26th March, 2013
Ikena Samuelson Iwuoha, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Speaker of Imo House of Assembly, speaks to OKAFOR OFIEBOR on the impeachment moves against Jude Agbaso, the deputy governor
The recent move by the Imo House of Assembly to impeach the Deputy Governor, Mr. Jude Agbaso, has been interpreted as a sign of a crack in the present administration of Chief Rochas Okorocha. What is your reaction?
There is no instability in government. There are three arms of government – the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The three arms are working in synergy and there is no reason to have crack or instability in the government of the day in Imo State.
The Assembly has served impeachment notice on Agbaso, based on an indictment over an alleged bribe. But he said he was not given fair hearing…
In the first place, there is no planned impeachment against the deputy governor of the state. What the Imo House of Assembly is acting on is based on the special ad-hoc report that investigated the abandoned road projects in the state. You said “planned” impeachment; it sounded as if there is conspiracy. There is no conspiracy to impeach anybody.
What happened is that about six months ago, as part of the oversight functions of the Imo House of Assembly, a special ad-hoc committee to look into the state and local government roads was established under the leadership of Hon. Stan Dara, representing Orsu constituency. The committee members toured all the road project sites. In the course of the inspection, they discovered that some road projects had been abandoned.
Some of the construction companies that fell short of expectations of the committee were Timik Construction Company Nigeria Ltd, J-Pros International Company Ltd and others. In February 2013, the committee submitted its findings on the floor of the House. Based on that, another special ad-hoc committee was set up to investigate why most of the road projects were abandoned even when payments had been made. This new committee, led by Hon. Simeon Iwunze, a lawyer, representing Isala-Mbano state constituency, was established. Based on the report, the indicted companies were invited for questioning. They included J-Pros, Timik, etc.
In the course of the investigation, the Managing Director, Mr. Joseph Dina, allegedly confessed that what made his company not to continue with the project was that he gave money to a highly placed government official. When he was pressed to mention the name of the highly placed government official, he mentioned the name of the deputy governor, who at a time was the Commissioner for Works.
On the strength of the above allegation, the deputy governor was invited to appear before the committee. During cross-examination, he denied knowing Joseph Dina, the Managing Director of J-Pros or ever having transaction with him. Even when a question was put across to him whether the MD of J-Pros had ever visited his house, he also denied. When the MD of J-Pros proved that there was a transaction between the two of them – he gave the date and even proved that he gave him a bottle of wine – the deputy governor then admitted knowing him.
What about the allegation of paying money into the account allegedly belonging to the deputy governor?
Dina also gave an account of how he paid in the alleged money into an account suspected to belong to the deputy governor. He said the deputy governor used his phone to text him the account number. All these questions were put across to the deputy governor and he accepted. For me, I don’t have anything against the deputy governor, Sir Jude Agbaso. The Imo House Assembly has nothing personal against him and neither does the Speaker, Benjamin Uwajumogu, have anything against the deputy governor. In fact, the Speaker loves him. Unfortunately, in this situation, the House of Assembly is merely doing its job as enshrined in the constitution that the House should always carry out its oversight function on the executive, irrespective of the existing relationship. There is no conspiracy to impeach the deputy governor; it is just doing its oversight function.
What about the allegation that the impeachment saga is an orchestrated witch-hunt against the deputy governor?
No. I have narrated how the whole scenario started. The House Assembly did not just pounce on the deputy governor and accuse him of eating money. A laid-down due process was diligently followed before we zeroed down on the deputy governor. The man started by denying every allegation until the House confronted him with facts and he caved in. We have the video tapes of the proceedings. We in this government have the responsibility to protect individuals too. If we are pushed to the wall, we may be forced to release the video tapes on the proceedings at the appearance of the deputy governor before the lawmakers. You will be shocked.
There is an allegation in some quarters that it is a case of Jacob’s voice but Esau’s hand playing in the whole saga. The Assembly is accused of playing to the gallery because this is not the first time a governor who is fed up with his deputy would use the Assembly to achieve such aim.
I don’t think so, because the governor did not constitute the committee in the House to monitor the projects in the state. He did not also constitute the committee that invited indicted companies to clear their names. The governor did not instruct the Assembly to invite the deputy governor to come and answer the allegations against him. The governor, to the best of my knowledge, did not instruct the House to start impeachment process against the deputy governor. The governor couldn’t have come to the Assembly to intervene on behalf of his deputy because that could have been interference in the legislative process. The governor is the executive arm, lawmakers, the legislative. Although we all operate on the same page, the governor cannot intervene and will not interfere in the legislative.
It is believed that what is happening is a prelude to the 2015 Imo governorship race. What is your reaction?
My brother, 2015 is too far away. I have explained, there is no politicking in this. We are talking about Imo State money. We are talking about N458 million bribe money belonging to Imo State.
What is total cost of the contract?
Over N1.3 billion, for the dualisation of Bank Road to Emmanuel College, approximately three or four kilometres.