Muratla Nyako, former governor of Adamawa State, gets the backing of his party — the All Progressives Congress to challenge his removal by the state’s House of Assembly in court. Besides, the APC accuses President Goodluck Jonathan as the unseen hand behind Nyako’s problem
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 28, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE dust raised by the removal of Murtala Nyako as governor of Adamawa State by members of the state House of Assembly, on Tuesday, July 15, may take a while to settle. According to Ahmad Sajoh, Nyako’s director of press and public affairs, the former governor would soon be heading for the court to challenge his impeachment. Bala James Ngillari, his deputy, spared himself the humiliation by resigning his appointment from the office. But from all indications, Nyako is not going down without a fight.
He seems to be counting on the support of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in his intended court action. The former governor had dumped the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in November last year, for the APC, an action many political observers pinpoint as the cause of his trouble. Speaking at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, July 16, John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, said the party would be going to court over Nyako’s removal. He alleged that the entire process that led to his removal was fraught with “irregularities, bias, judicial contradictions and in violation of every procedural and constitutional provision” and that it was the worst manifestation of impunity. “We intend to mount an immediate and rigorous challenge to this gross injustice to the party and people of Adamawa State,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
The APC leader pointedly accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being the mastermind of Nyako’s removal from office. “Having bastardised the army, the police, the courts, aviation and the electoral commission, he has now moved to the next level: impeachment. Every impeachment or threat of it in recent times has the imprint of President Jonathan. As we speak, the governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, has been impeached at the instance of the president and his party; they have moved to Nasarawa, their next stop, while Rivers, Edo and Borno, all APC states, are not being spared the destabilisation that precedes their new-found weapon.
“What was Nyako impeached for? Offences he allegedly committed five years ago. Those offences were not impeachable when he was in the Peoples Democratic Party. But the moment he defected to the APC, they became impeachable,” he said.
The APC boss further accused the president of being behind the impeachment threat hanging on the neck of Tanko Al-Makura, Nasarawa State governor. Al- Makura has been accused of extra-budgetary expenditure. But Odigie-Oyegun alleged that Jonathan had serially committed the same offence. “In fact, only on the 10th of July 2014, the Senate passed a resolution asking President Goodluck Jonathan to prepare and submit to the National Assembly a supplementary budget to cover the expenditure in the sum of N90.693 billion (US$585 bn) for petrol subsidy in 2012 and the sum of N685.910 billion (US$4.430 bn) for kerosene ,DPK, subsidy expended without appropriation by the National Assembly in 2012 and 2013.
“Now, who is guiltier of gross misconduct than a President who is frittering away our commonwealth to induce perfidious legislators to impeach their state governors? Who is guiltier of gross misconduct than a President who deploys troops to harass, intimidate and arrest the opposition during an election? Who deserves to be impeached for gross misconduct more than a President who uses national institutions against the opposition and shuts airports arbitrarily?”
Reacting to the APC leader’s allegations, Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, warned that people of Odigie-Oyegun’s stature holding sensitive positions must make only allegations that they could prove. “Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, being a mature man and a politician of many years, ought to know that there is something in the laws of Nigeria called defamation of character. He also ought to know that in law, whoever alleges must provide proof. He should not assume that because he is playing politics, that gives him the right to make irresponsible allegations,” Abati said.
The president’s spokesman insisted that the House of Assembly followed due process in removing the governor. “I think that members of the House of Assembly in Adamawa State should feel grossly insulted by the APC chairman, who is more or less making them look like persons who have no mind of their own. Our belief is that those lawmakers are not children that can be pushed around by anybody. What needs to be stressed is the fact that President Jonathan has no hand in anybody’s impeachment,” he said.
Since Nyako was removed by 18 members of the 25 House members, a good number of people including lawyers have been crying foul and urging Nyako to go to court. Emeka Ngige, SAN, would want the removed governor to challenge his removal in court. “I believe that the process will be nullified in court, it is only a matter of time. Ladoja suffered the same thing in Oyo State. A similar thing happened in Anambra. They went to a hotel to impeach Ladoja. You cannot serve impeachment notice on somebody through substituted means. That was part of the reasons Ladoja’s impeachment was set aside,” Ngige argued. But some would want the former governor to tread the path of caution. They argued that it would be difficult for Nyako to finish any court process in the lifetime of this democracy, not to talk of the constitutional provision of three months during which a new governor is expected to be elected. Besides, some other analysts have said that Nyako should blame himself for refusing to appear before the seven-man investigative panel constituted by the former chief judge of the state to investigate the allegations made by the House against him and his deputy. Ngillari also did not appear before the panel.
Ngillari’s resignation ahead of the Assembly’s decision on Tuesday, July 15, took a new dimension on Wednesday, July 16, when he alleged that the House conned him into sending in his resignation. Ngillari, who spoke to journalists in Yola at his private residence, alleged that Kwamoti Laori, deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly, had come to his official residence with a truck-load of military personnel and compelled him to write his letter of resignation which should be addressed to the speaker of the state House of Assembly. He claimed that Laori said the order to resign had come from above.
Indeed, Umar Fintirin, the then speaker of the Assembly, who now acts as the state governor, had read a letter purportedly written by Ngillari announcing his resignation from office before the process of Nyako’s impeachment began. The lawmakers promptly accepted his resignation.
Ngillari, a lawyer, is now crying foul having realised that he was tricked. According to information, the seven-man investigative panel was said to have absolved the former deputy of any offence. He said: “The truth is that I have not sent any letter of resignation to the governor before he was impeached and up till now I have not, because the representative of the assembly only came to my official residence on Tuesday asking me to tender my resignation and to address the letter to the speaker of the assembly which I did.”
This, perhaps, gave Nyako the audacity to call for the reinstatement of his deputy as the governor of the state, following his illegal removal. Nyako, who spoke through his press director in Yola, said: “Our attention has been drawn to the purported resignation of the deputy governor of the state, Bala James Ngillari, which was supposedly read on the floor of the state House of Assembly. We wish to state categorically that Section 306 (5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, requires that the deputy resigns not to the House of Assembly but to the governor. As at the time the supposed resignation was said to have been tendered in the assembly, Murtala H Nyako was still the governor of the state. No such resignation was written to him, none was received by him and none was approved by him. It should therefore be known that in the eyes of the law, the deputy governor has not resigned. Ngillari is still the deputy governor of the state,” the statement said.
It is not difficult to know why Ngillari was shoved aside by the Assembly. Fintiri, who is now acting as governor, comes from the same local government with Ngillari and it would be inconceivable for him to still occupy the speaker’s chair while the acting governor is also from the same local government. Besides, Laori, the new speaker, was the deputy to Fintri, and could not be said to be without ambition of his own.
In any case, on Tuesday, 18 out of the 25 members of the Adamawa State House of Assembly endorsed the governor’s removal. The investigative panel, which was headed by Buba Kajama, a retired judicial officer, found Nyako guilty of 16 out of the 20 allegations levelled against him. Fintiri, who presided over the session, drew the attention of the members to Section 188 sub-section 9 of the country’s 1999 constitution, which stipulates that the House should consider the report of a panel by two-thirds majority and that if the House adopts the report, the governor or his deputy shall stand removed from office. The Speaker said, “Based on the adoption of the panel report Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State shall stand removed from office.”
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Nyako could not be ascertained for the most part of the week following rumours making the rounds that he might have been arrested for the inciting letter he wrote to President Jonathan sometimes ago accusing him of embarking on genocide against Northerners. But whether Nyako and his supporters would be the ultimate winner in the ongoing battle of wits is anybody’s guess.