The bill also seeks to ensure that the president is fully aware and conscious of the possibility that he could be removed from office.
Existing procedures for removing an incumbent president are stringent; so much so in fact that arguments have been canvassed that no matter the extent of breaches of the constitution, proving them is not assured. While it is certainly necessary for presidential actions to be put under firmer checks and controls, it is doubtful whether the course of action before the House of Representatives is the right way to go. It is assumed that any president duly elected would have received the mandate of some twenty million Nigerian voters; it would be unreasonable for the National Assembly to seek a process of overturning that mandate.
There may be some merit in the claim that their collective mandate exceeds that of the president, which would perhaps be the case if all their decisions were taken by a full ballot of all members. However the bill, like many others, was passed on a voice vote at a poorly attended plenary session. There is also no doubt that parts of the existing provisions for impeachment the president are self-defeating. Impeachment proceedings should not rely solely on the approval of any presidential appointee; yet the current provisions require that the Chief Justice of the Federation must raise a panel to investigate allegations of misconduct on the part of the president.
What the proposed amendment seeks to do is to jettison this requirement of the appointment of the Chief Justice. Because the issue involved is one of integrity of the Chief Justice, there is no reason to doubt this would be lacking. Moreover, his input would be required because the impeachment process is both a constitutional and legal matter.
If past experience is any guide, impeachments have always been manipulated for political motives rather than public interest. Therefore it would be hardly wise to tread the same path where the president is concerned. It could reasonably be argued that even if a president is not actually removed from office due to the nature of the politics of it, any legislation that simplifies the process would only lead to a never-ending series of impeachment motions throughout the tenure of any president. In that scenario, an incumbent president would be hamstrung by a litigious committee, spending most of his time fighting off the process.
Currently, the only basis for initiating any impeachment processes is some unspecified “gross misconduct” which is loosely interpreted as “grave violation” or breach of the Constitution. With this general definition, all presidents since 1999 provided numerous grounds for impeachment. Thus, any demand that specific offences should be outlined cannot be faulted. A major drawback with this bill is that it entitles the House of Representatives to prosecute and judge in its own case. Further action on this bill should be set aside, the status quo retained and the matter handed over to constitutional experts for consideration.
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