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Politics Nigeria : Season of Impeachments

   
impeachment - Politics Nigeria : Season of Impeachments

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Politics Nigeria : Season of Impeachments

Kaduna State House of Assembly was the first to blaze the trail when it brought to bear the full force of the provisions of the Constitution as regards the impeachment of elected public office holders on the then governor of the state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, over three decades ago.

In a move that largely surprised political observers then, Musa was thrown out of office on June 23, 1981. He was barely two years in office.

Since then, the wind of impeachment has continued to blow across the polity with governors, speakers and even local government chairmen as its casualties.

While Sections 143 and 188 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, respectively spelt out how a president and governor could be removed from office, Section 92 which provides for the positions of Speaker and a Deputy Speaker for each of the 36 states Houses of Assembly (elected by the members from among themselves) equally stated how they could be removed.

As a containment device, the exercise of this constitutional right by the legislative arm of government is intended to ensure that the executive, a president, governor or the leadership of the respective legislative house at the local, states or federal levels, functions within the realm of the constitution.

It is against this backdrop that impeachment proceeding is seen as a serious legislative business because of its appreciation as a technique for the function of the Principle of Checks and Balances.

For instance, the constitution copiously provides for a detailed and elaborate procedure to be followed before the president can be impeached.

This procedure is sequential and must be duly followed. It is a chain of events which must not be broken at any stage. The sections states that: “The President or Vice President may be removed from office whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than onethird of the members of the National Assembly is presented to the president of the Senate; stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office.”

This provision, notwithstanding, Nigeria has never impeached a president. The reason for this, perhaps, is due to the ambiguity of the provisions of the constitution.

If the president is to be impeached, the process will last approximately five months. Why is this so? Some have queried.

The answer is not farfetched, as Section 143(1) of the Constitution provides that the process of the impeachment of the president can only commence whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly is presented to the president of the Senate; stating that the holder of the office of president or vice president is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office.

It is after the receipt of this notice that the Senate president, can within seven days cause a copy of the notice to be served on the president and on each member of the National Assembly as well as also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation to be served on the legislators.

The next step is that the National Assembly, must within 14 days of the presentation of the notice, resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.

A motion that the allegation be in-vestigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.

It is after this that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will at the request of the Senate president appoint a panel of seven persons, who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity and who are not members of the public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation and within three months of its appointment, report its findings to each chamber of the National Assembly.

Where the panel reports that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings would be taken in respect of the matter.

However, should the report have is that the allegation against the president has been proved, the National Assembly will then within 14 days of its receipt, consider it, and if by a resolution supported by not less than two-third majority of its members, the report is adopted, the president stands removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report. But that is not the process in the removal of the head of a legislative house.

The procedure is so simple that a speaker could be ousted within the blink of an eye. Section 92 sub-section(2), which provides for how a speaker or his deputy could be removed, states: “The Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly shall vacate his office –

(a) if he ceases to be a member of the House of Assembly otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of the House;

(b) When the House first sits after any dissolution of House; or

(c) if he is removed from office by a resolution of House of Assembly by the votes of not less than two-third majority of the members of the House.”

This constitutional provision is what members of some states Assembly have relied on in sacking their speakers at will. Among states legislative houses that experienced this wind of change during the last administration include those of Adamawa, Kano, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Edo and Kogi.

The change of guard in the Kogi State Assembly last year resulted to a protracted crisis that prompted the House of Representatives to announce its takeover of the legislative activities of the parliament in accordance with section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

While many have continuously pointed accusing fingers at the executive arm over the intrigues and power play for the gale of impeachments in the states Assembly, the fact remains that the state legislators are the architects of their fate.

By refusing to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment that would have granted them financial autonomy during the 2010 constitutional amendment process as a result of “underhand tactics of their governors,” states Assembly have remained mere appendages of the executive arm of government at that level of government.

Only 22 out of the 36 states Assembly passed the amendment aimed at granting them first-line charge status. Others caved in to the demands of their then governors and rejected it.

