For her passion and activism, she is being victimised and even persecuted. Maria Nwachi, an Ebonyi State lawmaker and photographer, was suspended for practicing her passion aside being a lawmaker, UCHENNA INYA reports
This is not the best of time for Mrs. Maria Nwachi, member representing Afikpo North East constituency in Ebonyi state House of Assembly. She is in the eyes of the storm again in the state for engaging in her second business (photography/image making) after law making, Nwachi is currently the most popular politician in Afikpo Town. Youths, women and men folk love Nwachi for her philanthropy, empowerment and emancipation programme. She is popularly known as Afikpo Chic, Nwanyi Afikpo, ‘Best Chic Ever Liveth’.
In 2015, Nwachi contested House of Assembly on the platform of Progressives People’s Alliance(PPA) and won. PPA was very unpopular in entire Afikpo and her constituency, Afikpo North East. She had wanted to run on the platform of People’s Democratic Party but changed her mind. She was elected the Minority Leader of the House of Assembly.
Prior to her emergence as the state lawmaker, entire Afikpo was in darkness for two years, as Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) could not supply electricity to the town. Nwachi swung into action and reconnected the area to the national grid while the people enjoyed constant electricity supply. They nicknamed the electricity supply her name, MARIA.
Six months after, the area witnessed another period of power outage. This prompted the youths to go on rampage. They vandalized EEDC properties in the area. Nwachi was blamed for not controlling the youths and she was suspended by the state House of Assembly for three months. The suspension lasted for six months.
Last year, she defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Her party, PPA kicked against the defection by filing a suit against her at federal high court, Abakaliki. PPA is seeking the court to declare her seat vacant. The State PPA Chairman, Samuel Udeogu said the suit was filed because Nwachi who was sponsored on the platform of the PPA during the last general election was now a member of PDP in the State. “My reason for taking this matter to court was because the actions of Hon. Maria Ude Nwachi which my party sponsored to the House of Assembly were against sections 106 sub-section 1d and section 109 sub-section1g of the constitution of federal republic of Nigeria as amended in 1999.
“It is a settled law that once there is no division in your party at the national level or there are no talks of merger with any other political party or group that defection in that instance becomes a nullity.
As the suit lies in the federal high court, Nwachi who has declared interest to go to National Assembly in next year’s general elections was suspended again by the state House of Assembly. The Assembly suspended her for two weeks, January 23rd, 2018. Nwachi was allegedly suspended for gross misconduct and for posing as public photographer.
In a motion moved by the Leader of the House, Hon. Joseph Nwobasi representing Ezza North East constituency and seconded by Hon. Franca Okpo representing Abakaliki North constituency, Hon. Nwachi was reported to have been recalcitrant to earlier warning by the Assembly to desist from being a photographer in the state. She was therefore suspended for 14 days pending the time the committee constituted by the House to investigate the allegation against her conclude its report. Nwachi was also reported to have been recalcitrant to earlier warnings by the Assembly on her activities.
The Assembly noted that Nwachi, a former Minority Leader of the House has brought disrespect and dishonesty to herself and the Assembly by bringing her image and integrity to the mud by posing as public photographer. Her suspension however generated mixed reactions from members of the public. While some described it as political witch-hunt, others said it was a welcome development to halt her increasing lifestyle, which has allegedly brought her name and that of the Assembly to disrepute.
Two days ago, last Wednesday precisely; the embattled lawmaker appeared before the Assembly 5-man committee set-up to investigate her alleged misconduct. The committee grilled Nwachi for more than 30 minutes and she pleaded guilty. She pleaded guilty at the Assembly Complex, Nkaliki road, Abakaliki during the committee’s sitting over her matter. She accepted that there were two sittings which she avoided because of her image making business for a prominent man in Imo state. She also accepted that she does some promotions for Governor Dave Umahi which according to her was to showcase the Governor’s achievements before the world. “I actually avoided the two sittings because of my private business and such behavior no matter the circumstances cannot be right. I cannot justify that and I do not see what the House has done as regards my suspension as a political witch-hunt. Rather, I see my action as very wrong and I cannot justify it,” Nwachi said.
She added that, “I actually do some promotions for my Governor, he is my Governor. I do promotions for him not image laundering. I have many people on Facebook and I know how to figure those things and my consideration for doing that is to enable the people of the country to know that my Governor is doing well and developing the state.
“Even before I came into politics, I have been doing Facebook business and managing the Igboist account which enjoys large followership, I have been doing lots of empowerment through it.
Usually, I use my resources to do those empowerment programmes but this time around I introduced a formular which the Igboist members can contribute to empower the people. It is a new empowerment scheme and it’s a sort of family empowerment for members of the Igboist,” she said.
Chairman of the Committee and member representing Ikwo south constituency, Hon. Chike Ogiji told Nwachi that the House was worried about her activities which he said portrays her and the Assembly in bad light, hence the suspension and commended the lawmaker for her sincerity on the allegations against her. “We are not interested in your private life, we don’t even intend to delve into your privacy. Nevertheless, what we want is that as long as you continue to be a member of this House of Assembly, it is collective responsibility and the public perception about your behavior and conduct is also important to us and that is why we have done this.
Adding that, “It is clear that you have accepted the mistakes you made and we want to tell you that we are not witch-hunting you. Our business is to ensure that you move as an Honourable member with the intension to protecting the collective interest of the House that we have the integrity and that is why the House frowned at most of your actions.”
Another member of the committee and member representing Ohaukwu South constituency, Hon. Frank Onwe also commended Nwachi for displaying sincerity on the allegations against her. “Dear colleague, I must commend you for making the work of this House very easy. By accepting responsibilities for all these things leveled against you. For the purpose of the public and records, people go out there to give misconceptions of what happened in the House. The House did not suspend you simply because you are photographing. For us, we see it as a hobby! When there is programme we go there, snap with people and get pictures.
But it becomes a problem when you go to a public place outside your area and in the process where you are pauperizing or you are pushed down and they will say it is ‘Maria, the legislator’ and where is the legislator from? She is from Ebonyi state. So, it takes something away from the House here that one of us is being pushed around. They will not know that you are doing it for just hobby purposes and that is why we are majorly concerned. Some of us here have cameras and if there is any function or public gathering, we snap. So, what we are saying here is that the image of Maria is very important to us,” he asserted.
Nwachi was born in Ozizza community, Afikpo, Ebonyi State and left Nigeria for United States of America in 1989 when she was 19 years old, she came back to the country middle of year 2000. On arrival to Nigeria, she got involved in Social Media related matters; news dissemination and was one of the early people that started News on Facebook Nigeria. she moved into Image-making in 2012 by managing Facebook Accounts/Pages and Social Media Accounts for top companies and establishments, top prominent men/women of the society; including governors and oil magnets. The first time she practiced image-making was for Jeb Bush in 2002 in Florida, USA when Bush contested governorship election.
Nwachi also serves as a Photographer. She personally takes the photographs of all her clients and equally does a very special type of editing on them. She was always seen in public functions with camera taking pictures of the events for her social media accounts.
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