Nigerian lawmakers seek unlimited powers to impeach presidents

FILE PHOTO: House of Representative in session

Lawmakers want absolute powers to decide when a president goes wrong and should be fired.

Defying intense opposition, the House of Representatives worked a contentious effort to give themselves more powers to move against president and his vice, through a second reading on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi State) and Emmanuel Jime (Benue State) seeks to relax the procedures of impeaching the presidents and restrict such powers only to the National Assembly.

Under current constitutional provisions, allegations of “gross misconduct” against the president can only be investigated by a panel named by the Chief Justice of the Federation after such charge had been raised by the National Assembly.

The outcome of the investigation can then be acted upon by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

But lawmakers, seeking the amendments, said an appointee of the president, the Chief Justice was an unsuitable figure for that role. The amendments will ensure the entire powers reside with the National Assembly.

The lawmakers also criticized the constitutional requirement that presidents and his vice be removed on account of “gross misconduct”-a phrase they argued was ambiguous and hazy.

“’Gross misconduct’ means a grave violation or breach of this constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct,” said Mr. Jime. “How can the Chief Justice, who himself is an appointee of the president be the one to set up a panel to investigate the allegations.”

The lawmaker cited developed democracies, such as the United States where impeachment powers against the president is with the Congress.

As consideration of the bill began Tuesday, members, many from the opposition parties, moved against its passage, saying the decision will be misconstrued by Nigerians as a move targeted at President Goodluck Jonathan.

While the Deputy Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, said the bill deserved thrown out, Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the power to impeach the president and the vice lies in the National Assembly as “the pillars of democracy regarding checks and balances, and fair hearing were fully embedded in section 143,” thus there was no need for the amendment.

“I recognize the fact that Dogara presented a well-researched bill but having said so, the bill because it is not necessary for now,” Mr. Gbajabiamila said.

“Apart from the fact that section 143 made provisions on how the president and his vice should be impeached, I am also of the opinion that the timing is very very wrong because Nigerians will read meaning into it that the plan is to impeach President Jonathan.”

Despite the opposition, the bill secured a second reading and is expected to go for committee consideration ahead of concurrence from the senate and state houses of assembly, as it concerns the constitution.

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