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Nasarawa: APC Faults Move to Disband Impeachment Panel

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has described the demand by  the Nasarawa State House of Assembly for the dissolution of the  seven-men panel set up by the state Chief Judge to probe the impeachment charges against Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, as unreasonable and unconstitutional.

This came as Al-Makura’s lead counsel, Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu (SAN), declared as ridiculous the call by the lawmakers for the dissolution of the seven-man investigative panel.

Last Wednesday, the state House of Assembly  called for the dissolution of the investigative panel set up by the chief fudge to look into the allegations against the governor.

The panel, headed by Yusuf Usman, was set up to investigate the 16-count impeachment charges levelled against the governor by the lawmakers.

In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the demand by the lawmakers showed they either have a very poor understanding of the constitution or they are blinded by their desperation to impeach the governor.

‘’Either way, they have boxed themselves into a tight corner. Holding an illegal sitting in Abuja with a fake mace is as ridiculous as the demand by the lawmakers for the dissolution of the panel set up by the chief judge.

‘’Section 188 (5) of the Constitution is clear: ‘Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions of this section, the chief judge of the state shall, at the request of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, appoint a panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provided in this section’.

‘’It is important to point out to the desperate lawmakers that the key words in that section is that the chief judge must appoint persons who in his opinion (emphasis ours) are of unquestionable integrity. At this juncture, it is neither the opinion of the Speaker nor that of the legislators that counts, it is the opinion of the chief judge.

‘’Therefore, neither the Speaker, the lawmakers nor the chief judge can dissolve the panel at this stage, and none of them can stop the impeachment process. Once the chief judge has appointed the panel under section 188 (5), he becomes ‘functus officio’, that is he has no further powers on the matter. This is the situation of things at present and the lawmakers can only await the report of the panel,’’ it said.

APC said, however, that it was not surprised by the unwarranted and illegal call for the dissolution of the panel by the PDP members of the state legislature, because that call falls within the realm of the runaway impunity for which the PDP and the Jonathan administration have become infamous.

‘’The Jonathan administration, for one, is always scoring a first in the area of impunity. This is the first time in the history of our democracy that a House of Assembly is seeking to dissolve the panel of seven judges it requested to be set up. This is unacceptable and it will not fly.
‘’What the assembly is suffering from now is called boomerang. Against sound advice, it went ahead to initiate the impeachment process. Well, it must now follow it to its logical conclusion. The chief judge cannot be made to dissolve the seven-man panel because he simply lacks the power to so do,’’ the party said.

Meanwhile, Udechukwu, who is leading a team of Olufunke Aboyade (SAN), Ernest Ojukwu and a retinue of lawyers spoke with THISDAY on the telephone from Lafia, the state capital, said under the constitution, the lawmakers could not ask for the disbandment of the panel.

According to him, even the chief judge who constituted the panel could not disband it unless a court of competent jurisdiction orders him to do so.
He explained that impeachment process in Nigeria  was strictly governed by  the constitution adding that  with regard to the Office of a State Governor the relevant provisions are contained in Section 188 (1) to (11) of the 1999 Constitution.

Udechukwu said:  “Once the chief judge has set up a panel of seven persons to investigate an Impeachment allegation under Section 188 (5) of the constitution at the request of the Speaker, the House of Assembly lacks any authority to call for the dissolution of the panel set up by the chief judge. The chief judge has no constitutional power to disband the panel after setting it up under section 188 (5) of the 1999 constitution.

“He can only be bound to disband the panel in obedience to a court order by virtue of Section 287 (1), (2) or (3) of the 1999 constitution.”
He said the 20 members of the House of Assembly behind the impeachment process were acting in bad faith, motivated by base political considerations.

“In the first place, they did not serve any notice of impeachment on the governor. They made no rules for the impeachment procedure and their call for disbandment of the panel of investigators was made outside the Legislative Chambers. What is on display is nothing short of legislative impunity,” he added.

He said that ideally the legislature should be laying sterling example of statesmanship, not legislative rascality.  The counsel stated that desperation and impunity would not  advance the course of democracy anywhere.

“The legislature can ill afford to propagate impunity and desperation,” he added. He said the governor would continue to defend the mandate given to him in trust by the people of the state.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mohammed Ibaku, said the panel lacked the credibility to carry out their duty.

Ibaku explained that the assembly based its decision on a petition written by a group known as Nasarawa Concerned Citizens, alleging irregularities in the composition of the panel.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     APC     PDP     Umaru Tanko Al-Makura     Olufunke Aboyade     Ernest Ojukwu     Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu     Alhaji Lai Mohammed     Mohammed Ibaku