Francis Moses writes on the gale of impeachments across the country and its implication to the growth of democracy
The gale of impeachment blowing across the country has caught up with the Niger State House of Assembly. The assembly halted legislative and business activities in Minna, the state capital on Tuesday as its Speaker, Mr. Usman Adamu, generally perceived in the state as Governor Babangida Aliyu’s staunch loyalist was impeached.
This is even as the dust raised by a faction of the Enugu State House of Assembly led by the impeached Speaker; Hon. Eugene Odoh, to impeach Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State is yet to settle. Indications of the Speaker’s removal emerged when roads leading to the complex were flooded with armed security officials and other security agents.
The Assembly members, however, defied the presence of the armed security men and forced their way into the assembly complex after damaging the chain used in locking the gate. After about an hour the mace arrived and the House settled down for plenary, with 19 out of the 25 members of the assembly present.
A member of the House representing Agaie Constituency, Mr. Abdullahi Akwanu, who is the House Chairman, Business and Rules, told the House that after the Assembly’s executive meeting on Monday, it was agreed that the House should sit for business on Tuesday but surprisingly no leader of the House, including the Speaker was around.
He, therefore, drew the attention of the House to ‘Order 8′ of the House Standing Rules which provides that in the absence of the Speaker from the House without any reason, a Speaker Pro Tempore be appointed to enable the proceeding of the House.
Consequently, the Member representing Bosso Constituency, Mr. Usman Dada, moved a motion, which was seconded by another member for the appointment of a Speaker Pro Tempore. Hon. Abdullahi Akwanu, immediately nominated the Member representing Bida 1 Constituency, Mr. Isah Kawu, for the position of the Speaker Pro Tempore and this was seconded by Hon. Jacob Maggi Gana, representing Lavun Constituency.
Thereafter, Gana told the House that the refusal of the leadership of the House to show up after it was agreed during the executive meeting on Monday, adding that the absence of the leadership of the House had caused them some level of embarrassment and therefore moved for the removal of the leadership.
Another lawmaker, representing Paikoro Constituency, Mr. Yusuf Kure, seconded his motion. After sacking the leadership of the House, the Speaker Pro Tempore then called for nomination for the new leadership of the house. Hon. Gana immediately nominated the speaker temporal, Hon. Isah Kawu, as the new Speaker of the House, Hon. Bello Ahmed (Agwara) Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Kure (Paikoro) Majority leader, while Hon. Sa’adatu Kolo (Mashehu) as Chief Whip.
The Clerk of the House, Mallam Mohammed Kagara, immediately swore in the new Speaker. In his acceptance speech, the new Speaker, who is occupying the position for the second time within two years, having been appointed as a Speaker after an impeachment of Hon. Mohammed Gamunu in 2012, thanked the members for the confidence reposed in him, stressing that though he was aware of time limit because of the transition.
“This change will bring a positive development to the House and by extension, to the people of the state,” he said. He then directed the Clerk to immediately write a letter to notify the Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, of the change in leadership in the House. However, the Police on Wednesday prevented members of the Assembly from sitting, claiming that those attempting to gain entrance into the assembly complex were not members.
The lawmakers including the new Speaker of the House, Kawu, had gone to the assembly complex for a sitting but found the entrance barricaded by the police. The police defended the action claiming that it was to stop non-members from getting access to the complex.
Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, the spokesman for the state Police Command told newsmen that the police were also there to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
“The police are doing their job of protecting lives and properties. Those who claimed to be members of the House are not members. Police cannot allow properties of the House to be damaged that is why they stopped people from accessing the building,” he said. Reacting to the development, Kawu faulted the police, saying that they had no right to prevent members from sitting. “We were prevented by the police from entering the House.
Why will the speaker and members be disallowed from sitting? Police do not have the right to stop legislators from sitting; why will the Commissioner of Police draft his men to the legislative arm of government in the absence of trouble. We are planning a transition, what is the essence of democracy if handing over to elected persons was not necessary,” he queried.
According to reports, the impeachment of the Speaker was to pave the way for the impeachment of Governor Babangida. In his reaction, the impeached Speaker, Usman described the exercise as “null and void,” explaining that he obtained a court order restraining the House from taking the action.
He stated that the court order was served on the House and that the impeachment was in violation of the order. He disclosed that the Assembly was after Governor Aliyu, adding that the governor should watch out for Impeachment notice, adding that the crisis of the Assembly erupted from starving the legislature of funds since the beginning or the year, over head fund has not be released while members allowances had not been paid.
He wondered why his colleagues should vent their anger on him instead of the executive. “As far as I am concerned, I am still the speaker and the impeachment is null and void. I have not been accused of financial misappropriation, it is because the executive has not released overhead since the beginning of the year.
Don’t be surprised that impeachment notice is served on the governor of Niger state tomorrow; the governor should be prepared,” he stated. Sources said the police sealed up the assembly complex to prevent the lawmakers from forming a quorum to move for the impeachment of the governor. According to reports, members of the Assembly, who had entered the chamber, stormed the gate in anger, ordering the most senior officer guarding the gate to open it for their colleagues, who were locked out. The Police Officer, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP however said he was not with the keys of the gate.
After having their pleadings fall on deaf ears, the lawmakers proceeded to break the padlock. “Are we prisoners? Did we beat anyone? Did we cause riot? Why should you lock us in? These people are trying to create trouble when there is no trouble,” the lawmakers queried. According to sources, 21 out of 27 members of the House were in the premises to begin the process of impeaching the Governor, who complained of non-payment of their severance allowances and payment of half salary since February this year.