The governors impressed, coerced and in some instances blackmailed their legislators, using the principal officers, like the speakers to jettison the idea.

To this end, the two-third required approval from the various states after the National Assembly had considered and endorsed the proposal, was never met as the same legislators who it was meant to benefit failed to vote in its favour.

Authorisation of Expenditure from Consolidated Revenue Fund as provided for in Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution would have granted financial autonomy to State Houses of Assembly as it states that “Any amount standing to the credit of the House of Assembly or the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to; (a) the House of Assembly of the State; and the heads of the courts concerned; respectively.”

Only 22 states Assembly – Abia, Anambra, Benue, Borno, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara thought it was worthwhile for the second and third arms of government at the state level to be independent of the executive.

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But this number was not enough to make the clause scale through the crucible of the cumbersome constitution amendment process, as it was two states short of the two-third or 24 states required for any amendment to be carried.

The 14 state legislative houses, which killed the dream, were Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kwara, Ondo and Rivers.

Two states, Katsina and Kwara that could have saved the situation by giving the clause the needed two-third passage, backed out at the eleventh hour. Both states exhibited ambivalent postures on the issue.

Katsina was obviously undecided, having sent in two different letters to the Senate, one conveying its approval of the clause and the other stating its rejection of it.

Kwara, on its part, passed just one leg of the clause dealing with the independence of the Judiciary, while rejecting the sub-section that deals with independence.

This ambivalent stance by Katsina and Kwara state Houses of Assembly nearly caused confusion when the final collation of state-by-state voting patterns on the different proposed amendments to the constitution was released.

The two states were listed among states that approved the clause, making it look like the clause had met the two-third required for its passage.

The controversies and the eventual death of the proposal still hovers around the alleged promptings and heavy funding said to have been deployed by the governors then to kill the anticipated law so that they will continue to call the shots in the states unchallenged by the parliaments.

But, its consequence is that the gale of sack of states Assembly speakers, mostly at the prompting of the governors has continued unabated as evident in the recent impeachment of speakers of Rivers, Jigawa and Jigawa states Assembly, respectively.

Rivers: Dabotorudima quits ‘voluntarily’

Emmanuel Masha reports on the intrigues behind the selfrelinquishing of his position as speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly by Hon. Adams Dabotorudima Two days before 2016 came to an end; there was a change of leadership in the Rivers State House of Assembly.

On that particular day, the Speaker, Hon. Adams Dabotorudima, announced his own resignation exactly one year after he emerged speaker.

What remains striking about his resignation was that Hon.Owaji Ikunni Ibani, who was speaker before him, and who quietly relinquished his position without drama such move usually causes, was the same man that took over from him.

While some observers declared that the move was orchestrated outside the Assembly by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, others opined that it was a demonstration of the understanding between the lawmakers, majority of who are members of the PDP.

Those who saw nothing wrong with the development argued that it shows that the lawmakers want to be on the same page with the executive arm of government, by making the needed adjustments before the New Year, so as to give the needed attention, first to the state’s 2017 budget and then, lawmaking.

Ordinarily, Dabotorudima, would not have emerged speaker if the election of Ibani and 19 other PDP members had not been annulled.

With the way the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal, which sat in Abuja annulled the election of the PDP members, who initially won 30 out of the 31 seats in the Assembly, the emergence of Dabotorudima was a tactical move aimed at keeping the party united, while waiting for the worst to happen.

There was also the chilling reality that Governor Nyesom Wike’s election had been annulled at the tribunal and the Appeal Court.

In fact, at that very period, the three senators from the state, as well as 12 House of Representatives members equally lost their seats at the National Assembly.

For the PDP, it was like starting afresh. There were frightening circumstances that made starting all over again a rough path to take.

But they equally know that they had no other option if they must make apprecia-ble impact among voters. What really worked in Ibani’s favour was his deep understanding of the lawmaking process.

