Twisted Plot in Nasarawa state

Twisted Plot in Nasarawa state

Saturday, August 2, 2014 9:11 pm

Governor Tanko Al-Makura: impeachment plot has hitches

Governor Tanko Al-Makura: impeachment plot has hitches


Nassarawa lawmakers fume over unexpected twirl in the intrigue to remove Governor Tanko Al-Makura from office.


Though it has made most of them fugitives in their communities, Peoples Democratic Party members of Nassarawa State of Assembly could not but pat themselves on the back when the Chief Justice of the State, Justice Sulaiman Dikko heeded their order to set up a panel to probe different allegations of gross misconduct of financial impropriety and breach of oath of office against the Governor Umaru Tanko al-Makura. The blood baying lawmakers believed that with the action, the process of the impeachment that gave rise to the request for the setting up of the panel is on a irreversible course despite protests against it by people across the State. The Panel has as members: Yusuf Shehu Usman as chairman, and Mohammed Sabo Keana; a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Reverend Joel Galadima, Alhaji Abdul Usman, Samuel Chaku, Mohammed Sani Usman and Pastor Daniel Chaga.

Though the panel has three months to investigate the allegations, and submit its report in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, this magazine gathered that the sitting may not last beyond a week or two. Members of the State House of Assembly had on 14 July reconvened from their vacations to hold an emergency session during which they passed a motion of impeachment, alleging various breaches of the provisions of the constitution against Al-Makura. The charges for which the lawmakers want the Governor to be removed from office include misappropriation of funds, alleged gross misconduct and abuse of official processes.

All the PDP 20 lawmakers in the 24 members House signed the impeachment notice. After a three days fruitless attempt to serve the Governor, the notice, the lawmakers directed the Clerk of the House to publish it in the newspapers. The Seven-man panel which is to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds contained in the 16-point impeachment notice signed by 20 PDP lawmakers began sitting last Thursday.

But unlike Murtala Nyako, his All Progressives’ Congress, APC counterpart in Adamawa, indications last week was that the removal of Al-Makura from office, if the lawmakers are able to carry it out all, will not be a smooth sail. The likely messy outcome of the bid to impeach Al-Makura has started manifesting last Wednesday with the directive to Justice Justice Dikko to re-jig members of the impeachment panel after a hurriedly convened sitting by the lawmakers at Karu, a Nassarawa settlement in the suburb of Abuja. “(The) Assembly sat this afternoon in Karu based on a petition received from Musa Danjuma and Isa Abubakar who alleged that the Chief Judge appointed persons of questionable characters into the committee. Some of the members are card-carrying members of PDP and APC,” Mohammed Baba-Ibaku, spokesperson for the House told journalists in Abuja. He added that one of the panel members is president of GWADECA, an association Gwandara ethnic group which Al-Makura belongs to while another is a close ally of the governor. “We therefore resolved that the Chief Judge should dissolve the committee and appoint fresh members into it. Section 188 (7) of the constitution says the committee cannot sit until the assembly gives them guidelines,” he said.

This magazine gathered that the instruction to the Chief Judge followed the failure of pressure the lawmakers had mounted on some members who they feared may return a ‘no guilty verdict’ on the allegations against the Governor to step down from the panel. Constitutionally, failure of the panel to return the guilty verdict will mean the end of the impeachment process which can also not be re-enacted for the next six months. But this magazine gathered that the plans of the lawmakers were also frustrated by the unexpected willingness of the Governor not only to appear before the Panel, but to vigorously defend himself against the charges leveled against him.

The Governor had last Tuesday, told groups, which paid him a visit during the Eid-el-Fitri celebrations in Lafia, that all the allegations levelled against him were frivolous: “All what they have said about me is absolutely lie. I will defend myself at appropriate time. I am accountable to you, not those 20 people. I will defend myself, and all my lawyers are ready to exonerate me,” Earlier reports indicated that the Governor had employed the services of seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria to put up a robust defence for him before the Panel. This, it was learnt, jolted the lawmakers. A source told this magazine last week that with the way the Governor evaded the service of the impeachment notice, the lawmakers had also hoped that he will also shun the panel like his Adamawa State counterpart. “If the Governor had failed to appear, the Panel would have no choice but to report back to the Assembly that he failed to contest the charges and this would have made it possible for him to be declared guilty straightaway, said the source.

But the State government not only declared Wednesday sitting of the PDP lawmakers illegal having being convened outside of the recognized Chambers of the Assembly illegal, it also described the order asking the CJ to reconstitute the Panel as unconstitutional: “If the lawmakers are aggrieved with the compliance of the state Chief Judge with the provision of Section 188, Sub-Section 5, the right thing to do is for the House to go to the court of law to challenge the composition of the seven- man panel” Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Abdulhammid Kwarra said at a press conference in Lafia in reaction to the lawmakers’ directive. Also, APC had supported the stand of the State governor as it described the directive for reconstitution of the panel as “unreasonable, unconstitutional and way too late.” Lai Mohammed, APC National Publicity Secretary said in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday that the lawmakers were either ignorance of the provisions of the constitution concerning impeachment in making the order or were just desperate.

The APC spokesperson said Section 188 (5) of the Constitution required is that the members of the panel should in the opinion of the CJ be persons of integrity. “It is important to point out to the desperate lawmakers that the key words in that section is that the Chief Judge must appoint persons WHO IN HIS OPINION (emphasis ours) are of unquestionable integrity. At this juncture, it is neither the opinion of the Speaker nor that of the legislators that counts; it is the opinion of the Chief Judge,” said APC. “Therefore, neither the Speaker, the lawmakers nor the Chief Judge can dissolve the panel at this stage, and none of them can stop the impeachment process. Once the Chief Judge has appointed the panel under section 188 (5), he becomes ‘functus officio’, that is he has no further powers on the matter. This is the situation of things at present and the lawmakers can only await the report of the panel,” it said.

But the PDP lawmakers insisted last week that without the reconstitution of the panel, their ongoing sitting amounted to nullity. “As we (House) are concerned, there is no panel and they are wasting their time, who are they submitting their report to? “We have directed the state chief judge to constitute another panel of investigation and if he fails to do so, he is on his own. We will not accept the outcome,” said Ibaku.

This magazine however gathered that apart from the panel report, the lawmakers are also exploiting the option of using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against the Governor. It was gathered that the lawmakers are compiling a petition which may be sent to the anti graft agency to convince it to placed embargo on the accounts of the state with commercial banks just like it happened before the impeachment of Nyako. But in a countermove, Governor Al-Makura is also said to be ready to submit shady financial deals of the lawmakers to EFCC.

The next few weeks will no doubt be interesting as Nigerians watch whether Al-Makura will survive or be consumed in the ever thickening plot

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