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Nasarawa Panel Adjourns over Failure of Lawmakers to Appear


News » Politics
Nigeria

August.05.2014

Lawmakers of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly yesterday failed to appear before the investigative panel set up by the chief judge of the state, Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko, to investigate the allegations of misconduct and breach of the constitution levelled against the governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura.

The governor, however, appeared before the panel and made a brief statement wherein he pledged to defend himself and clear his name of any wrongdoing.
Chairman of the panel, Yusuf Shehu Usman, several times called the lawmakers to announce its appearance but no lawyer or member of the Nasarawa State assembly appeared before the panel.

The chairman then called on the secretary of the panel to inform the panel if the House had been served.

The secretary said the notice of hearing was served on the Clerk of the House but said the clerk refused to sign the endorsement copy.

The secretary also said the bailiff, who served the notice on the House of Assembly, deposed to an affidavit to the effect that the House was dully served.

In line with the panel’s guidelines, the chairman called on the governor to make his presentation.

Speaking, the governor said: “I appear this day before this panel of distinguished personalities, first, in deference to this panel and secondly, as a democrat who has immense respect for the rule of law and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I must state for the record that the purported notice of impeachment, required by the constitution to be served on me before the constitution of this panel, was not served on me.

“Nevertheless, relying on the public notices issued by this panel, I chose to appear in order to clear my name of all the spurious allegations, without prejudice to my right to challenge the breach of the constitution by the House, which I intend to do at the appropriate forum.
“What you have been appointed to do is a serious constitutional duty, which will impact the lives of the people of Nasarawa State for good or for ill. I therefore, pray the Almighty God to grant you the wisdom to decide aright.
“In the proceedings before this honourable panel, I intend to defend myself through my team of attorneys, as the constitution permits me to do, and I wish this distinguished panel the very best in all your proceedings.”

The panel then called on the governor's lawyers, Chief Nnoruka Udechukwu (SAN) from Aina Blankson LP, leading Olufunke Aboyade (SAN), Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, Kehinde Aina, O.O. Adeleye, Olatoye Akinbode,

Abdulwashi Musah, C.J. Mbachu and Benjamin Nwosu, to react.
In his opening statement, Udechukwu expressed concern at the fact that the lawmakers who set in motion the process for the impeachment of a governor would themselves be acting in breach of the constitution.

He described the refusal of the lawmakers to appear before the panel as a disservice to the people of Nasarawa State and the constitution which they had sworn to uphold.

The panel then retired to determine the next line of action. When it returned, it called on Udechukwu to address it on the implication of the non-appearance by the lawmakers.

In response, Udechukwu held that the impeachment notice be dismissed for want of prosecution.

He reminded the panel that there was a proof of service. He also told the panel that the only notice of impeachment was the one advertised in the newspaper and the one given to the panel by the chief judge.

“That means there is no valid notice of impeachment. The defence we filed notwithstanding, there is nothing before you to investigate. I diligently urge your lordship to enter a dismissal of the notice of impeachment and enter a verdict of non-proof for each of the 16 counts of impeachment,” he said.
He cited Section 280 of the Criminal Procedure Law which provides for the dismissal of allegations not proved.

“Since the Nasarawa State lawmakers have failed to appear before you to substantiate the allegations, you have no option but to dismiss same,” he said.
But the panel took the view that dismissing the notice yesterday would be too hasty and therefore, in the interest of justice and fairness, chose to give the lawmakers another opportunity to come and substantiate the allegations contained in the impeachment notice.

The chairman said: “Having fully consulted, while we do not disagree with the submission of the learned senior advocate, the panel is of the view that the House be given another opportunity to come and substantiate the allegation.
“We are therefore giving them another opportunity by adjourning further hearing in this petition to tomorrow (Tuesday) to enable the lawmakers appear.”

The chairman directed the secretary to paste a fresh notice of hearing on the panel’s notice board and at either the gate of the state House of Assembly or the entrance of the House.

Unmindful of the outcome of the panel’s sitting yesterday, the Nasarawa governor proceeded to the state High Court to set aside the impeachment notice allegedly issued by the state House of Assembly.

In the suit filed by his lawyers, Udechukwu, Aboyade, Ojukwu and Aina, the governor asked the court to set aside the impeachment notice allegedly issued by the Nasarawa assembly.

He asked the court to declare that the notice of impeachment published on July 17, 2014 by the Clerk of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly as unconstitutional or invalid within the meaning of Section 188 (2) of the constitution.
He also asked for a declaration that the notice was not served on him in line with Sections 36(1), 188(2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution and therefore that he was not obliged to respond to it.

He further urged the court to declare that having regard to the provisions of Sections 36(1) and 188(1)-(9) of the constitution, the lawmakers have no authority to issue the notice of impeachment dated July 14, 2014 wherein they purported to have found the plaintiff guilty of gross misconduct, even before any inquiry into the allegations made by them when no notice of allegations was served on him.

Al-Makura further asked the court to hold that the publication “of a purported notice of impeachment dated July 14, 2014 by the Clerk of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly in the Daily Trust Newspaper of July 17, 2014, or any other newspaper cannot amount to service of the same on the Governor of Nasarawa State within the context of Section 188(2) of the constitution”.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago
 

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Tags:     Lawmakers     Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko     Umaru Tanko Al-Makura     Abdulwashi Musah         Yusuf Shehu Usman     C.J. Mbachu     Benjamin Nwosu

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