From 2007, during the first term of former Governor Chibuike Amaechi, he was one of the few lawmakers, who showed depth in debates and effortlessly gave substance to issues.

He proved that he was cut out for lawmaking and rarely missed sittings, where he spoke his mind freely. However, beyond that, Ibani was the first lawmaker to announce his departure from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Before then, according to a source in APC, the party was considering him for a higher office, which was why the party allegedly mourned his exit, When Ameachi dumped the PDP for APC, some lawmakers, majority of who started their political career with the PDP said they were no longer at peace with the party.

The allure of a new adventure in another political party proved so powerful to resist for those who dumped the PDP. The outcome of that move has lifted some of them politically, and would haunt others for a long time.

Of course some stayed behind, and resolved to give their unalloyed support to Wike, even though he was in Abuja as the Minister of Education.

This clear division within the House was what paved way for the infamous brawl, which almost claimed the life of a lawmaker.

Recently, six APC lawmakers were sworn-in in the aftermath of the December 10 legislative rerun elections. It means more voices for the party.

But the PDP lawmakers, apart from outnumbering the APC counterparts, are very united and have demonstrated their loyalty to whoever is the speaker.

More importantly, however, is the fact that Ibani returned as speaker shortly after the House passed into law the state’s N470 billion 2017 budget.

This makes some observers to see the House as one that is in a hurry to support the executive arm in churning out more projects.

Abia: Two speakers in 24hrs

Igbeaku Orji reports on the power play and political undercurrents that saw Abia State House of Assembly electing two speakers within 24 hours The event of Thursday January 5, 2017 in which the former Speaker of Abia State 6th Assembly, Hon Martins Azubuike was impeached predated that day.

It had been rumoured several times but did not materialise. There had been subterranean moves by members of the House to impeach the speaker, so the impeachment did not come to many as a surprise.

However, the shocker is why the speaker who obviously discerned the hand writing on the wall refused to resign choosing rather the ignoble exit door of impeachment.

The 24-member Abia State House of Assembly is composed of 15 PDP lawmakers and nine of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Azubuike represents Isiala Ngwa North state constituency in the House. The constituency falls within Abia Central senatorial zone.

When the speakership was zoned to Abia Central, as the South and North had taken the governorship and deputy governorship slots respectively, it naturally fell on Azubuike having been in the House for three consecutive tenures. He was among his peers, the most experienced in legislative business.

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But if his impeachment did not come as a surprise, his replacement with two speakers in less than 24 hours definitely was. Azubuike’s impeachment was executed following a motion moved by the Deputy Majority Leader and member representing Obingwa East, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu after reading the impeachment notice which was signed by 20 of the 24 members.

According to Akpulonu, the 20 signatories justified the twothird majority statutory requirement for the impeachment. He cited section 92 (2c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, to justify the action.

He listed Azubuike’s offence, to include “gross misconduct, lack of accountability and transparency in handling public funds, insensitivity to the plight of the members of the House, abuse of office and financial recklessness.” The impeachment was perfected in less than 15 minutes.

The sitting was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe, announced that following the conclusion of the impeachment, Azubuike ceases to be the speaker of the Abia 6th House of Assembly and since the law does not make for a vacuum or acting speaker a new speaker had to be elected immediately.

Conducting the nomination, the Clerk of the House, John Pedro Irokansi, said following the removal of the speaker, the constitution does not permit acting speaker, hence the need for a replacement.

Two members were immediately nominated, Hon Bishop Kennedy Njoku, representing Osisioma Ngwa North and Hon Chikwendu Kalu of Isiala Ngwa South.

The election which was conducted by the Clerk under option A4 method of voting saw Njoku poll 20 votes to beat Kalu with three as one member did not vote.

By the next day it became obvious that the choice of Njoku as Azubuike’s replacement did not go down well with the powers that be. Consequently, the budget presentation by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was delayed until the necessary adjustment was made.

