Wednesday, August 13, 2014 4:17 pm
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lawmakers in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly were still wondering how they got it wrong as at the time of writing this story last week. With the support of 20 out of 24 members, the lawmakers had thought it would be a matter of time before they succeeded in kicking out Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, the governor of the state, from office when they initiated impeachment proceedings against him on 14 July. After all, their PDP counterparts in Adamawa had also relied on their overwhelming majority in the House of Assembly to kick out Murtala Nyako, the governor of the state, just before then. They obviously didn’t realise that their own cookies may crumble the wrong way.
Thus, the implosion of the impeachment plot last Wednesday left the still implacable lawmakers who are still fugitive from the state scratching their heads even as they contemplated their next move. But the unraveling of the impeachment plot is no doubt a relief for the governor and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. “I think we have been vindicated on our stand that the governor is innocent of the allegations and that the entire exercise was a political witch-hunt by the PDP as part of its grand plan to weaken the opposition in the country,” Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, APC, said hours after the investigative panel set up by the Nasarawa State Chief Judge, Justice Suleiman Dikko, to investigate the 16-count allegation of misconduct and breaches of the constitution on which the impeachment proceeding against Al-Makura dismissed the charge.
The panel, according to Yusuf Shehu Usman, its chairman, dismissed the allegations following the refusal of the House of Assembly to back the charge up with evidence. Indeed, Usman said, the House did not present “any iota of evidence” in support of the 16 allegations against the governor. While reading the verdict of the panel, Usman noted that in criminal proceedings, the onus lies on the person who made the allegations to prove culpability and that since the state’s lawmakers had failed to prove the allegations, the panel had no choice but to dismiss the allegations. In the same vein, the panel also held that in civil cases, the onus to prove was on the person who would lose if no evidence was led and that since the House of Assembly failed to provide evidence in support of the allegation, the House stood to lose. “Having considered and dismissed each allegation for lack of proof, having found no merit in the allegations, the panel hereby dismisses all the allegations.
“In accordance with the constitution, the panel will send its report to the Nasarawa State House of Assembly,” Usman said, thus bringing to an end the sitting of the panel which began on a rancorous note with the appearance of counsel to the lawmakers, Ocha Ulegede. The lawyer had told members of the panel that he came to appear before them in protest, following a fresh hearing notice issued to the House of Assembly members after they failed to appear to substantiate the 16 allegations levelled against the governor the previous day. Ulegede told the panel that his clients chose to boycott the sitting of the panel because its constitution did not follow laid down constitutional provisions. He specifically cited the inclusion of two card-carrying members of the PDP and a civil servant as members of the investigative panel as wrong. “We have evidence that Alhaji Muhammad Sambo Keana and Alhaji Abdulahi Usman Galadima are registered members of the PDP, while Reverend Joel Galadima, also a member of the panel, is a public servant who still received a salary as at July,” said Ulegede.
The legal practitioner said the inclusion of the three identified members was against Section 188(5) of the constitution, which excluded members of the public service, legislature and political parties from impeachment panels. He also argued that the panel lacked the power to prepare its rules of procedure, adding that only the state’s House of Assembly had the power to do so under the constitution, while insisting that everything done pursuant to the illegal rules of procedure amounted to a nullity. “Based on these grounds, we have decided not to take part in the proceedings. We hereby apply to take our leave,” the lawyer said.