enugu State.  On inspection of the premises I observed that it had on its grounds an area designated and fenced as an Agricultural Unit, with facilities for amongst other things, a poultry farm.   I commenced operation of a poultry on the premises in  2008 with technical support from ENADEP  and the Commercial Agricultural Programme of the State Ministry of Agriculture.  The said poultry farm was declared in my Asset Declaration and inspected by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
(d)       It is important to state that the structure for the said poultry farm was built by Dizengorf WA Limited during the regime of late Chief M. I. Okpara.  The first occupant of the premises was late Chief Nwodo and he operated a poultry farm there.  Subsequent occupants of the premises, up to my immediate predecessor in office, operated poultry farms in the premises.  Similar structures were built by Chief Okpara in most of what was then known as “Ministers’ Quarters”.  Indeed, till date, the Government House, Enugu, also has an Agricultural Unit, larger than the one in my official quarters, where a large poultry farm continues to be maintained.   The policy under the Okpara regime was to encourage public office holders to engage in farming especially poultry.
(e)       No complaint of any environmental or health hazard from the said poultry was made to me or brought to my attention between 2008 and November 2013.
(f)        On 27 December 2013, two letters were delivered to my office.  The first letter dated 24th December 2013 with reference No. GHE/CAO/31/239 from the Chief of Staff to the Governor, was headed “Operation of a Commercial Poultry Farm in the Residence of His Excellency, the Deputy Governor”.  It  stated that the attention of Government had been drawn to the fact that I had “erected or built or permitted to be erected or built commercial poultry farm” within my official quarters “contrary to the Statutory Certificate  of Occupancy purpose clause”  which according to the letter required that the land be used for residential purposes only.  The letter demanded that I take urgent and necessary action to stop forthwith the operation of the poultry in my official residence.
I attach and mark as Annexure 1 a copy of the said letter
(g)       The second letter from the Chief of Staff was dated 27 December 2013 with reference No. GHE/CAO/31/240 and headed “Final Notice/Request to Stop or relocate the Commercial Poultry Farm in Official Residence”.  This time, I was given 14 days to comply with the directive to relocate the poultry.  I attach and mark Annexure 2 a copy of the said letter.
(h)       My feelings about the two letters were made known in my response to the letters wherein I pointed out that
(i)        both letter were delivered the same day, i.e., 27 December 2013;
(ii)       the statement in both letters that my official residence was covered     by a Certificate of Occupancy, containing a purpose clause to use the             premises for residential purposes only, was    untrue;
(iii)      my official quarters had within it a section designated as an  Agricultural Unit, including  a portion used as a poultry farm which I           had inherited from my predecessors in office.
For ease, I attach and mark Annexure 3 a copy of my said letter.
(i)        I did not refuse to carry out the directives of the relevant officials of the Government.  The main reason stated in the letters issued to me for requiring the relocation of the poultry farm was the fact that I was in breach of the purpose clause of the certificate of occupancy covering my official residence.  I still say that there is no such certificate of occupancy in existence in respect of the Deputy Governor’s official residence.
I also wish to point out that in all the correspondence, no mention was made of any resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly prohibiting the maintenance and operation of a poultry farm within residential neighborhoods in Enugu metropolis.
I did not also intimidate any official of the Government.
(j)        Permit me to point out that on Monday 27 January 2014 officials from the Enugu State Capital Development Authority and the Ministry of Environment went to my official residence and carted away all the birds in my poultry farm in the presence of pressmen and journalists.  My wife, my aides and I watched helplessly while the operation took place.   Since then,  I have not been told what happened to the over 3000 birds nor has anyone volunteered information on the subject.
(k)       The pressmen and journalists (who were not invited by me), interviewed me and other officials of Government and in accordance with my right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I told them my own side of the story.
Besides answering questions from the journalists, I did not deploy the resources or powers of my office to castigate the Government or its officials, nor did I impugn or denigrate the authority or office of the Governor or embarrass the Government.
(l)        Permit me to point out, that the operation of the said poultry had nothing to do whatsoever with the performance of the functions of my office as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State.
(m)      I also wish to point out that in September 2012, I was instructed to vacate my official residence so that renovation work could be carried out on the premises.  I duly complied with this directive and moved into my private residence.  Till date, the renovation of the premises has been abandoned.  I have not been provided alternative accommodation nor an allowance in lieu of accommodation.  I have not complained or made a fuss about this in the belief that I should take such in my stride.
(n)       I also wish to point out that resolutions passed by the Enugu State House of Assembly  are not served on my office as the Deputy Governor or in any other manner brought to my attention.  This is why I was not aware of the said resolution passed on 12 February 2013.
