By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—Imo State House of Assembly was, yesterday, torn along party lines, when the issue of accounting for the Paris Club fund was raised during plenary.
The House Minority Leader, Mr. Ken Agbim, who raised the issue through “a motion of urgent public importance,” also said it was the constitutional duty of the legislature to monitor and supervise the appropriation of the said Paris Club fund.
Agbim, who represents Ahiazu Mbaise state constituency in the Assembly, recalled that the money was earmarked for the payment of salaries of workers, the entitlements of pensioners, among other issues.
He said:“Since this money was not appropriated in either the 2016 or 2017 budgets, it is necessary that the executive collaborates with the legislature for proper appropriation of the fund.”
He said further that the motion was not a way of accusing the state government of embezzlement, but only a way of urging the administration not to spend the state’s share of the Paris Club fund, for whatever intent and purpose, without first seeking approval from the legislature.
Supporting the motion, member for Ezinihitte Mbaise state constituency, Mr. Bruno Ukoha, requested that the governor should, “as a matter of constitutional obligation, forward to the state House of Assembly, Executive Bill to enable the House commence appropriation of the funds allocated to the state.”
Ukoha also reasoned that the proper appropriation of the fund by the legislature, would empower the executive to commence use of the funds as allocated, for the welfare of the citizenry.
After commending the Federal Government for releasing the funds, Ukoha however reasoned that “the onus lies on the State House of Assembly to supervise the appropriation of such funds”.
Rising to the challenge posed by the two Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lawmakers, the Majority Leader and member for Owerri Municipality, Mr. Lugard Osuji,and his Deputy, Mr. Kennedy Ibe, urged the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim, to suspend further deliberation on the motion.
While Osuji argued that “such sensitive issues ought to have been discussed at the Executive Session, where principal officers of government that oversee external funds could be summoned to defend the fund, Ibe quoted Order 31 of the House to support his stand that the appropriation of the Paris Club fund be discussed at the Executive Session.
The Speaker adjourned sitting when the House was inexplicably thrown into darkness, following power outage.
Vanguard recalls that Governor Rochas Okorocha had last week, affirmed that the state received N13.5 billion and not the N80 billion reported by the media.