Governor Tanko Al-Makura and Nasarawa State House of Assembly are engaged in a showdown as a seven-man panel which investigated the governor’s alleged gross misconduct absolved him of any impeachable offence but the House has picked holes in the panel’s operational modality and verdict
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Aug. 18, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE showdown over the impeachment of Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State is far from over. Although the seven-man panel which investigated his allegations of gross misconduct by the State House of Assembly, delivered a not-guilty verdict, the lawmakers said it would not accept the panel’s decision.
Baba Ibaku, chairman of the assembly’s committee on information and security, told journalists on Wednesday, August 6, that there was no going back on the impeachment move against the governor. He said the panel set up by Justice Suleiman Dikko, chief judge of the state, to probe him on offences bothering on alleged misconduct was illegal and breached Section 188 Subsection (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“As far as we are concerned, there is no seven-man panel that is investigating Governor Al-Makura, because we had earlier asked the state chief judge to disband the panel. We sent our legal team to appear before the panel and we instructed them to simply tell the panel that we appeared through our legal team to register our protest against the composition of the panel because the members of the panel are political office holders,” Ibaku said.
The lawmaker said regardless of the panel’s decision, the lawmakers would still go ahead to remove Al-Makura from office. “We will go-ahead with our moves to impeach Governor Al-Makura and nothing will stop us to step down our plans, no matter what it entails. We are going to file a case before the law court as soon as we finish our deliberation,” he said.
Among other things, the state Assembly accused the CJ of appointing sympathisers of the governor to the investigating panel. Three members of the panel were said to be card-carrying members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to which the governor belongs. The lawmakers, who belong to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, further alleged that contrary to the law of the land, the panel drew up its own agenda instead of allowing the Assembly to perform the function. Besides, the lawmakers alleged that the panel did not sit publicly as stipulated by law.
But reacting to the panel’s decision, Al-Makura said it was victory for democracy. “My victory is for the rule of law. I am sure the people of goodwill and the people of Nasarawa State, even without coming to the tribunal, know who the governor is and what he could do and what he could not do. My vindication is for the good people of Nasarawa State,” the governor said.
While the governor and his supporters were still basking in the euphoria of the victory, the lawmakers were also promising fire and brimstone preparatory for another showdown. They said that the panel’s decision would not be accepted by the state Assembly and that Al-Makura must be removed from office.
But Femi Falana, SAN, and human rights activist, has warned the leadership of the Nasarawa House of Assembly, to perish the idea, saying it lacks the power to reject the report of the panel which exonerated Al-Makura of alleged criminal offences. In a statement issued in Lagos on Wednesday, Falana noted that the statement credited to the leadership of the Assembly, that it would reject the panel’s report, was borne out of ignorance.
He said: “It is a reckless invitation to anarchy. The impunity of the Assembly must be halted without any further delay.”
Falana said that contrary to the position of its leadership, the Assembly could no longer bring charges against Al-Makura under the constitution, having failed to prove its allegations against him in the first instance.
He recalled that on receipt of the allegations of impeachable offences against the governor, the CJ set up a seven-member impeachment panel as required by Section 188 of the Constitution. He noted that the panel sat on Monday and Tuesday and waited in vain for the Assembly to prove its charges against Al-Makura. He said: “As the allegations were deemed abandoned by the Assembly, the panel rightly dismissed the charges and found the governor not guilty. Under the Nigerian legal system, it is trite that he who asserts must prove. Since the allegations against the governor were criminal in nature, the Assembly members were required to prove them beyond reasonable doubt.
“Since the Assembly failed to prove the allegations in any material particular, the panel cannot be faulted for dismissing them in toto. It is pertinent to state that by virtue of Section 188(8) of the Constitution, no further proceedings shall arise from the notice of impeachment once the governor has been found not guilty by the panel duly constituted by the Chief Judge.”
The rift between the governor and the law-makers got to a head last month when the assembly commenced an impeachment process against Al-Makura. The legislators levelled a 16-count allegation against him and directed Dikko to set up a seven-man panel to probe him.
In compliance with the order, Dikko named a seven-man panel led by Usman Yusuf, which began its sitting in Lafia, the state capital, on August 4, 2014. But not long after the panel was named, the law-makers threatened to boycott its proceedings on the grounds that its composition fell short of constitutional requirements. They accused the CJ of supporting the governor by naming people who were sympathetic to him as members of the panel.
Despite the protests, the panel continued with his duty and invited the warring parties to appear before it. On the first day of its sitting, the panel invited Al-Makura ,who promptly appeared before it to defend himself. At the hearing, the governor denied all the allegations.
On the second day of the sitting, the panel expected to see the law-makers. But they failed to show up and instead, sent a delegation of six lawyers led by Ocha Ulegede. Like the lawmakers, the delegation protested the constitution of the panel, alleging that some of its members belonged to a political party and that their appointments negated the provision of Section 188 of the constitution of the federal republic.
Ulegede argued that the provision did not give the CJ absolute power to appoint members of the panel. He said: “Section 188 of the constitution spelt out clearly how the panel should be composed. They are three fundamental issues among which is that a member of the panel cannot be a card-carrying member of a political party. They cannot hold government appointments and that the panel does not have the power to set the rules of proceeding guiding the sitting.”
After hearing the protest of the legal team, the panel had a brief recess after which it decided to dismiss all the charges against Al-Makura.