The Senate yesterday censured the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, over his recent order asking northerners in his state to register and obtain identity cards as part of his administration’s measures to curb growing insecurity in the country.
Ostensibly, Okorocha gave the order in reaction to a recent attempt to blow up a church in Owerri, the Imo State capital, as well as the arrest in neighbouring Abia State of 486 citizens of northern origin who were travelling in a convoy of 35 buses to Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The Senate, which also urged the federal government to restrain the security agencies from cooperating with the state government in this plan, advised the governor to henceforth jettison the move, saying it would further threaten the unity of Nigeria.
The resolution followed a motion by Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, berating the governor for originating what he described as an obnoxious policy, describing the move as a gross violation of Section 41(1) and 42(2) of the 1999 Constitution, which he said gives every Nigerian the freedom to move and reside in any part of the country.
While citing these constitutional provisions to buttress his motion, Ningi recalled that Section 41(1) provides that “every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom”.
He also cited Sections 42(1) A and B, which provides that “no citizens of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation by reason of the circumstance of his birth”.
The motion was well supported by other senators who described it as evil, immoral, unconscionable and condemnable with some of them describing Okorocha as one of “the people who are not supposed to occupy the position they occupy”.
While Senator George Sekibo said the governor should be “reprimanded” for evolving such a policy, others expressed disappointment that Okorocha, who was born and raised in northern Nigeria had given the order to move against people of another ethnic stock living in his state.
The matter got to a head when Senator Chris Anyawu (Imo East), used the opportunity to take a pound of flesh against her state governor with whom she once had a face-off prior to her defection from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While taking a swipe at Okorocha, Anyanwu described him as a stranger who had brought insult to the people of Imo State through his arrogance and disrespect for the law and constitution of the land.
She said: “We have somebody who has brought insult to the people of Imo State. This is somebody who does not believe in the constitution. Our people are well travelled, liberal and friendly. Peaceful co-existence is in the marrow of the people of Imo State.
“We have lived with Hausa people for many generations. Some of them speak better Igbo than than I do. I even sponsor some of them to Mecca. But suddenly, you have someone from somewhere, who is not from us, who is not for us, and doesn’t believe in or respect the constitution.
“He doesn’t believe in advice. He is alone and all alone. There are many court decisions that he has refused to obey.”
Anyanwu’s castigation of Okorocha shocked most of his colleagues with some of them hailing her to continue, while others murmured against the magnitude of aspersions she was casting on her governor.
This prompted Senator Chris Ngige (Anambra Central) to raise a point of order, citing Order 53:7 in Senate Standing Rules, which states that “it shall be out of order to use offensive and insulting language”.
But Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session ruled him out of order and asked Anyanwu to continue.
Indeed, Anyanwu did not hide her deep-seated hatred for the governor as she continued with her aspersions on Okorocha.
Her submission was in contrast with that of another senator from the state, Matthew Nwagwu (Imo North), who said even though he was from the opposition party, PDP, and not part of the government decision, he said it might not be right to “stay here and say this is what the governor said”.