Tuesday morning’s fire incident in the House of Assembly is couched within the equally blistering crisis in the state that has disconnected Governor Martins Elechi from the power levers in the state.
By Peter Okutu
THE crisis rocking Ebonyi state House of Assembly on tuesday climaxed following the strange fire that gutted the House around 1am of the penultimate day.
This development has raised lots of mind bogging questions as to why anybody could mastermind the destruction of the state House of Assembly at this critical moment in the history of the state.
Items gutted by the inferno include; financial records, furniture, computer sets, refrigerators, air conditioner, ceiling and standing fans and other valuable properties worth millions of naira.
Speaking with journalists immediately after plenary, the speaker, Rt. Hon Chukwuma Nwazunku blamed the fire on the state executive arm of government.
Recent proceedings in the House had shown that Governor Elechi was no longer in control of the activities of the House as the seats of the six House members loyal to him had recently been declared vacant by the House.
The Speaker who expressed shock and disappointment over the development at the House also accused prominent members of Governor Elechi’s cabinet of facilitating the arson.
When Vanguard visited the Assembly complex, smoke was still emitting from the debris of the items consumed by the fire as jerry cans filled with inflammable substances like diesel were seen in some offices yet to be gutted by the fire.
The substance was equally poured on the floor of the House of Assembly complex but couldn’t ignite fire because of the proactive response of the men and officers of the police command.
Nwazunku, who further alleged that those responsible for the act where those individuals in Governor Elechi’s government that were invited over their alleged embezzlement of public funds, since the commencement of the present administration.
Recall that the House had during its last plenary summoned Governor Martin Elechi, his son, Elechi Elechi, the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Dr. Ben Igwenyi, commissioner for local government and Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Celestine Nwali, the state Accountant-General to answer questions over their alleged role in misappropriation of public funds.
According to the Speaker, “we were to begin hearing on this matter today only to be told that the account section, Media office of the state Assembly complex was gutted by fire. Those responsible were those we invited to answer questions concerning their involvement in the embezzlement of public funds”.
During the plenary, the House also declared the seats of Hon. Oliver Nwachuwku representing Abakaliki North state constituency and embattled Deputy Speaker, representing Afikpo South East, Hom. Blaise Orji vacant, making it a total of 6 seats that had been declared vacant by the House.
Heating up the polity
In a press statement by the state Acting Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Acting State Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Chief Joseph Onwe, Chief Simon Anyigor and Apostle Benjamin Obaji respectively, the party blamed the incident on Governor Elechi’s desperate supporters who are determined to heat up the polity against all odds.
“Just only today in a desperate move to thwart the sitting of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and the House investigation panel on the looting of state treasury by the Governor, a section of the House of Assembly was burnt down
“There are also plans by these desperate supporters of Governor Martin Elechi to burn the Deputy Governor’s lodge, the campaign secretariat of the Deputy Governor, the state party secretariat and the Speaker’s lodge”.
Reacting, Governor Martin Elechi stated that it was wrong for the House to draw any conclusion over the incident adding that a thorough investigation would be carried out to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the outbreak.
The Governor who expressed delight that no life was lost in the fire incident, called on the honourable members to restrain themselves from any action that might not promote peace and unity of the state.
Meanwhile, the State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO ASP Chris Anyanwu stated that the fire started at about 1:15am on Tuesday.
“We got a distress call from the police officer in charge of the House of Assembly complex that there was fire outbreak in the area. We dispatched our men to this place and they were led by the commissioner of police Dikko Maigari.
“With the combined effort of men of the fire service and police force, the fire was put off. As you can see the Accounts Section of the Assembly has been razed and it is the only wing that was affected by this inferno. The Department of Investigation of the police command has commenced their investigation and as soon as they unravel the cause of the inferno, we will update you.”