It was gathered that it took the intervention of powerful stakeholders to persuade Njoku to relinquish the office. As soon as he acceded, Kalu, obviously the preferred candidate, was elected as speaker.

Kalu is said to be the governor’s choice ab initio, but when other members saw that he voted for Njoku, those who were to favour the governor by voting for his candidate backed out, leaving only a few loyalists who gave him the three votes he garnered.

Before Kalu’s emergence, the permutation in most quarters in the state was that the plot to remove Azubuike is to pave the way for Chinedu Orji, son of the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Theodore Orji, to emerge speaker. But, by the time the plot played out, many were disappointed at least for now.

The mover of the impeachment motion, Hon. Akpulonu, had told journalists that they had on countless occasions advised the former speaker but he never listened to them, His words: “He failed to ensure equitable distribution of positions and powers among members, he was insensitive to the rights and needs of members and general staff of the assembly, his autocratic practice has brought the assembly on collision course with other arms of government and agencies of the state government, he has abused the office of the speaker by using same for personal and private political interest and therefore, pursuant to section 92 (2c) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, we the members of the house resolve to remove and hereby remove Rt. Hon. Martins Azubuike as speaker.” But Azubuike had debunked the allegations against him.

He said his decision to be calm over the matter was in the interest of the peace of the state. He noted that the impeachment did not follow due process even as he was not served any notice nor made to appear before any panel.

He also alleged that the problem started when he refused to yield to the pressure of members to share money meant for capital projects.

Azubuike listed the new constituency office which Governor Ikpeazu commissioned on the day he presented the budget, as among the projects he completed.

He said the projected was started by two of his predecessors but could not be completed. According to a House functionary who spoke on condition of anonymity, being aware of his impeachment moves earlier in the week, Azubuike who was absent at the emergency plenary session that threw him out, he took the mace with him to forestall his impeachment.

However, the source said that the pro-impeachment members were prepared as they acquired a spare mace with which they executed the plot.

Jigawa: Garba fights on

Impeached speaker of Jigawa State House of Assembly, Idris Garba is not letting go and has dragged his colleagues over what he termed wrongful removal Members of Jigawa State House of Assembly, on January 3, had their speaker, Idris Garba impeached.

He was replaced by Isa Idris. Garba was removed following an impeachment notice signed by 25 of the 30-member House, which was read on the floor of the House.

The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Garba, who presided plenary, announced that 25 of the 30-member Assembly, who endorsed the impeachment notice, showed that a constitutional requirement of two-third majority needed to carry out the impeachment any of its erring principal officers had been met.

“With this development, I at this moment declare the seat of the speaker vacant and a fresh election should be conducted to elect the new speaker,” he said.

The deputy speaker read the impeachment notice on the floor of the House and confirmed the number of members that signed the notice by taking a voice vote.

The impeached speaker was accused of high-handedness and abuse of power, but there is more than meets the eye in his impeachment as some political analysts in the state pointed to the crack in the ruling APC in the state for his ordeal.

The belief is that Garba, who is from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the legacy parties of the ruling APC, was ousted by some vested interests to assume total control of the party machinery in the state.

The state governor, Abubakar Badaru is of the defunct Action Congress (ACN), while his deputy, Ibrahim Hassan is of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) extraction, and is has been a cold war among members of the three parties that merged to form the APC over control of its structures in the state.

With Garba, who is CPC’s representative in government out of the political equation, the coast is clear for the governor and his allies from the ACN to run the show in Jigawa “unchallenged,” though the impeached has not given up.

Garba has dragged 25 members of the Assembly who appended their signature for his impeachment and the Attorney General of the state before Jigawa State High Court challenging the legality of his impeachment.

Speaking through his counsel, Sale Mohammed Tirmizi, the impeached speaker said his removal was null and void because the process was conducted in contrast to section 6 (4) Rules of Jigawa State House Assembly 2011, which stipulates that before a speaker or his deputy could be impeached, all allegations must be made known in writing to the officer concerned to step aside for investigation.

Felix Nwaneri

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