By Tony Edike
ENUGU–The anxiety and confusion in Enugu State over the long absence of Governor Sullivan Chime continued during the Christmas celebration even as fears gripped the governor’s supporters over threat that the State House of Assembly to impeach him in January next year if he fails to resume duty by end of December.
Members of the state House of Assembly, who had come under heavy public criticism for failing to take necessary action over the governor’s absence which entered its 100 days, Wednesday, sources said, resolved last week to address the issue of the governor’s prolonged absence without any official statement on his state of health.
“We have been silent over this matter since the past three months and we cannot continue like this in January next year,” a member of the assembly, who preferred anonymity told Vanguard.
He said that even though the governor wrote the House officially to inform them of his decision to go on vacation for six weeks, he had spent 100 days so far without any official reason and there is no clear indication that he would return soon.
“The situation has become more worrisome because some government functionaries who claimed to have visited the governor wherever he is have neither informed the House of whether he is sick nor incapacitated in one way or the other in that country even when speculations are rife that the governor might have passed out following an undisclosed ailment.
“The people of our various constituencies had been asking us a lot of questions about the governor’s whereabouts but none of us in the legislature can give any good answer or explanation because we know nothing about him,” he stated.
The House Speaker, Mr. Eugene Odoh was said to have repeatedly appealed to his colleagues to exercise some restraints over the concerns being raised by the public over Chime’s long absence from office insisting that the governor by staying away for three months had not breached the constitution.
Chime was last seen in Enugu State on September 9 after attending the South East Governors’ Meeting at the Governor’s Lodge but his aides confirmed that he left Nigeria after attending a meeting in Abuja on September 19 and has not returned since then.
There had been rumours that the governor gave up the ghost in an Indian hospital last two weeks but his aides quickly denied it. But the governor, whom they assured must return before Christmas, has yet to do so.
The 2013 state budget presentation which was reserved for the governor to perform, as the exercise is regarded as a major function that the governor should handle by himself, was later assigned to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi who is acting on his behalf.
“When the governor failed to return to present the budget himself as he had done since he took over from Chimaroke Nnamani in 2007, our fears were confirmed that all might not be well with him yet his officials continued to say that he is hale and hearty. I think something is fishy,” said a staff of the legislature shortly after Onyebuchi presented the budget to the House last week.
Sources said the lawmakers had decided to send a delegation to visit Chime wherever he is to ascertain whether he was capable of continuing with the office to enable them invoke the constitution and formally cause the swearing in of Onyebuchi as the substantive governor, but the move was allegedly scuttled by the refusal of a powerful functionary, who refused to release funds for the visit.
This was said to have angered the lawmakers who had vowed to take necessary steps to address the embarrassing issue on their resumption after the yuletide.
Efforts to speak with the media aides to the governor on the new development yesterday proved abortive as their telephone lines were not reachable but Vanguard learnt that secret meetings were being held regularly by members of Chime’s kitchen cabinet to checkmate the lawmakers.