| By Dan Agbese |
THERE is such a thing as medicine after death. This is a classical case. Vice-Admiral Murtala Nyako was removed from office as governor of Adamawa State through a criminally flawed impeachment procedure by the state house of assembly on July 15, 2014. The deputy governor, Barrister James Ngilari, suffered the same fate. Nyako went to court on August 18 to challenge his purported removal from office. The case dragged on through the lower courts to the Supreme Court and back again to the lower court.
On February 12, the court of appeal, Yola, put an end to the to-ing and fro-ing of the case. It unanimously quashed the purported impeachment. Sweet victory all right, because it removed the stain on Nyako’s impeccable public service records. But he cannot return to the office from which he was illegally and unconstitutionally removed by the state house of assembly because the second leg of his prayer, his reinstatement, was no longer tenable. His lawyer agreed and their lordships ruled that the effluxion of time had shut the door in the face of that possibility.
In plain English, while the case was riding on the back of a tortoise through the courts, time, not too inclined to wait for the sweet and slow time judges take to do their thing, ended Nyako’s term. Nyako fought for justice but he won a great judgement. The Judgement does not quite serve the ends of justice because justice was delayed and thus in a sense partially denied.
We see this often. A few years ago, Chief Olabode George, chairman of NPA and the managing director of NPA, Aminu Daboh, were jailed 18 months each for allegedly splitting contracts. Their appeals were denied and they served the full prison terms. The Supreme Court later roused itself from doing Rip Van Winkle and quashed their conviction. The apex court ruled that the offence for which they were charged, tried and convicted were not known to the laws of the country. Medicine after death. If the wheels of justice move faster, there would be no hollow judicial victories and judgements would serve the ends of justice.
Nyako’s purported impeachment was unique in the annals of the rash of impeachments that appears to have mercifully abated. The so-called impeachment charges against him did not amount to a hill of beans and could never have stood the test of legal proof in the courts. His removal from office had less to do with the alleged commission of impeachable offences and more to do with the macho deployment of crude presidential powers. The flawed processes of his removal cried for a modicum of respect for the rule of law. It broke all the rules of impeachment stipulated by section 188 of the 1999 constitution as amended. Bros, to be drunk with power is worse than to be drunk with ogogoro.
The law required that Nyako be personally served the notice of his alleged offences. He was not. Mr. Justice A.D. Mammadi ordered the house on June 23, 2014, to comply with this requirement. The house refused. On the same day, it passed a resolution for substituted service. It published the notice in the Daily Trust of June 25. The constitution makes no provision for substituted service but the juggernaut rolling down to crush Nyako had lost its break and is sense.
On July 2, the house passed a resolution to investigate the allegations. It more or less ordered the chief judge to constitute a seven-man panel to investigate the spurious allegations deemed by the house to constitute impeachable offences. Surprisingly, the chief judge who knew that the house had defied a court order and should have remained on the side of the law to protect it from egregious political abuse, did as the house wanted. It took the seven-man panel three days to conclude their work. It was a no brainer. One of the justices of the court of appeal described the entire process as “a study in impertinence and rascality.”
I now know that our justices are as worried by the executive and legislative rascality and impunity in full display in the country as the rest of us. None of the justices of the court of appeal had anything good to say about the house, for which read, its leader, the speaker.
Mr. Justice Ugochukwu Anthony Ogakwu: “Impunity. Rascality. Impertinence. Impudence. These are some of the adjectives I consider mild enough to employ in describing the actions of the Adamawa State House of Assembly.”
Mr. Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill: “My lords, the culture of impunity, as displayed by the Ist Respondent in the processes and procedures leading to the purported impeachment of the applicant, which like many other acts of impunity in the land, have been tolerated for far too long in this country, has indeed run its full circle and must be stopped now and cut down! I hereby so stop and cut it down in this appeal…”
Nyako refused to be a victim of power tussle in the PDP. He fought the party on principles and eventually ditched it on principles. As far as I can gather, his problem with the party began with the dissolution of the state exco of the party by the National Working Committee sometime in 2012. He strongly contested the legality of the dissolution. He believed it was carried out without due respect for the party rules. He saw the danger in this and tried to save the party from rushing down the precipice into self-destruction by its resort to strong arm tactics.
In his letter to Jonathan, Nyako pointed out that “..if this unjust dissolution of the state’s exco is left unchecked, every other state exco would soon find itself facing similar unjust treatment with repercussion for all of us. Let us collectively save our party.” (Emphasis his).
The running battle had begun. The national chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, led the charge. As soon as he assumed duty, he began to act as if his singular mission was to undermine and cage Nyako as the leader of the party in his state, led the charge. Tukur also comes Adamawa.
Frustrated with the increasing lack of internal democracy in his party and the consuming twin worms of impunity and lawlessness eating rapidly into it, Nyako persuaded six of his colleagues to join him in pulling the party from the precipice. Those who joined him were Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto). He and four of his colleagues eventually left the party for APC; he on January 3, 2014.
In PDP circles, it was said that the paper Nyako presented at the 3-day symposium organised by the Institute of Peace in Washington DC, March 17-19, 2014, was the last straw. Indeed, he raised delicate questions about who finances and arms the Boko Haram insurgents. Was he pointing the finger at the federal government? I think Jonathan trembled.
Jonathan and the PDP leadership decided that Nyako must go. His removal was dubbed in PDP circles as a project. One of the governors from the oil-rich South-South geo-political zone, was instructed by the party to fund his removal. Money talked. The speaker of the state house of assembly was a ready and willing tool. Fintiri’s condition for carrying out the project was that both Nyako and Ngilari must be removed to pave the way for him to act as governor.
Fintiri got his wish. He was preparing for the real race in his own right when the court of appeal threw him out and put Ngilari on the perch. Everything Fintiri did has ultimately unravelled. Driven by diabolical ambition, blinded by unholy ambition, Fintiri broke the law, dishonoured it and turned the citadel of law-making into a temple of lawlessness. A man like that deserves our commiseration, not condemnation. I so commiserate with him.
— Feb 29, 2016 @ 15:00 GMT