It would be recalled that Governor Aliyu who recently lost his bid to go to the senate as well as failed to install Umar Nasko, his political godson as governor of the state has continued to lose followership. The governor has been locked in a row with the deputy, Ahmed Ibeto, after Mr. Ibeto defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The situation is not different in Katsina State as 15 members of the State House of Assembly have threatened to commence impeachment proceedings against the state governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema.
The members vowed to serve the governor an impeachment notice any moment from now when they resume sitting over his poor handling of state’s finances among other impeachable offences. Spokesman of the 15 members, Danlami Kurfi (APC,Kurfi) told newsmen in Katsina that Shema engaged in spending of public funds without recourse to laid-down procedures. Kurfi said the assembly members were determined to find answers to expenditures that included the N33 billion local government funds, selling of state houses in Katsina and Abuja, and SURE-P vehicles by the state government.
He accused the governor of failing to present audited state finance report to the state assembly as required by law, insisting that the move by the House was to ensure that things are done in line with the provisions of the constitution. He stressed that some of the legislators, comprising mostly those that defected to the APC and some others aggrieved within the PDP, had met and were set to serve the governor an impeachment notice.
Kurfi, who is also the member-elect for Dutsinma/Kurfi Federal Constituency, said it was only proper to raise the above questions, as Katsina is greater than any one individual.
“Issues have been raised and questions need answers from the executive arm of government,” he said, adding that it was not out of place to commence impeachment proceedings against Shema over his way of handling the affairs of the state. “If we have erred before, then it is now time to correct our past deeds by ensuring the truths is told to all Katsina people with true state of finances of the state. We are to write to him this next week notice of impeachment,” he said. It would be recalled that the deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, was recently impeached.
Henry Akinsoyinu, the Majority leader, staged the Impeachment agitation, which was affirmed that the seven impeachable offences of misconduct and abuse of office laid against him had been proven. 24 out of the 26 members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, including the Speaker, graced the fully attended session; all were in support of the impeachment. The Deputy Majority Leader, Oyebo Aladetan, seconded the motion and also the Speaker of the House, Jumoke Akindele, adopted the motion and declared the Deputy Governor impeached and evacuated from office.
In the same vein, the lingering crisis in the Adamawa State House of Assembly deepened as nine out of 25 members of the legislature sat in the conference Hall of Government House,Yola to remove the Speaker of the Assembly, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri and his Deputy Barrister Kwamoti Laori out of office. The ouster came after a parallel sitting at the House of the Assembly complex in Yola, presided by Fintiri, where 10 members including the Speaker also sat.
At the plenary session the Speaker said six members of the Assembly were absent with the leave of the House, while he said others were absent without permission and the house was yet to be abreast of the reasons for their absence. However, before then, 11 aggrieved lawmakers had issued a press statement accusing Fintiri of high-handedness and unilateral closure of the house which lasted for weeks and issued a warning to the effect that by that action they had no alternative other than to convene the sitting elsewhere. Prior to the just-concluded March/ April general election in the country, the house of assembly went on a three-week recess to allow members participate in the electoral process.
But a day to the opening of the house after the recess, 11 members allegedly loyal to Ngilari issued a press statement expressing their grievances with the leadership style of the speaker and threatened to effect a leadership change in the house. Few weeks’ ago19 APC lawmakers of the Ekiti State House of Assembly urged a Federal High Court, Abuja, to slam a contempt charge against Governor Ayodele Fayose for allegedly manipulating its ruling. The aggrieved lawmakers warned that Fayose’s impunity and manipulation of facts of his impeachment case in the media won’t save him.
The lawmakers were reacting to media reports on the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which refused Fayose and seven Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers’ request, which sought to stop the APC lawmakers from continuing impeachment proceedings against the governor. Mr. Wole Olujobi, Special Adviser to the Speaker, Dr. Adewale Omirin, in a statement, said the APC lawmakers were surprised that the governor and his men could deliberately misrepresent the fact of the ruling to mislead the public.
“It is incredible that the governor and the PDP lawmakers could manipulate the press again to mislead the public that the ruling by Justice Evoh Chukwu was in their favour.
“While the judge clearly ruled that it could not stop Fayose’s impeachment without hearing from the APC lawmakers, the governor went to town, in a contempt of court to turn full circle the ruling by the judge”, the statement explained. It added, “He first raided the courts and chased the judges under their tables and subsequently closed the courts.
After that, he closed the House of Assembly and chased the lawmakers out of town. With the gale of impeachments across the country, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s democracy may be subjected to the danger of being stunted.
Currently, Nigerians have witnessed an unprecedented spate of impeachment threats and actual impeachments. The word “impeachment” is a formal document charging a public official with an offence or misconduct in office. It is a case of bringing an accusation(s) or indictment against or leveling a charge or charges against a public official such as the President of a Nation or the Governor of a State.
The question arises whether there is a state of being liable to impeachment on the part of any public official for that matter. In this case however, the body or institution bringing impeachment proceedings has to determine whether there is a case or cases of misconduct worthy of impeachment.
If that is established, then guilt or guiltiness of the public official concerned has to be established also. With all these issues on impeachment rocking the country, some political analysts argue that lawmakers should exercise restraint in the way and manner they resort to impeachment as this could retard the growth of democracy in the country.