I therefore believe that based on my explanations set out above, I have not abused my office by maintaining a poultry farm in the portion of my official residence designated as a agricultural unit, nor did my reply to the letters from the Chief of Staff constitute intimidation of a government official.  I did not also refuse to comply with a law or other lawful demand requiring me to relocate the poultry.  I was not aware of the resolution of the House of Assembly referred to in the Notice.  I was only waiting for a response on the submissions I made in my said reply, when officials of the Government came and carried out an operation in which the birds were carted away to a place which I have not been informed till today.
ALLEGATION NO. 2
DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAWFUL DIRECTIVE OF THE GOVERNOR
(a)           The allegation here is that I habitually refuse, fail or neglect to carry out and or perform the functions of my office as directed by the Governor pursuant to section 193(1).  I am said here to have breached the Constitution because on two named occasions I allegedly refused to represent the Governor at occasions I had been instructed to represent him.
(b)           Since I was elected the Deputy Governor of Enugu State in 2007 and following my re-election in 2011, I have represented His Excellency, the Governor at numerous events.  The practice has always been that I am informed that I am to represent the Governor at an event in any of three ways:
(i)             a manifest is circulated showing my activities and the events I am to attend to represent the Governor.
(ii)           I receive direct instructions from the Governor to represent him at events personally and the directives include, what I am to say and do;
(iii)          When the Governor is on vacation, the Governor would usually ask/instruct me on the actions I can take on his behalf in his absence.
(c)           With due respect, it is not correct that on 11 March 2014 I refused the directive of the Governor to represent him at the flag off ceremony of the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge in Onitsha by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan.   The directive was duly conveyed to me and I complied with it.  I was present throughout the ceremony and sat in a very prominent place where my presence was captured by television cameras and pressmen.  Sitting beside me on the said date, was the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Dr. Nkem Okeke. I have a video showing my attendance at the event.  (See attached).
(d)           Let me start by saying that on June 9, 2014, HE the Governor commenced his 2014 annual vacation.  This was made public through various news media.  He did not tell me to take any action on his behalf pending his return, and I am not aware that he sent a formal letter to the Enugu State House of Assembly informing the House that he was proceeding on vacation.  The Governor did not tell me to take any action on his behalf pending his return, neither did he tell me that he would pass instructions to me through a third party.  I did not receive instructions from him personally, by phone or in writing asking me to represent him at the meeting of the South East Governors Forum that took place in Enugu on July 6, 2014.  I did not have any reason not to represent him if he had so instructed me to do so.  I do not think it is appropriate for a Deputy Governor to act in the absence of the Governor deriving authority from a subordinate or based on press release to the effect that the Governor handed over to his Deputy.  (See attached)
(e)           When the Governor resumed duty after his vacation, I represented him at various occasions even after he had asked me to resign.  On Friday 18, July 2014 I represented the Governor at the commissioning of the Power Training Institute at Oji River with the Hon. Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu.  On Monday 21 July, 2014, while my impeachment notice was being signed by the Honourable members of the Enugu State House of Assembly at Government House Enugu, I was at Udi representing the Governor at the commissioning of the FRSC Academy at Udi with the then Corp Marshall, Osita Chidoka.
(f)            I wish to place on record the fact that when the Governor spent a prolonged period abroad in 2013, I held forte for him and represented him at various events.  It is not correct to say that I have defied the Governor’s directives, or persisted in defying his directives.
(g)           I have over the years remained a loyal deputy, and it is a shame that it is merely a few months to the end of our second tenure that I have had these allegation leveled against me.  I make bold to say that I have always considered the Governor a brother and a friend.
CONCLUSION
Our country is a budding democracy with a very bright future.  His Excellency, Barrister Sullivan Chime has indeed been a blessing to Enugu State and there is a lot to be thankful to him for.  There is no doubt that when two persons work together in the constitutional marriage termed Governor and Deputy Governor, misunderstandings will arise from time to time.  The duty of the Deputy Governor is clear.  It is to take instructions from and carry out the directives of the Governor.
I believe that in the past 7 years I have carried out the directives of my Governor to the best of my ability and faithfully avoiding rancor and quarrelling and complaining.
I am glad that none of the allegations against me border on corruption or fraud.  I do believe in conclusion that I am not guilty of any act of gross misconduct to warrant the setting up of an impeachment panel.
Once again, I thank you for the opportunity given to me to reply to the allegations against me.
Sunday Chidi Onyebuchi
Deputy Governor
Enugu State
30 July 2014

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  • Published: 4 years ago on July 31, 2014
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  • Last Modified: July 31, 2014 @ 5:48 pm
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