By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI – In order to clear the air arising from the issuance of SUV cars to four key politicians by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, one of the beneficiaries and the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, weekend stated that his rejection of the gift was because the laws of the state excluded him from the persons eligible to collect such gifts.
Recall that the State government with the backing of the State’s House of Assembly had acquired four SUVs for former Governor in the state at the cost of N29million each.
The SUV vehicles were intended for former Governor Martin Elechi and Ex-Governor Sam Egwu. Others earmarked for the car gifts were former Governor of old Abia State and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and and Ex-Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim.
In a letter to Governor David Umahi, Onu quoting copiously from the constitution, drew the attention of the Governor to relevant sections of the constitution and how the state House of Assembly had abused its powers to technically edge him out of his deserved pension being a former governor of Abia State.
He wrote: “It is important that I draw your attention to provision of section 124(5) of the 1999 constitution as amended which state that: “Provisions may be made by a law of a house of assembly in respect of a person who has held the office of a governor or deputy governor and was not removed from office as a result of impeachment and any pension granted by virtue of any provision made in pursuance of the subsection shall be a charge upon the consolidated revenue fund of the state.
“Instructively in a law encated by the Ebonyi State House of Assembly titled: Ebonyi State Specified Offices Pensions and Related Matters Law 2007, section 3 defined a Governor as a ‘Civilian Governor of or from Ebonyi State of Nigeria.
“Rather curiously, four years later the same House of Assembly enacted a law Ebonyi State Specified Offices Pensions and Related Matters Law (amendment) law 2011 wherein a governor was defined as ‘a civilian Governor of Ebonyi State of Nigeria”. Onu said it was clear from the foregoing that he was the target of the change ‘in an apparent design to deny me of my due pension entitlement’.
“This is especially so in the circumstance where it is the duty of the state government to do so as a responsibility of the sharing of assets between Ebonyi and Abia states. You will recall that I was the first elected Governor of Abia state, in which a part later became a constituent part of Ebonyi State”.
The Minister, therefore urged the governor to initiate steps to redress the injustice done to him in the interest of fairness, justice and respect for the constitution of the country. “Laws are not made to suit personal prejudices. Laws are made to serve enduring attributes of good conscience honour and equity”, Onu wrote.
Continuing he said: “Accordingly, in view of the prevailing circumstance I regret to inform you that I cannot accept the gift of a Lexus Sports Utility vehicle. I do so with a deep sense of responsibility and conscious of the important need to build a better Ebonyi State where respect for the rule of law and the peoples’ will as well as the pursuit of their happiness will remain sacred”.
Onu is the second person to reject the vehicles which was given to him, former governors Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi and erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim. The jeeps which cost N29 million each or a total of N116 was also rejected by former Governor Martin Elechi who wrote to the governor buttresing his reasons for his own rejection.