The Kogi State House of Assembly’s “impeachment” last week of the state’s deputy governor Elder Simon Achuba and his hasty replacement with Edward Onoja, erstwhile Chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello,is the messiest exercise of its kind in the history of the Fourth Republic. The melodramatic impeachment process began and ended on a disturbing note that clearly violated the spiritand letter of the 1999 Constitution. It presented the Assembly’s members as well as the state’s judiciary as an unserious bunch who trampled on the letter of the Constitution.
It was apparent that the Kogi House of Assembly was bent on impeaching Achuba even before it asked the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Nasiru Ajanah, to constitute the panel to investigate his alleged misdeeds. As it happened, the seven-member panel headed by Mr. John Baiyeshea, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), dismissed all the allegations against Achuba due to what it described as lack of evidence to support each of the allegations.
On the allegation that the former deputy governor was involved in financial misconduct and non-compliance with financial regulations, the panel said the documents tendered by Achuba’s accusers did not contain any evidence of such misconduct. The petitionershad claimed that the deputy governor absconded from office and abandoned his official duties. The panel said there was no evidence to support the allegation. Achuba was further accused of scandalizing the government and bringing Governor Yahaya Bello to public ridicule, butthe panel said there was no proof of this allegation either.
As a result of the above and other observations made in the 34-page investigative report, the panel said, “We hereby report to the Kogi StateHouse of Assembly that the allegations contained in the notice of allegations admitted in evidence by this panel as exhibit C7 have not been proved.” Section 188 (8) of the Constitution explicitly provides that “Where the panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.”Instead of adhering to this constitutional provision, Kogi State House of Assembly declared Achuba impeached and it proceeded to approve the governor’s nomination of Edward Onoja as the new deputy governor on October 21.
For the Kogi State lawmakers to ignore an express provision of the Constitutionis reckless, dangerous, irresponsible and the height of impunity.The underlying principle behind the constitution is the fact that everyone is equal before the law, even the Legislature. Kogi State should have taken a cue from a similar incident in Nasarawa State. In2014, Nasarawa State House of Assembly directed the state’s Chief Judge to set up a panel to investigate allegations against Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura for possible impeachment. Thepanelset up by the Chief Judge reported that none of the allegations was proved. Unhappy though the Nasarawa opposition MPs who initiated theprocess were, they respected Section 188  of the constitution and dropped the impeachment process.
The silence of the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC]national leaders in this matter is too cold for comfort. This is the kind of reckless impunity that destroys republics and the party should have taken steps to ensure that its members did not trample on the constitution. It is equally regrettable that Chief Judge Ajanah went ahead to swear-in Edward Onoja as Deputy Governor in spite of the report of the investigation panel.How could a state Chief Judge so visibly take part in illegality and impunity?We call on the Presidency, National Assembly and APC leaders to intervene and call the Kogi governor and House of Assembly to order. The National Judicial Council [NJC] should probe the roles played by judicial officers in the state and mete out appropriate sanctions to anyone found wanting. If the mischief in Kogi is allowed to hold, this country will be inching closer to a typicallylawless Republic.
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