–         Describes It As Illegal, Unconstitutional

A human rights advocacy group, “Beyond Platform”, has described the recent suspension of four members of the Imo State House of Assembly, as illegal and unconstitutional.

The group, in a press statement issued by the Convener, Comrade Chibundu Uchegbu berated the House for allegedly ignoring the substance of the grievances expressed by the suspended lawmakers and chose to clamp down on them in a desperate bid to silence dissenting voices. This, they said undermines democratic tenets and at the same time sets a dangerous precedence for the absolute concentration of power.

They noted that, “Imo people have a right to question the actions and activities of their representatives at all levels, hence the need to ensure that the rights of the suspended lawmakers and their constituents whose mandate they hold and exercise in trust are not infringed on. They also called on the judiciary to as a matter of urgency intervene to prevent further abuse of power”.

Continuing, the group stated that, “In 2018, human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) commented on the suspension of Senator Omo-Agege from the Senate, stating that it is unconstitutional for any legislative chamber to suspend or expel a member, whether at the federal or state level. According to Falana, only a competent court of law or the constituency that elected the representative has the authority to order their removal or suspension. He cited relevant court cases, including Hon Dino Melaye & Others Vs National Assembly and Hon Dana Vs Bauchi State House of Assembly, to support his argument. 

The suspension of four Imo State House of Assembly members has raised concerns about the Speaker’s understanding of the law. This development has sparked questions about the value of the advice received from the Speaker’s advisers and whether the Speaker is deliberately disregarding the law. The civil society is calling for evidence to support the allegations of an impeachment plot, which was cited as the reason for the suspension. The public demands transparency and accountability in the handling of this matter, ensuring that the rights of the people are protected and not compromised by internal conflicts within the House.

The Speaker’s handling of the situation has also raised concerns about his understanding of the legislative process and the sophistication of the Imo people he represents. In the event of an alleged impeachment plot, it is customary to gather signatures from fellow House members to meet the constitutional requirements. Impeachment is a formal process that involves documentation, not mere speculation or posturing. We urge the Speaker to provide evidence to support his claims and clarify the situation, ensuring transparency and accountability in the proceedings.

The potential impeachment of the Speaker should not be a concern for the state, as the legislative process can continue uninterrupted. The House can elect a new Speaker promptly, and business can resume as usual. While the suspended members may not have been effectively representing their constituents, it’s important to address the situation in a manner that upholds democratic principles. This development serves as a reminder that the people are the ultimate stakeholders in a democratic system, and their interests must be prioritized. Effective representation and accountability are essential for a healthy democracy.

In light of the circumstances, the Imo State House of Assembly leadership, led by Hon Chike Olemgbe, should reconsider the suspension of the four members and take steps to resolve the issue in a manner that upholds democratic principles. The suspension has been deemed unconstitutional and undemocratic. Instead of suspension, alternative measures could be explored to address any misconduct, such as withholding allowances or reassigning committee positions. This approach would ensure that the constituents’ interests are not compromised while still holding members accountable for their actions”.