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Procedure for Impeachment in Nigeria (4)

Procedure for Impeachment in Nigeria (4)

Venue

It will be noted straightaway that the Constitution[1] under both sections 143 and 188 did not specifically provide for venue of impeachment proceedings, it goes without saying that impeachment proceedings being a serious business of the House must be conducted in the hallowed chamber of the House of Assembly or National Assembly as the case may be. In other words, the House of Assembly will sit in the building provided for it and for that purpose.

The combined effect of sections 108(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is clear that the intention of the Constitution is to make the House of Assembly sit in the building provided for that purpose.[2] In Akintola v Aderemo,[3] it was held that anything done outside the House of Assembly to remove the Governor of the old Western Region was a nullity. The Governor was elected by the people – the electorate. The procedure and the proceedings leading to his removal should be available to any willing eyes. And the public will be watching from the gallery. It should not be a hidden affair in a Hotel room.

In Inakoju & Ors v Adeleke & Ors,[4] where some factional members of the Oyo State House of Assembly sat in a Hotel and purportedly impeached the then Governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, the Supreme Court per Niki Tobi, J.S.C. who read the leading judgment held inter alia:

A legislature is not a secret organisation or a secret cult or fraternity where things are done in utmost secrecy in the recess of a Hotel. In the contrary, a legislature is a public institution, built mostly on public property to the glare and visibility of the public… the actions and inactions of a House of Assembly are subject to public judgment and public opinion.

The learned Justice, Niki Tobi held further that the mace which is a symbol of legislative authority and validity must always be kept at venue which is the hallowed Chamber of the House under the custody of the sergeant at-arms. His Lordship wondered whether a meeting of the House held outside the House in a Hotel and without the mace, symbol of authority, will be said to be valid and constitutional.

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It must be noted that one of the respondents’ reliefs at the trial court which was refused was a Declaration that the purported sitting of the defendants at the D’Rovans Hotel Ring Road Ibadan where the purported notice of allegation of misconduct was issued and which was outside the designated official venue of the Oyo State House of Assembly is unconstitutional, invalid, null and void. The Supreme Court in affirming the decision of the Court of Appeal held that the meeting held at the D’Rovans Hotel, Ring Road, Ibadan, wherein the purported notice of allegation of misconduct was issued was unconstitutional, null and void.

In the relatively recent case of Danladi v Taraba State House of Assembly and 6 Others[5] Rhodes-Vivour, J.S.C. dissentingly observed as follows

…Conducting legislative acts in a Guest House becomes laughable in the eyes of the public. I must say that the commencement of impeachment proceedings from a Guest House is a clear move by the legislators to achieve set goals by subterranean procedure. It is wrong. The whole world saw on television the impeachment proceedings of one time President of the U.S.A., Bill Clinton, by the House of Representatives. It was not a hidden affair.

The venue was the House of Representatives and every step in the impeachment proceedings was taken / done in the House of Representatives and not in a Hotel. It is unconstitutional, null and void for the Taraba State House of Assembly to deliberate and then prepare a notice alleging misconduct against the appellant in a Guest House.

It should be noticed that both the trial High Court and the Court of Appeal were of the view that it is immaterial where members of the State House of Assembly met to prepare the notice which contained allegations of misconduct against the Deputy Governor. The majority of the Justices who sat in this case supported the view.

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In other words the view of the majority is that members of the House of Assembly can meet anywhere outside the House of Assembly to prepare a notice alleging misconduct against the Deputy Governor.[6] There is no doubt that the minority view of Bode Rhodes-Vivour, J.S.C. is a better one in view of the earlier decision of the Supreme Court in Inakoju & Others v Adeleke & Others[7] wherein the apex court held inter alia that the purported meeting of the Oyo State House of Assembly in D’Rovans Hotel Ibadan, wherein an impeachment proceeding was carried out against the then Governor of Oyo State, Ladoja was unconstitutional, null and void.

It is regretted that majority of the Justices in this case failed to take advantage of the decision of the Supreme Court in the above case which appears to be a better view, with due respect to the Law Lords. It is hoped that the Supreme Court will have another opportunity to streamline these two divergent views since in taking this view, the court did not overrule the earlier view in Inakoju v Adeleke[8] nor did it distinguish same in accordance with well established practice of the court.

This article has really brought to limelight the unacceptable attitudes of our politicians in breaching the provisions of the Constitution which they swore to protect during their swearing in ceremonies. It is apparent that most of the politicians particularly the members of the legislature do not know exactly why they are there. Many think that the oath of office and oath of allegiance are taken for the fun of them. In the words of Niki Tobi, J.S.C. in Inakoju v Adeleke[9]

On that day they swore or affirm inter alia to perform “my functions honestly to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and the rules of the House of Assembly and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, wellbeing and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”… It is at times the experience that some Nigerians regard the oath as another kindergarten recitation to the extent that they do not attach any importance to it. Some forget the wording of the oath as they finish. It should not be so.

Our politicians should take this piece of advice to be their guiding principle. Impeachment process is not a do or die affair or an opportunity to take a pound of flesh from a Governor who is “too frugal” in the opinion of the Honourable members who believe that the Governor or even Deputy Governor must grease the palms” or face the music by way of taking up an impeachment process against him.

During the trial of Alhaji Abba Musa Rimi before the Kaduna Zone of the Special Military Tribunal set up by the military Government to try corrupt former public office holders in Nigeria’s Second Republic, irrefutable evidence was led as to how members of the State legislature continuously threatened the then Governor Abba Musa Rimi with impeachment with the sole aim of blackmailing him into paying them from public funds, the sum of N500,000.00 to which the Governor admitted to have given in to this blackmail by paying the sum demanded.[10]

It cannot be overemphasized that Nigerian politicians should always respect the oaths taken by them to uphold and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at all times and this includes following the procedure laid down by the Constitution on how to go about the removal of the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor as the case may be. If this procedure is adhered to the gale of impeachment proceedings will be a thing of the past.

 

[1] Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)

[2] A. M. Madaki, An Examination of the Jurisdiction of Courts to Determine Impeachment Proceedings under the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria,  In: Agom A. et al (eds) Ogebe & The Law op. cit. at p. 149

[3] (1962) All NLR 440 at 443 cited with approval by the Supreme Court in Inakoju v Adeleke (Supra)

[4] Supra

[5] [2014] 11 S.C.N.J. 134 at 154

[6] Supra, See Rhodes-Vivour, J.S.C. at p. 152

[7] Supra at pp. 53 & 54

[8] Ibid

[9] Supra at pp. 53 & 54

[10] A Umaru, Politics and Law Making in Nigeria, (Zaria: ABU Press, 1994) p. 149

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