Section 188 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 empowers a State legislature to remove from office a Governor or his deputy who is found guilty of gross misconduct. The Enugu State House of Assembly relied on the Section a few days back, to impeach the Deputy Governor of the State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, for the “gross misconduct” of running a poultry farm in his compound. The Enugu legislators didn’t do anything new.
The processes of the impeachments made some analysts to imagine that the legislators were contracted to do the dirty job for a handsome fee. No one is quite sure what they were paid but a common belief in Jalingo was that the Taraba legislators got as much as N60million each. If so, Imo legislators may have, on the basis of their business environment, gotten far more. Sometimes it may be more than cash as in Adamawa. Here, grave allegations of a criminal nature against Deputy Governor Bala Ngali were dropped as soon as he resigned to pave the way for the speaker to become acting Governor.
Does it mean that a man who resigns from an office becomes innocent of an allegation? In earnest, the basis of each impeachment is usually hard to buy. Once allegations are made, the weighty defences of the accused are usually ignored so as to arrive at guilt. Hence, whereas Taraba legislators claimed that Deputy Governor Danladi’s assets were more than his income, they refused to consider evidence of a loan obtained to prosecute some of the so called inexplicable projects. After Onyebuchi of Enugu produced a video showing that, he was present at an event he was accused of not attending, it was then decided that where he sat at the venue was inappropriate!
Interestingly, the Governors on whose behalf the legislators act often have more questions to answer than the Deputy Governors being maligned. If Onyebuchi of Enugu allegedly ran a poultry farm with his personal money, is it true that there was a much larger farm behind the compound of his Governor, Sullivan Chime, that was run with public funds? Was it also Onyebuchi that earlier ran a mental hospital in the same premises? If Danladi of Taraba cornered goodies to himself and his community as alleged, is it true that the village of Governor Suntai, his boss was far more developed? Again, was it from his salary that Governor Suntai purchased the aircraft he flew as a hobby? Indeed, is there any Nigerian politician including legislators who fight for constituency projects, that is not guilty of inward looking, another name for nepotism/zoning?
As for Deputy Governor Agbaso of Imo, he was impeached because he allegedly collected bribe from a road contractor. But was it Agbaso that approved the bogus contract of N400million per kilometer for the contractor? What about the rumour that one aide of the over-all boss- was a member of the bribe giver’s company? However, a wrong cannot be right because other people and not only the accused did it. But to look at only one set of leaders and deliberately put a blind eye to bigger culprits suggests that those who can pay their way can never be tried let alone to be found guilty.
Furthermore, the guilt of a smaller culprit is never proven not to talk of proving it beyond reasonable doubt. It is usually a fabricated story or flimsy excuse to deliver a paid work or to gain favours from the Oga at the top. The impeachment is usually rough or crude as the legislators are always too active to be rational whenever ample ‘stomach infrastructure’ takes place. They even often forget to follow the legal guidelines. For example, Deputy Governor Gadi of Bauchi was impeached while on annual vacation leave; meaning that his hair was shaved in his absence.
The implications of the fake impeachments in Nigeria are rather too severe for the survival of our democracy. The first is that they often rubbish the rule of law and make Nigeria a laughing stock to the rest of the world. In Adamawa State for instance, the State Chief Judge set up a panel to try former Governor Nyako after the same Chief Judge had declared the procedure followed as illegal.
In 2010, there were two Governors each in Bayelsa and Bauchi States due to the fake impeachment of the original Deputy Governors, the over-turning of the verdict by the Judiciary and the refusal of the respective Governors to obey court orders. Public funds that would have been used for development were squandered first on stomach infrastructure to induce lawmakers and then to pay damages as in the case of Bauchi State where the Judiciary ordered that impeached Deputy Governor Garba Gadi should be paid N 215million.
One way out is for our anti-corruption bodies to always probe our legislators to get to the root of what motivates them to now and again function as tools of fake impeachments. Luckily, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had found that allegations leading to the impeachment of Agbaso former Imo Deputy Governor were incorrect. The legislators behind it and other fake impeachments should have been investigated and penalized while the findings are used to prosecute the offending Governors as soon as their immunity end. Otherwise, those victimized through fake impeachments may soon find extra judicial ways of ventilating their grievances at the expense of public peace and harmony