Nasarawa panel begins sitting as CJ rejects lawmakers’ request
Nasarawa lawmakers have lost a major battle in their push to impeach Governor Tanko Al-Makura.
Chief Judge (CJ) Suleiman Dikko has declined to disband the seven-man panel investigating the 16 allegations against Al-Makura.
The panel held its inaugural sitting in Lafia yesterday in line with its mandate in Section 188(7) (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
Panel Chairman Yusuf Shehu Usman said its session would be made public for residents to have first hand knowledge of the governor’s responses to the allegations.
Al-Makura has engaged a nine-man legal team to defend his integrity having complied with Section 188(5) of the 1999 Constitution, the Chief Judge said he could no longer interfere with the impeachment process.
A source said: “There was no way the Chief Judge could stop the impeachment proceeding which had begun with the inauguration of the panel. So, he chose to allow the process to go on since the court is always there for the aggrieved.
“He said disbanding the panel will lead to anarchy as those who are supporting the governor will accuse him of bias.
“The CJ feels he has fulfilled his constitutional obligation; it is left to the panel to decide the prima facie of the allegations.”
Al-Makura has argued that the CJ can no longer disband the panel.
The governor, who spoke through his lawyer, Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu, (SAN), said the lawmakers’ call for the dissolution of the panel “is ridiculous.”
Udechukwu, who is leading a team of lawyers, including Olufunke Aboyade (SAN) for the governor, spoke yesterday on the telephone from Lafia, Nasarawa State.
He contended that under the constitution, the lawmakers could not ask for the disbandment of the panel, stressing that even the CJ, who constituted it, could no longer disband it, unless a court of competent jurisdiction orders him to do so.
The senior advocate noted that impeachment is strictly governed by the Constitution, and the steps are contained in Section 188 (1) to (11) of the Constitution.
In his view, the 20 lawmakers, who are behind the impeachment are acting in bad faith, motivated by base political considerations.
“The Legislature can ill afford to propagate impunity and desperation,” he added.
The members of the panel, inaugurated last Friday, are: Yusuf Shehu Usman (chairman), Mohammed Sabo Keana, Reverend Joel Galadima, Alhaji Abdu Usman, Samuel Chaku, Mohammed Sani Usman and Pastor Daniel Chaga.
The state government yesterday asked the lawmakers to go to court if they are aggrieved over the composition of the seven-man panel.
It said the Assembly could not approbate and reprobate at the same time on a constitutional issue.
The government made its position known in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the governor on Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulhamid Kwarra.
The statement said: “Section 188 (subsection 5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended states
that the Chief Judge of the state shall at the request of the Speaker of the House of Assembly appoints a panel of seven persons who in his own opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party.”
“Nasarawa State government is of the position that the Assembly cannot probate and re-probate on a matter that is before His Lordship, the Chief Judge of the state.
“Should the members of the state House of Assembly be aggrieved with the compliance of the Chief Judge of Nasarawa State with the provision of Section 188
sub-section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, the right thing to do is for the House to go to the
court of law to challenge the composition of the investigative panel”.
On the relocation of the Assembly members to a guest house in Karu Local Government Area, the statement added: “The sitting was not in conformity with any democratic requirement because no rule of the House permits the sitting of the Assembly anywhere in the state to conduct legislative affairs. The sitting was, therefore, ill-motivated, illegal and of no effect whatsoever.
“More so the Supreme Court has made a definitive declaration that the House of Assembly can only conduct its legislative functions in legally designated place in the state capital (Balonwu Vs Obi 2007 NWLR PT1008/488).”
A lawyer, Chief Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), said the “purported proceedings held in Karu, and the resolutions passed by the 19 members were non-binding on any system”.
“They have no right to question the constitution of the panel by the Chief Judge. They have no powers over the CJ, if they have grievances arising from the action of the CJ in the CJ’s compliance with the provisions of Section 188; they have the option to go to court.”
Members of governor’s nine-man-man legal team are: Chief U. N Udechukwu (SAN), lead counsel, Olufunke Aboyade (SAN), Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, Mr. Kehinde Aina, Esq; O. O. Adeleye, Esq, Olatoye Akinbode, Abdulwasi Musah, , C. I. Mbachu and Jamin Nwosu.