Some lawyers have described the recent impeachment of Kogi Deputy governor, Simon Achuba, as illegal.
The lawyers who spoke at various interviews with PREMIUM TIMES described the events that resulted in Mr Achuba’s reported impeachment as a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Mr Achuba was impeached on October 18, by the house of assembly in Kogi State after a panel of inquiry instituted to investigate allegations against him, failed to indict him.
The panel, which had been instituted in August by the Kogi State Chief Judge, Nasir Ajanah, was headed by a Nigerian lawyer, John Baiyeshea.
According to a publication by the Cable online newspaper, Mr Baiyeshea said shortly after submitting the report, he was told of the impeachment which he described as a violation of constitutional provisions given the fact that the committee did not indict Mr Achuba.
“This is the most bizarre thing that I have ever heard in my life,” he said in an interview.
“We submitted the report to the Speaker around 1pm and I left Lokoja for Abuja. I was at Gwagwalada area when one of the panel’s members who had not left Lokoja called to tell me that he saw it on television that the deputy governor had been impeached.
“As far as the report that we submitted to the house of assembly is concerned, the committee returned the decision that all the allegations were not proved. What the constitution said by section 188(8) is that, ‘once the panel returns a verdict like that. No further proceedings can be taken on it,” Mr Baiyeshea was quoted by the Cable as saying.
In a telephone interview regarding the matter, an Abuja based lawyer, Monday Ejeh, said the Kogi state lawmakers must have known that their actions are illegal.
“The point is that I have actually not seen the report. As I believe many people also have not seen it. But the law is trite. If really the Committee set up by the Chief Judge did not indict the governor, then every action taken regarding the said allegations after the report was given to the state assembly amounts to a nullity to the extent that it violates section 188 (8) of the constitution.
“The import of that section is that once a panel like the seven-member panel set up by the state chief judge returned a result that did not indict the accused deputy governor, then the matter ends there. Whatever has been done after that is not known to law and those Kogi state politicians must have been aware of it,” Mr Ejeh said.
Mr Ejeh who described the development as unfortunate for Nigeria’s democracy said the likely option will be for Mr Achuba to seek redress in court.
Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer based in Lagos State said the impeachment proceedings “are a futile endeavour and a negation of constitutional proceedings.”
“Without much ado, let me say clearly that the futile impeachment proceedings initiated against Mr Achuba by the Kogi State House of Assembly ended by operation of law (automatically) the moment the House received the Report of the seven-man investigation panel dated October 18, 2019 which completely exonerated Mr Achuba of (all) the five allegations of gross misconduct brought against him by the House.
“Where the panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.” See Section 188 (8) of the constitution.
“I have perused the report submitted by the seven-man panel constituted by the Chief Judge of Kogi State on August 26, 2019 to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct brought against Achuba. The report was signed and endorsed by the Chairman, Mr John Baiyeshea, SAN, and by all the six members of the panel.
“In its conclusion, the panel stated and reported to the Kogi State House of Assembly as follows: “In line with Section 188 (8) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) quoted herein before, we hereby report to the Kogi State House of Assembly that the allegations contained in the notice of allegations admitted in evidence by this panel as Exhibit C7 have not been proved.”
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“Since the office of the deputy governor was not vacant, there was no basis for the illegal swearing-in. The Chief Judge of a State is not meant to be a robot under the Constitution. A Chief Judge is supposed to ascertain that there is a constitutional basis for swearing-in a person as a deputy governor before he undertakes to exercise that all-important role.
“The attempt to impeach the Deputy Governor ended the moment the panel reported that the allegations against Mr. Achuba was not proved. That is what Section 188 (8) of the Constitution says. It is a slap on the face of Constitution to now use unconstitutional means to force a deputy governor out of office,” Mr Effiong said.
A third lawyer, Abdulkareem Haruna, said, “there is only one way to view the reported impeachment”, which he described as an utter nullity.
“No matter how many lawyers you talk to, you will get the same response: that the purported impeachment was a nullity. Because when lawyers are talking about constitutional provisions that are not ambiguous, they will say the same thing.
“When you talk about the procedure that resulted in all of this, the law empowers the chief judge to institute a panel to investigate such allegations. Now what section 188 (8) says regarding such an investigation is that once the allegations are not proven against the accused, the planned impeachment proceedings ends there.
“Unless if the allegations were proven then you can now proceed to other steps regarding impeachment. But the report states clearly that the allegations were not proven, so everything else that happened is a nullity,” said Mr Haruna.
Mr Achuba was suspended by his party, the All Progressives Congress on August 8 before the impeachment proceedings began.
The APC accused Mr Achuba of involvement in anti-party activities during the 2019 general elections.
The party said Mr Achuba’s suspension followed a recommendation by the APC state working committee following a request by the ruling party’s disciplinary committee.
The committee also suggested Mr Achuba’s impeachment as PREMIUM TIMES had reported at the time.
In September, Mr Achuba sued the state governor, Yahaya Bello, for alleged non-payment of his salaries and other entitlement “on the orders of the governor”.
The rift between Mr Achuba and Governor Yahaya Bello became public in October last year following reports of an alleged strained relationship between them.
In February, Mr Achuba said his life was under threat following the withdrawal of his security details again allegedly on the orders of the governor.
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