By Dr Charles Omole Issues surrounding corruption in the Judiciary…
By Festus Ogun
Undoubtedly, Nigeria is a country blessed with good laws. But sadly, people that live in it are cronic breachers of laws. Illegality in its strict sense should not be in fact mistaken for injustice. At times, what is unjust may not be illegal. But, even with this, we citizens of Nigeria are both promoters of injustice and illegality.
A few days ago, a civil group, Coalition for Good Governance and Anti-Corruption called for the impeachment of the Ekiti State government by the National Assembly. The said civil group gave the National Assembly a fourteen-day ultimatum to commence the impeachment proceedings lest or they would march to Aso Rock in protest.
I am not too concerned about the political aspect of the warning – for we all know the ‘opposition’ (or antagonistic) role he (Fayose) is playing in our polity. In fact, I am not too concerned, at least for the purpose of this piece, about the accusations levied against this governor. Just like the way the law won’t at times look at moral aspects of cases, so will I not look at the morality of this warning. My concern is the law.
As a people living in a society which was itself created by law, our actions – and at times inactions – must be guided and governed by law. It is not very constitutional to demand the National Assembly impeach a State governor, for any reason whatsoever.
The law is very crystal clear in respect to whether the National Assembly can impeach a governor. Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution has vested the power to impeach or remove the governor of a state only on the state House of Assembly. Equally, the only power the National Assembly has is to impeach either the President or Vice-President – see Section 143 of the 1999 constitution – and not a state governor. So, as a matter of law, the National Assembly have no power whatsoever to commence impeachment on any state governor. If it does so, such act will be declared ultra vires. As such, the call to impeach Fayose from this civil group is by its very nature unconstitutional and should be ignored.
Nigeria is a federal state and there is the division of powers between the federal government and the component states. The people of Ekiti State have elected Governor Fayose and they are the only people recognized by law to remove him. The people – through their elected representatives can kick him out of office on the basis of gross misconduct. Men in Agbada at the National Assembly are powerless in term of impeaching a state governor. You can only impeach a person whom you participated in the election that ushered him in and most of these men at the National Assembly didn’t participate in Ekiti election.
In fact, the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Police, should not allow that protest to be staged. Since no impeachment proceedings can be commenced by the National Assembly and the group expects action from the House or they will protest. It will be unreasonable to allow such protest to be staged; for it is planted in the soil of unconstitutionality.
Disappointedly, it will be apposite to prophesy that the law enforcement agencies will appear very helpless to discontinue this illegal display. The system and virtually everything has been politicized. If it were not, our security agencies should have restricted them from protesting.
Sadly, if it were a protest for a just, constitutional and legal cause, the security agencies would have been jumping around in the name of whatever reason – just to ensure that protest is not staged. If the protest men turn deaf ears, there is probability that our “law enforcement agents” would wreak havoc on the D-day. But, where there is illegality, they appear helpless. This is shameful!
My analysis and advice is not a deliberate attempt to liberate Fayose from impeachment –of course, if he’s guilty, he should be impeached. It is also not a defence of Fayose or a means to restrict the group’s fundamental freedom to protest or express concerns as enshrined in the constitution. It is all about cautioning illegality and unconstitutionality in our society. What is unlawful is unlawful, no matter the good intention.
Festus Ogun is an undergraduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State