Since the return of democratic governance in the country in 1999, Nigerians have never witnessed or experienced the level of impunity and desperation that has enveloped the country in recent times. The Trent From high level of insecurity across the country, wave of sponsored and induced impeachment moves against opposition governors ahead of 2015 polls to the Boko Haram insurgency, the situation is disturbing and calls for introspection. The country is at crossroad. Caution is crucial for everyone irrespective of position, party, religion or tribe.
The political class, especially the power mongers in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have failed to learn from the experience of the First and Second Republics which took the country back to the dark days for long. Nigerians are not ready to toe the same path again. With the wave of induced impeachment moves against some governors, the greatest preoccupation of the PDP is to stifle opposition by all means and turn the country into one party state. A man whose house is on fire do not chase rat, but the PDP government appears to be chasing rat, while its house is on fire. The party is still obsessed with its ignoble dream of ruling Nigeria for 60 years not minding its lack of transparency.
The impeachment of Murtala Nyako as Adamawa state governor, coupled with the aborted impeachment moves against Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa state, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara State, Alhaji Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, all of the opposition All Progressives Congress APC, is a planned political onslaught against the APC ahead of 2015 polls.
The perpetrators are leaving no stone unturned, including breaching the 1999 constitution (what matters to them is the result) in ensuring that the marked governors are impeached to pave way for PDP to take over the states, prelude to the general elections. Otherwise, how can the Adamawa and Nasarawa States’ House of Assembly circumvent Section 188(b), which unambiguously states that the Speaker shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice, cause a copy of the notice to be served on the holder of the office? The Houses resorted to self-help by sidelining the court and served the governors through the media. They could have approached a court of competent jurisdiction and obtained an order for substituted service. This was not done.
Impeachment is a constitutional issue, applied only in extreme situation. Its processes must be duly followed and completed to avoid illegality and abuse. According to one of the country’s legal icons, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), impeachment is a serious weapon that destroys its given victim(s) completely. Of concern is the failed impeachment plot in Nasarawa State against Governor Al-Makura by the PDP-dominated State House of Assembly. Since the governor assumed office after defeating the candidate of PDP, Gov Aliyu Akwe Doma, there have been disagreements between the State Assembly members, and the governor.
The underlying grouse of some of the governor’s traducers is that there is a subsisting agreement that the governor will serve only one term and hand over to the Egon tribe, who have never tasted the pie of the exalted office of the governor of the state. For these eminent Egon indigenes, that Governor Al-Makura performed better than his predecessors is immaterial. The state lawmakers appear handy to be used as a political pawn for his removal.
The lawmakers had once controversially amended the state council laws taking away the power of appointing members of Transition Management Committee (TMC) for council areas from to the governor to themselves. Further, the Assembly amended the section of the council law pegging the tenure of the elected council chairmen to one year and went ahead to pass law directing the state government not to open bank accounts without their approval. They also removed appropriation for youth empowerment in the state from the state budget permanently. They declared payment of minimum wage by the state government as illegal. The members had ordered the governor to always report to them before travelling abroad and had on several occasions removed governor’s appointees and others at will. They extended frivolous invitations to the state government officials all in a bid to intimidate the governor.
In making or amending these laws, the members never conducted any public hearing or engage in constituency outreach. They have not published any daily Hansard since inauguration in June 2011. Today, the lawmakers live like kings at the expense of those who elected them, having awarded themselves jumbo packages as constituency allowance, monthly salary and allowance for foreign trips twice annually. Since 2011, the unbudgeted fund the House members have collected included salaries (N4bn) constituency allowance (N2.4bn) foreign trip (N5bn) and other miscellaneous expenses that stood at N.7bn.
Ninety per cent of the State Assembly staff are casual workers in the last 10 years and the Assembly’s account book has not been audited following the members’ refusal of the transfer of the Director of finance and external auditor of the Assembly. Interestingly, the House wittingly or unwittingly consigned the State Joint Local Government Account Law it enacted to the dustbin of history. The law shields the governor from the management, budgeting and recording of the local government council account.
This law derives its powers from Section 162(6), which stipulates that each state shall maintain a special account to be called, ‘State Joint Local Government Account’. In Nasarawa, the Commissioner of Local Government is the chairman, Commissioner of Finance, Treasurers of all local governments in the state, among others are members with the Permanent Secretary as Secretary. Paradoxically, almost half of the charges levelled against the governor is on Local Government Account without due regarded to the State Joint Local Government Law.
What then is the morality of the kettle calling the pot black? While Al-Makura tried to avoid distraction in governance, the lawmakers, prodded by external and few internal forces were bent on removing him from office on the allegation of ‘gross misconduct’ and abuse of office.
The massive protest that trailed the impeachment plots against the governor is an eloquent testimony of the people’s support for the governor. Any illegal move by the lawmakers against the governor may throw the state into confusion. The 1999 Constitution is clear on how the governor and deputy governor should be impeached. There are judicial precedents on illegal impeachment of state governors in the past that have been quashed by the courts. Failure of procedure against a governor or deputy governor amounts to the illegality of the whole process.
The Nasarawa state Assembly members and their sponsors should be mindful of this, be ready to go to equity with clean hands, and avoid over-heating the state. This should be lesson enough for the proponents and sponsors of impeachment moves against opposition governors ahead of 2015 polls.
Dr. Simeon Mummeh, a university don, wrote in from Wuse, Abuja.